Mozambique: Our RULAC Classifies Two New Non-International Armed Conflicts

Research conducted by our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) online portal – a unique resource that identifies and classifies all situations of armed violence that amount to an armed conflict under international humanitarian law (IHL) – classified the armed violence opposing Mozambique to RENAMO splinter groups and the al-Shabab as non-international armed conflicts (NIACs).

‘We have been monitoring the situation in Mozambique for quite some time. The intensity of the violence, along with the level of organization of these armed groups allow us to conclude to the existence of NIACs’ explains Dr Chiara Redaelli, Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.

A NIAC in the Northern Province of Cabo Delgado with the al-Shabab Group

This region has been affected by an insurgency involving the al-Shabab group since October 2017, with attacks carried out against both Mozambican armed forces and civilians.

The al-Shabab in Mozambique is a jihadist group whose objective is to impose Sharia law across the northern part of the country. The group is known by several names, such as Ahlu al-Sunnah, al-Jamaah (ASJ), Ansar al-Sunnah, ISIS– Mozambique, and al-Shabab. The latter name was chosen by the group, allegedly because this is how the local population calls them. Nevertheless, it does not seem to have any connection with al-Shabab in East Africa.

‘Since the first armed confrontations in 2017, the military capabilities of the group have significantly increased, along with the intensity of the violence in the Cabo Delgado Province – thus meeting the two IHL criteria to classify the situation as a NIAC’ explains Dr Redaelli.

Foreign Interventions in the Conflict

A number of neighbouring countries have been providing military assistance to Mozambique to fight against the al-Shabab, including Rwanda, Tanzania and South Africa. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) also deployed, in August 2021, a force of 738 soldiers in Cabo Delgado.

A view of the 25 de Junho camp for internally displaced people in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province which has seen armed conflict resulting in hundreds of thousands of people being displaced.

‘Since these interventions are taking place with the consent of the Mozambican government, they do not affect our classification of the situation. As such, Rwanda, Tanzania and South Africa and the SADC are also parties to the NIAC between al-Shabab and the Mozambiquan armed forces’ underlines Dr Redaelli.

Mercenary Forces

In the second half of 2019, due to the intensification of fighting, Mozambican authorities asked for the intervention of the Russian Wagner Group of mercenaries in order to support state forces in the fight against al-Shabab. Due to heavy casualties suffered by the group, the Russian mercenaries left in November 2019 and have been replaced by Dyck Advisory Group, a private military company based in South Africa.

NIAC with RENAMO Splinter Groups

Between 1977 and 1992, Mozambique has been torn by the so-called Mozambican civil war, fought between the Marxist Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) – which was ruling the country at the time – the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) – anti-communist insurgents – and a number of smaller groups.

In 1992, the conflict ended with the adoption of the Rome General Peace Accord: RENAMO was dismantled and the majority of its members were integrated in the Mozambican army.

In 2013, new tensions emerged between FRELIMO and RENAMO as the latter withdrew from the peace agreement and started fighting again – a situation of armed violence that classified as a NIAC.

While RENAMO and the government signed a peace agreement in August 2019, a number of RENAMO splinter groups refused to recognize this agreement and are carrying out, since then, armed attacks against Mozambican troops.

‘For classification purposes, we analysed whether we should consider this fighting as a continuation of the previous NIAC opposing RENAMO to the government, or whether it should be considered as a new NIAC. Since RENAMO splinter groups did not accept the peace agreement and never stopped fighting, we concluded that it is a continuation of the NIAC that opposed RENAMO to Mozambique’ says Dr Redaelli.

‘In this scenario, and in order to classify the situation as a NIAC, it is only necessary that hostilities have not completely ceased and that the armed group can be considered as a successor of the parent organ, which is the case’ adds Dr Redaelli.

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Road sign in Palma, Cabo Delgado, Moçambique News

Mozambique: Our RULAC Classifies Two New Non-International Armed Conflicts

30 September 2021

Our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) online portal classified the armed violence opposing Mozambique to RENAMO splinter groups and the al-Shabab as non-international armed conflicts.

Read more

Homepage of the RULAC online portal News

Online Survey of our RULAC Online Portal

5 October 2021

The survey aims at improving this unique tool by collecting users’ feedbacks on its content, their use of the information provided on RULAC, and the sections consulted.

Read more

Logo of the Atlas Network Event

Women's Perspectives on a Career in International Law

7 February 2022, 12:30-14:00

In this online event co-organized with the ATLAS Network, prominent women in international law will share their experience and advice through an interactive discussion.

Read more

Syria,  Aleppo, great Umayyad mosque. Destructions. Short Course

The Interplay between International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

11 February - 4 March 2022

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, focuses on the specific issues that arise in times of armed conflict regarding the respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights. It addresses key issues like the applicability of human rights in times of armed conflict; the possibilities of restricting human rights under systems of limitations and derogations; and the extraterritorial application of human rights law.

Read more

Côte d'Ivoire,  Abidjan, military instruction center in Akandjé. An ICRC dissemination session on international humanitarian law for the 1st bataillon of commando paratroopers. Short Course

The Implementation of International Humanitarian Law

8 February - 11 March 2022

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, will cover the ‘nuts and bolts’ of implementation, including national legislation, dissemination and training, and discuss the mechanisms such as the International Fact-Finding Commission, as set out in the treaties.

Read more

A session of the UN Human Rights Committtee at Palais Wilson Project

Implementing International Humanitarian Law Through Human Rights Mechanisms

Started in April 2019

Resulting from traditional legal research and informal interviews with experts, the project aims at examining how – if at all possible – IHL could be more systematically, appropriately and correctly dealt with by the human rights mechanisms emanating from the Charter of the United Nations, as well from universal and regional treaties.

Read more

Screenshot of the RULAC webpage Project

Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts (RULAC)

Started in May 2007

The Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts project (RULAC) is a unique online portal that identifies and classifies all situations of armed violence that amount to an armed conflict under international humanitarian law (IHL). It is primarily a legal reference source for a broad audience, including non-specialists, interested in issues surrounding the classification of armed conflicts under IHL.

Read more

Cover of the publication Publication

The UN Security Council and Common Article 1: Understanding the Role of Peacekeeping Operations in Ensuring Respect for IHL

published on October 2021

Émilie Max

Read more