Return of the populations and reconstruction of the northeast of Cabo Delgado – from the weakening of the state to the emergence of a Totaland

March 2023
João Feijó (Observatório do Meio Rural)

Destaque Rural is a series produced by the Mozambican NGO Observatorio do Meio Rural (Rural Environment Observatory). This paper looks at the return of displaced people in the northern province of Cabo Delgado which has been badly affected by violence attributed to Islamic insurgents. While not explicitly about land rights, it paints a useful picture for understanding the links between conflict, widespread poverty despite significant private sector investment, and the abuse of local rights by state agencies including the police, army, and local government.  A slow but encouraging post-violence recovery is happening in areas abandoned during the worst of the violence in 2021 (when it reached Palma, a key coastal town and operational base for the massive TotalEnergies natural gas project). Yet even as local government re-establishes itself and services are gradually restored, there is still a persistent “asymmetry of access to State resources (jobs, subsidies and economic support)” and “suspicions of little transparency in resource management”. The paper calls for a holistic response including institutional strengthening, support for small farmers, and the defence of human rights. The fact that the State appears to have learned little from the violence and destruction – the mix of mistrust and inequality will continue to cause resentment and feed conflict – is a lesson for land and resources governance reforms in  post-conflict situations.