Mozambique Legalizes Local Militias to Help Fight Northern Insurgents

FILE - The remains of a burned home is seen in the recently attacked village of Aldeia da Paz, in the Cabo Delgado province, northern Mozambique, Aug. 24, 2019. Mozambique on April 6, 2023, legalized the involvement of local militias in the fight against Islamist militants.

Mozambique has legalized creation of local militias under the military to help fight Islamist militants in the northern Cabo Delgado province.

A decree was approved and announced Wednesday, after a Cabinet meeting in Maputo late that day. The government had secured parliamentary approval for the move in November, after the Defense Ministry admitted the Mozambican army could not deal with the militants alone.

The self-defense local militias already help the Mozambican armed forces and military contingents from Rwanda and some Southern African Development Community countries in the fight in oil-rich Cabo Delgado.

Cabinet spokesman Filimao Suazi said the local militia force will be formalized to strengthen the role of the defense and security forces in countering and containing the spread of militant Islamist incursions, protecting community settlements and public and private infrastructures.

He added that the decree will allow for better structuring, organization and logistical support for local self-defense militias.

Suazi said the decree establishes the local force and the respective statute, as well as defining the concept of the local force, its activation and deactivation, composition, forms of acquisition, and rights and duties.

This force is mostly composed of ex-combatants and civilians who, since 2020, have supported the fight in Cabo Delgado.

In five years, the conflict in Cabo Delgado has caused close to 5,000 deaths, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, which specializes in disaggregated conflict data collection, analysis, and crisis mapping. It also has displaced more than 1 million people, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Mozambique has been fighting militants linked to the Islamic State group in Cabo Delgado since 2017.