Analysts in Africa and Mozambique have warned of the looming threat posed by the growing Islamist guerrilla movement identified as Al-Sunnah wa Jama’ah. The group has been engaged in skirmishes with the police and is gradually evolving to full violence.
Since mid-May, 35 people have died in a series of brutal attacks. Various people have been beheaded, hundreds of houses have been burned and residents have been advised to be cautious.
The activities of the fringe fraction of radical Muslim youth has increased suspicion on all Muslims which has spurred tension between the regions active in Mozambique. The prospect of a full-scale war has alarmed many people.
The sect’s initial goal was to enforce sharia law (Islamic law). It tried to do so by withdrawing from society and the state whose schooling, health system and laws it rejected. Such posture led to much tension.
Analysts have however warned that the group’s intentions have since shifted and that an immediate and radical solution ought to be implemented to prevent Mozambique and the region from plunging into war.
The Mozambican state has responded to the latest crisis by entering into security agreements with the governments of Tanzania, DRC, and Uganda; by setting up a regional military command; and by moving more troops into the North. Security strategists have advised both military and non-military solution to end the terror organization before it takes deeper roots and plunge country into full-blown war.
The birth of Al-Sunnah wa Jama’ah is very similar to what was seen with Boko Haram in Nigeria. It started as a religious sect which transformed into a guerrilla group. Al-Sunnah wa Jama’ah is Arabic for “people of the Sunnah community”. The group is also known as Al-Shabaab (The Youth), even though it has no connections with the Somali movement of the same name.