Mozambique: U.S. And French Look To Move In

Thousands of people have fled the violence in Cabo Delgado, often ending up in refugee camps like this one in Metuge.

Both the United States and France are trying to become involved in patrolling the coast of Cabo Delgado. The US is explicitly linking anti-drug and anti-insurgency activity.

"There’s a lot of overlap between the drug traffickers and extremists and the types of conditions that enable them to thrive, and sadly, those conditions are present in Mozambique. So in Mozambique [the State Department is] supporting some of the Mozambican government’s counter-narcotics efforts.  We’re also working … to help them disrupt some of the transnational organized crime at sea through more effective patrolling," said Heather Merritt, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, in a 21 July press briefing.

Merritt stressed that across Africa crime syndicates often "engage in multiple crime areas, and those networks may traffic in wildlife, drugs, people". She noted that "narcotics trafficking may be indirectly funding some of the terrorist networks and activities, as traffickers pay for safe passage via under-governed spaces and through routes that have been exploited as well by terrorist entities."

"We’re definitely concerned about Mozambique, and … drug traffickers and violent extremists have both utilized the ungoverned space", Merritt continued. And then she hinted at military and navy involvement, linking terrorism and heroin: there is "limited patrolling and limited law enforcement reach there. … We are as a US government concerned about the extremism in Cabo Delgado … We recognize that it’s a security threat that has a nexus to criminality, to terrorism, and to looking at sort of governance capacity, law enforcement capacity, and military capacity within Mozambique."

At least one US private security company is already recruiting Portuguese speaking US nationals to "provide strategic and tactical advisory support services" to the Mozambique government.

Meanwhile, French sources confirmed to Lusa (17 July) that Mozambique and France are discussing a military maritime cooperation agreement in the context of possible support in the fight against insurgents in Cabo Delgado. The French Armed Forces of the Southern Zone of the Indian Ocean (FAZSOI) have been promoting military cooperation, “conducting training with the Mozambican authorities on state action at sea”, the source said.

The island of Mayotte is just 500 km east of Pemba and is officially part of mainland France (and thus the EU). It has an important French military base. In addition France has several Islands in the Mozambique Channel between Mozambique and Madagascar, shown on this map:

Equally important, the French company Total recently bought control of area 1 of the Cabo Delgado gas field. Total brought in former French foreign legion officer Frederic Marbot to manage security for its gas project on the Afungi peninsula in Palma (Africa Intelligence, 1 June; Cabo Ligado 9 June). Marbot, who reportedly also ran security at Total facilities in Nigeria and Kazakhstan, will be joined in Cabo Delgado by his former foreign legion colleague Charles Stroeng. It appears that he is setting up a security unit partly composed of Mozambican troops already deployed to protect the Afungi camp.

Total already has contracts with five private security companies. Three are British: Blue Mountain, Control Risks and G4S, The other two are Arkhe (owned by Omega, South Africa/Mauritius) and GardaWorld (Canada), Arkhe, one of the biggest suppliers of security guards in Mozambique, including to embassies, was cited in the legal actions against Gemfields for atrocities at its Cabo Delgado ruby mine.

Push for South African intervention

"Staying out of Mozambique could see the insurgency there continuing to grow," warns the South African Institute of Strategic Studies (ISS) in an article by Peter Fabricius in ISS Today (23 July).

Islamic State has sleeper cells in South Africa and has recruited South Africans into its ranks. Some of these extremists fought with the group in Syria, some are involved in Cabo Delgado, and others are lying low in various cities in the country, according to Martin Ewi, ISS regional observatory coordinator.

Fabricius writes that "security sources have revealed that two accomplices of Islamic State suspects in South Africa were identified by South African officials in a photograph which the Cabo Delgado insurgents recently posted. The two are linked to legal cases underway in South Africa. That being so, it does not seem far-fetched to worry that these or other Mozambique insurgents might cross into or return to South Africa with hostile intent."

The articles comes after State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo said "we are taking very, very seriously" Islamic State's 3 July warning to South Africa not to get involved in Cabo Delgado. (News24 19 July; this newsletter 494 9 July). Dlodlo said South Africa could not extricate itself from conflict in the southern African region. "As a result of that, it becomes a responsibility for all of us in SADC to assist Mozambique in whatever way we can,"  she added.

