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Mozambique: What will happen in 2021?

By The Africa Report
Posted on Friday, 5 February 2021 15:24, updated on Wednesday, 17 February 2021 13:38

Displaced people attempt to flee by boat from armed violence in Cabo Delgado RICARDO FRANCO/EPA/MAXPPP

In Mozambique, you don’t need to look far to see the problems with conflict-resolution strategies that focus almost exclusively on the military.

Before conflict broke out with the Islamist Ansar al-Sunna rebels in the gas-rich Cabo Delgado Province in 2017, the Frelimo government had not yet ended its years-long fight with Renamo.

READ MORE Mozambique: Can Cabo Delgado’s Islamist insurgency be stopped?

Rather than being on the path to peace, both sides in the Cabo Delgado conflict are alienating the population. Militants heinously beheaded 50 civilians in an attack in early 2020, and in October launched their first successful attack in Tanzania – where the population has also expressed discontent at the lack of development while big gas projects boost the central government’s revenue.

In turn, the Mozambique government’s response to Ansar Al-Sunna attacks has resulted in civilian deaths and damaged property. The fighting has displaced nearly 500,000 people already.

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French oil company Total is going ahead with its mega-gas project in Cabo Delgado and is financing security initiatives. Gas projects do not generate masses of jobs. And if the government waits until the gas project starts significantly boosting state revenue – which will take years – the crisis could continue to grow. The corruption and bribery connected to $2bn in secret loans for a supposed tuna fishing project in 2013 have rocketed the government’s finances, leaving it with little to spend on development and infrastructure projects.

READ MORE Mozambique’s civilians defenceless as armed forces defend Total’s gas project

Over in West Africa, regional cooperation between armies and help from France have yet to neutralise the security threat presented by the Islamist rebels of Boko Haram in Nigeria. The Economic Community of West African States has a lot more experience in regional peacekeeping initiatives than its Southern African counterparts, but Maputo’s diplomats are not yet at the point of assembling a regional taskforce.

And none of Mozambique’s major international partners have agreed to provide the training to the armed forces that the government has requested.

This article is available as part of the print edition of The Africa Report magazine: ‘Africa in 2021 – Who will be the winners and losers of the post-Covid era?’