In Mozambique, sending foreign military troops changes the game

What is the current situation in Mozambique?

Since October 2017, northern Mozambique has been affected by a violent jihadist insurgency. Known locally as Al-Chabab (“young people” in Arabic), terrorist groups are rampant in the province of Cabo Delgado, a region bordering Tanzania and rich in hydrocarbons. According to Acled, an NGO that collects information on conflicts around the world, around 3,000 people have died since the clashes began, and thousands more have had to be displaced.

In the region, violence has escalated for a year. On March 24, a massive attack on the port city of Palma left dozens of people dead, causing concern in the international community. The city has since fallen into the hands of the jihadists, which completely paralyzes its activity. The attack notably interrupted the gas project, of 16.8 billion euros, of the Afungi site, led by the French group Total and located a few kilometers from Palma.

In April, the oil group invoked the case of “force majeure” to prevent the continuation of its site and the execution of the contracts which are related to it. Such a decision forces the regime to react so that the gas project, essential to its economy, starts up again.

Which countries provide military aid?

On July 15, a cooperation agreement was concluded between the Mozambican authorities and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which provides for the dispatch of more than 3,000 soldiers to assist the Defense and Security Forces ( Mozambican SDS) – mainly on peripheral tasks, analyzes a specialist in the region.

As part of this agreement, South Africa announced on Wednesday July 28 that it would send 1,495 troops to Mozambique. These will join other soldiers already present there, from other regional powers, from Botswana, as well as Rwandan military troops. Rwanda, which is not part of the SADC, has deployed, since July 9, a thousand soldiers in Cabo Delgado who are on the front line of operations.

At first reluctant to the idea of ‚Äč‚Äčintervention by foreign powers on his soil, fearing a form of interference, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi finally enthusiastically greeted this “Act of solidarity”, during a televised address, Sunday July 25, believing that the country should not be “Alone in the fight against terrorism”.

What is the short term goal of operations?

The main objective is to cauterize the surroundings of the Afungi gas site to create the conditions for Total to take over the project. The group made the creation of a 25 km strip guaranteeing security around the site as a condition.

Since the beginning of July, the fighting has intensified to create this buffer zone. The Rwandan armed forces have regained control of the strategic town of Awasse. The massive arrival of foreign soldiers is likely “ accelerate the takeover of other strategic cities, believes Thierry Vircoulon, coordinator of the Central and Southern Africa Observatory of Ifri, but jihadist groups continue for the moment to control rural areas “.


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