Building Youth Resilience to Extremism in Mozambique: Perspectives from Cabo Delgado

Mozambique’s ongoing conflict, waged by the Islamist group Ahlu-Sunna Wa-Jama’a (ASWJ), is expected to continue for at least three more years, according to newly appointed Mozambican defence minister Cristóvão Chume. This is optimistic, as the ongoing and lengthy past experiences in Lake Chad, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa have shown. Following the tactical and operational failures by private military groups to contain the insurgency, troops from Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have now joined the Mozambican government in its operations. At the time of writing, there have been 3 415 estimated fatalities from organised political violence since the onset of insurgent attacks which began in 2017, and the militarised approach is unlikely to quell its multiple causes – among them grievances and marginalisation of the population. This research report unpacks youth perspectives on the insurgency, based on the findings of two focus groups held in September 2021 in Pemba and Montepuez. The youth are particularly at risk of being drawn into the insurgency due to high unemployment, disruptions to education and an economy that offers little in the way of job prospects. A correlation has been shown between violence and income inequality, which provide fertile ground for recruitment by extremists. Yet at the same time, the youth can be a positive force for change by challenging undemocratic practices and working as peacebuilders within their community. The paper first outlines the methodology used for the focus groups, and then examines the drivers of extremism, followed by an analysis of how these factors apply to the Mozambican context. The findings of youth perspectives in Cabo Delgado are discussed under five themes: material drivers, manipulation of religious and ethnic identities, safety and security, politics and governance, and social cohesion. The report concludes with recommendations on ways to strengthen youth resilience within the ambit of national, subregional and regional frameworks.