Conflict in Northern Mozambique

The Cabo Delgado province in Northern Mozambique has been grappling with insurgent attacks for a number of years, and the death toll is now estimated at c. 2,000, including civilians and military personnel. It is believed that the violence is being carried out by groups, locally known as al-shabab, who have some sympathy from the Islamic State, which has already claimed several group attacks in the northern and central Cape districts.

16th April 2021                                           TODAY I WAS SHOCKED:
I am not easily shocked and yet today I was sent a video that no human being should ever see.
Let me explain. I spent almost twelve years as a missionary in Mozambique throughout the nineties and early noughties. Over the course of that time, I grew to love the country and its people. In recent years I have become increasingly concerned about the insurgency going on in Cabo Delgado since c. 2017, the most northern Province of the country bordering on Tanzania.
In the last few weeks, the conflict has intensified with many people being beheaded and mutilated including foreigners who work in the region developing the many local valuable natural resources. Literally billions have been invested in the development of the natural gas resources and a huge valuable ruby deposit. These discoveries c. 2009 raised hopes for development, jobs, and a better life for the local people but they continue to live in possibly the worst poverty in Mozambique.
The agitation of local people seeking some benefit from these massive resources has grown into the awful conflict we are hearing of today. To date in Cabo Delgado, c. 2,000 people have been killed and an estimated 250,000 have fled their homes.
Because the world has been ignoring this conflict it has been difficult to obtain news of what was happening on the ground. The area of conflict was over 1,000 km from where I worked, so the locals there did not have much news from the northern province. So about 10 days ago I set up a “What’s App” group with some of my colleagues who had worked in Mozambique and included some locals we knew, living in Maputo the capitol city in the south and in the second city of Beira close to where we worked.
Since then, we have managed to share some of the news associated with developments in the northern province. The Vatican “Agenzia Fides” reporting Church news from around the world, has been a good occasional, reliable source of information.
A few days ago, there was one video we received from Mozambique which showed at a distance, the bodies of the twelve expatriates who had been murdered by the insurgents in a hotel in Palma last month c. March 24th. Because the video showed the people from a distance, I was upset to see such madness but not shocked. I watched feeling a deep sadness, said a prayer for them and their families, prayed for them at Mass and never watched it again. Their innocence and eventual plight have remained with me since then.
However, nothing prepared me for the video which arrived in our “What’s App” group earlier today. I have never seen such savage brutality. When the video began, I immediately saw two middle aged women closeup, so brutally mutilated that I would not be comfortable describing what I saw. There may have been other victims on the video, but I just turned it off and started to contact the sender in Mozambique so that it would be removed from our group which thankfully happened within about 15 minutes.
Later in the evening I received an email from a Catholic organisation ACN - “Aid to the Church in Need”. They wrote as follows:
“A video sent to ACN, reportedly taken in Palma after the attack, shows decapitated and mutilated bodies. The ACN Project Head said: “The images we have seen are shocking. We cannot even share them because they wound human dignity by their brutality.” He added: “We wonder how many more deaths there must be before the world does something to stop this violence. These lives do not seem to count. It tears my heart out.”
I imagine that the ACN Project head was referring to the video or a similar one, to that which arrived in our “What’s App” group this afternoon. It really is hard to comprehend how human beings could be so depraved as to inflict such brutality on a fellow human being. Even the word “depraved” does not adequately describe this assault on human dignity.
This is the total depravity which is unfortunately so real among people who are brought up with no respect for human life or for the humanity which they share with others. It is often the extreme manifestation of depravity experienced over generations, often caused by a lack of education and opportunity necessary for living a dignified life. Something perverse, even more depraved than the law of the jungle, takes possession of the human heart and we are confronted with pure evil.
In the process of being shocked today I am affirmed in the beauty of the Christian message, which leaves us in no doubt about the essential dignity of all human beings. Confronted with this unspeakable brutality reminds me of how special this message of Jesus Christ is for all humanity. We really should be careful in protecting that gift of human dignity that every human being has a right to enjoy.
As I wrote that last line I am also thinking of Northern Ireland and most of the other conflicts throughout our world that have their roots in poverty and the lack of meaningful employment and opportunities. Let us do our part to ensure that our neighbours and fellow citizens are not deprived of these basic opportunities, so necessary to live a dignified life.
Finally, I am in contact with missionaries on the ground in Cabo Delgado who are assisting the thousands of displaced people in Cabo Delgado. If you wish to help, please contact me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and I will forward the transfer details. Or perhaps you would prefer to make a contribution to “Aid to the Church in Need” “Mozambican Appeal” by writing to St Joseph's 151, St. Mobhi Road Glasnevin, Dublin 09, Dublin, D09 HC82 (01) 837 7516.

