About this issue:

  • The attack by insurgents on the coastal town of Palma, Cabo Delgado, in March 2021 is a major escalation in the conflict in northern Mozambique that began in late 2017. A year ago, the GI-TOC warned that Ahlu-Sunna Wa-Jama’a, the insurgent group, may have been trying to take control of key trafficking routes and profit from them. International observers continue to voice speculation as to whether this is the case. Our new fieldwork has found that this has not happened. Instead, trafficking networks have shifted to new routes outside of the insurgent-controlled area, which is highly militarized. Illicit flows are a major part of the political and economic landscape of northern Mozambique.
  • In this issue we also report on other organized crime trends in the region. In South Africa, the trade in poached abalone has been closely connected to the trafficking of synthetic drugs since the 1990s, when South African gangs began to barter abalone with Chinese organized crime groups for the precursors to methaqualone and methamphetamine. Although poaching has decimated abalone populations and domestic meth production is declining, the two illicit markets still remain joined today.
  • South Africa’s port city of Durban is almost the only known area in all of East and southern Africa where heroin is widely sold in capsule form. As a previous issue of this Bulletin explored, while such capsules are a relatively recent phenomenon, they have quickly become a major part of the heroin market in Durban. Our new research explores the impact that heroin capsules have had in Durban in terms of violence, profitability and local demand for heroin.
  • Uganda is a regional hub for illicit gold intended for onward export to gold-trade centres such as the United Arab Emirates. Discrepancies in import and export data, and monitoring gold prices at different locations in Uganda, shed light on the flows of gold through the country. New GI-TOC fieldwork has also revealed the dynamics of illicit gold trade at smuggling hubs and the political protection of the trade.

The stories in the Risk Bulletin are drawn from GI-TOC’s network of analysts and researchers, who form the basis of our Civil Society Observatory of Illicit Economies in Eastern and Southern Africawhich has hubs in Nairobi and Cape Town.

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Cabo Delgado: Africa’s Forgotten Insurgency