30 November 2020   (Reply from the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs - See both letters below)

Dear Fr. Aylward,

On behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, Mr. Simon Coveney T.D., I wish to thank you for your e-mail of 12 November 2020, and the further information you provided on 19 November 2020. The Minister has asked me to respond to your correspondence on his behalf.

The worsening security and humanitarian situation in Cabo Delgado is of grave concern to Ireland.

Mozambique has been a priority partner of Ireland's in sub-Saharan Africa since we began providing post-war development and humanitarian assistance there in 1996. In 2020, Mozambique remains one of the largest bilateral recipients of official development assistance from Ireland, as part of the Irish Aid programme. Through our Embassy in Maputo, we have been closely following the evolving situation in Cabo Delgado since violence commenced in 2017, and I can assure you that we are playing our part to provide urgent humanitarian assistance on the ground, and to engage with the Government of Mozambique in seeking a peaceful and sustainable resolution to the conflict.

Minister Coveney last discussed Mozambique with EU Foreign Ministers at an April 2020 meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council. The Council called for an integrated and coordinated approach to responding to the situation in Cabo Delgado, including by promoting democracy, human rights, effective local governance, restoring the rule of law and addressing the socio-economic conditions that foster instability and violent extremism.

In September 2020, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the situation in Mozambique, calling on the Government to investigate allegations of human rights violations transparently, to protect citizens and to ensure that military interventions promote and protect the basic principles of human rights and international humanitarian law.

That same month, the Government of Mozambique wrote to the EU to formally request additional assistance in responding to the situation in Cabo Delgado. The EU responded positively to this request, confirming last month its commitment to provide additional humanitarian, development and security assistance to the Government of Mozambique. Ireland is currently engaged in discussions with the EU and Member States, in both Brussels and Maputo, about how these additional supports can best be provided, with a particular focus on reaching those furthest behind first, as committed to in Ireland's policy for international development, A Better World.

The needs of those who have been displaced from their homes by violence in Cabo Delgado are of the utmost concern to Ireland. Already in 2020, we are providing €1.8 million in assistance via our United Nations (UN) and non-governmental organisation partners to meet the urgent food, water, health, sanitation and shelter needs of internally displaced persons. We will shortly announce the disbursement of additional funds to the World Food Programme to bolster its humanitarian response efforts in Cabo Delgado at this critical juncture, when the numbers of displaced are rising by the day.

You will also be interested to know of Ireland's role in supporting the ongoing peace process in Mozambique, and in particular our support for the implementation of the 2019 Peace Accord. This support is provided both in the form of technical assistance from a member of the Irish Defence Forces to the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of former combatants, as well as financial assistance from Ireland to the UN-managed Peace Basket Fund, which supports the operation of Mozambique's Peace Process Secretariat.

I wish to thank you again for taking the time to share your experiences of Mozambique and your knowledge of the current situation. I hope that this information will go some way towards reassuring you of Ireland's continued commitment to supporting peace and sustainable development in Mozambique. In the months ahead, we will continue to monitor developments in Cabo Delgado closely, and to work with our EU partners to support efforts to bring about a peaceful and sustainable resolution to the conflict and meet the urgent needs of those worst-affected by the ongoing violence.

Yours sincerely,

Nora Delaney

Private Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs

November 25th 2020

Insurgent attack on the Catholic Mission in late October 2020 in the village of Muambula
The Pastoral Center was destroyed
The Priest’s house and the house of the Lay missionaries were burnt
The Parish Office and the Parish Church were destroyed
The Radio room and Medical centre were ransacked and destroyed.
The Sister’s House was burnt
The Primary school José Allamano was ransacked and destroyed.
The Secondary school was partially damaged.
The House of the Director of the school was burnt
Santa Maria Community House was ransacked and destroyed.
The houses of thousands of the local people’s houses were completely burnt out. 

The national defence and security forces are seeking out the terrorists. According to sources, the insurgents continue to control the host village of Muidumbe and dozens of villages in the district, alongside Mocímboa da Praia, further north. 

And in villages and towns in the district, the manhunt continues. And in one of these operations, 16 terrorists, weapons and property were intercepted and killed. The population around the mission after a week in the bush, began to reach Pemba and the local towns. 

The reports from the local people are dramatic ...
"Father, I ran away from home, I slept 4 days in the lower part of Nampanha waiting for them to leave, and from there I managed to get here Montepuez. But I didn't bring any clothes"
"Good afternoon, Father. My house was burned"
"I have heard that my house was burnt and completely destroyed"
"4 people were beheaded in Mandava"
"24 houses in our village were destroyed".
"My children and I are already in Nampula thanks to God. Only my other daughter, I don't know where she is, because this week she was on March 24th" 

 If you would like to contribute financially to assist the displaced people of the Diocese of Pemba, please feel free to get in touch.

Fr. Eamon will be happy to assist you in any way.  You can write an e/mail to eamonmoz(at)  or write to 27 Northbrook Road, Ranelagh, Dublin 6


November 12th 2020

Cabo Delgado is the name of the most northern coastal province in Mozambique, bordering on the southern border with Tanzania, adjacent to the Indian Ocean. The Province in recent times, has experienced an ongoing conflict instigated by Islamist militants trying to establish an Islamic state in the region.

The seat of government in Mozambique is down south in the capitol city of Maputo, close to the border with Sth Africa and over 2.400 kms away, a 31 hour car ride. There is little doubt but that leaving aside the great distances involved, the government of Mozambique does not have the resources or the know how to combat and put down such a serious threat to their people and sovereignty. It is known that government forces themselves have been responsible for civilian deaths in their attempts to suppress this insurgency. The government have also banned the presence of outside journalists in the conflict zone.

Naturally, the people who have suffered the most from these attacks are civilians. As of November 19th 2020, the Catholic Bishops report that c. 2,000 people have been murdered and almost 500,000 people have been displaced following the actions of the Islamist militiamen that began in October 2017. Civilians also continue to suffer from violence and intimidation, rape and kidnappings, as well as other human rights violations.

While the Islamist influence has its source in extremist developments in Kenya, via Tanzania it seems to be that there is also a strong internal dimension linked to the insurgents since many joining the group were actually recruited locally, not from abroad. This is a result of a lack of economic development in the Province, leaving many young people without adequate education or employment.

Yet the Province itself is rich in natural resources. Cabo Delgado is now home to Africa’s three largest liquid natural gas (LNG) projects: the Mozambique LNG Project (Tota) worth $20bn, Coral FLNG Project (ENI and ExxonMobil) worth $4.7bn, and Rovuma LNG Project (ExxonMobil, ENI and CNPC) worth $30bn. But, despite the billions in investments these contracts have brought, the people of Cabo Delgado are yet to see any benefit from them. In fact, some have already suffered immensely from the arrival of the gas industry leaving many young people disenchanted and open to outside destructive influences.

In the light of recent violence in the Province, I have written the following letter to the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, urging him to encourage his counterparts in Europe to respond to this serious development in Northern Mozambique. I would encourage you to do the same and to contact your government minister or member of Parliament in order to generate publicity to help Mozambique resolve the serious security crisis faced by so many of its citizens.

In Ireland you can email your TD or Senator by using the following email address: Christian Name(dot) This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  eg:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Dear Minister Coveney,
I write to you in your capacity as our Minister for Foreign Affairs. For over a year now, I have become increasingly concerned by the unfortunate developments in Cabo Delgado, the most northern Province of Mozambique, bordering on Tanzania.
Apart from the killings and the displacement of thousands of Mozambicans from their homes, I am particularly concerned these atrocities are hardly of any concern to the Western Media. I am sure that the issue has been addressed at your meetings in Europe, but I have heard of no concrete action emerging as a result.
I am an Irish missionary from Dublin who laboured for 12 years (1993-2005) in the Renamo rebel territory in the Province of Sofala in central Mozambique. In 1993, I was Parish Priest of an area the size of Munster which included Inhaminga, Chupanga, Morromeau & Muanza. I was based in Inhaminga.
While the government of Mozambique is naturally responsible for security within its borders, It is apparent to me from afar, that they just do not have the resources, nor the know how to assist their distressed citizens living in constant fear, facing such rampant violence. The seat of government is down south in Maputo, close to the border with Sth Africa and over 2.400 km away, a 31 hr car ride.
Unless the government of Mozambique is given substantial assistance there is a real danger that what is happening in Cabo Delgado will spread southwards over the whole country. Mozambicans have already suffered too much having had to endure a civil war for almost 20 years, culminating in the first Peace Accord signed in Rome in Oct. 1992.
So please Minister, I would respectfully request that you continue to bring the situation in Cabo Delgado to the attention of your counterparts in Europe and encourage them to reach out to a nation that continues to suffer, that they may be assisted in finding real solutions to the lack of security in their Northern Province.
Sincerely yours,
Fr. Eamon Aylward, sscc

At the time of writing, I have had an acknowledgement from the Department of Foreign Affairs that my message has been received and will be brought to the attention of Minister Coveney. Let us continue to remember the suffering people of Cabo Delgado in our prayers, especially those who lost loved ones and those who have been seriously injured.