The appointment of Robert McBride on 17 July to head the State Security Agency's (SSA) foreign branch, Dlodlo added, would assist in South Africa's efforts to deal with these threats. The job is effectively coordinator of foreign intelligence. McBride and Dlodlo were both Umkhonto weSizwe guerrillas.

$14.9 bn loan go-ahead for Total LNG

$14.9 bn in debt finance for Cabo Delgado gas was signed on 17 July. It includes the development of the Golfinho and Atum natural gas fields located in Offshore Area 1 and the construction of a two-train liquefaction plant with a total capacity of 13.1 million tons per annum (MTPA). LNG production could start in 2024.

Standard Bank calls it "the largest project financing deal" in Africa. It includes direct and covered loans from 8 Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) from US, Japan, UK, Italy, South Africa, Netherlands and Thailand;19 commercial bank facilities; and a loan from the African Development Bank.

The French company Total (with 26.5% which it recently bought, indirectly, from Anadarko) is the operating company. Other owners are Mitsui (20%), ENH (Mozambique government, 15%), three Indian state-owned companies (30%), and the Thailand state company PTTEP (8.5%)

In Area 4, deep-water offshore, there are two LNG projects. The $10 bn Coral South floating LNG project led by ENI will produce 3.4 MTPA, entirely sold to BP, and could begin by 2022. The second $25 bn project is led by ExxonMobil which has postponed indefinitely its final investment decision (FID), in part due to the dramatic fall in LND demand and prices.

Other news

Mozambique's hand in the secret debt dispute should be strengthened by Goldman Sachs agreeing to pay Malaysia $3.9 bn in the 1MDB scandal. Although not identical, the two are often reported as the two biggest global scandals involving big international banks. Goldman Sachs was blamed for using a $6.5 bn bond issue to facilitate the looting of Malaysia's 1MDB investment fund. Credit Suisse is accused, in the same way, of promoting a corrupt $2 bn loan to Mozambique. In November Malaysia turned down a Goldman offer of $1.75 bn from Goldman and last week it agreed to a payment of $3.9 bn; it has already received an additional $600,000 as a share of fines in US court cases. (Guardian, London, 25 July) The similarity to the Mozambique case will make it much harder for Credit Suisse to deny liability. But in pressing its cases Malaysia charged a former prime minister, his wife, and stepson. To reach such a large settlement will require hard bargaining from the Mozambique side as well as clear evidence of prosecution of the Mozambicans involved.

China's challenge to India could have an impact in Mozambique. The Macao-based China-Lusophone Brief (CL Brief 16 July) reports that Mozambique will be one of ten countries in India´s International Solar Alliance’ (ISA), in which state-run NTPC will develop solar power parks, funded by Indian credits. This is billed as India's "Energy Silk Road" and is seen by China as a direct challenge to its Belt and Road strategy.

"The law does not deal with mere impertinence and vulgarity," confirmed Mozambique's Higher Appeal Court, in confirming the acquittal of economist Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco and journalist Fernando Mbanze, in an important victory for press freedom. In 2013 Castel-Branco published a Facebook post criticising then President Armando Guebuza in very strong language. The post was widely circulated and reprinted in MediaFax. The Public Prosecutor's Office said the article was libellous and that libelling the head of state is a security offense. In 2015 Maputo city court Judge Joao Guilherme threw the case out, saying the language might be regarded as "impertinent and vulgar" but the post was not libellous. Unexpectedly, the Public Prosecutor's Office appealed, and five years later the Higher Appeals Court upheld the acquittal. It noted that “The President of the Republic, because of his topmost position in the leadership of the State, is exposed to criticism. Calling on a President to resign because the writer does not believe he is handling correctly the destinies of the country is normal throughout the world”.

Covid-19 cases rising; what are the implications from South Africa

Covid-19 cases are rising, with 53 new cases announced today, pushing the 7-day average to 35 per day, compared to 20 per day for much of June. There have been 11 deaths. There have been 1669 confirmed cases, of which 1063 are still active; 4298 people are in quarantine. The four provinces with most active cases are Cidade de Maputo: 228, Cabo Delgado: 225, Nampula: 209, and Provincia de Maputo: 202.

But there are concerns both about the high numbers in neighbouring South Africa where case numbers are still rising and there were 312 deaths reported yesterday, and that cases and deaths may be underestimated in both countries.

Researchers from South Africa's Medical Research Council say the South African figures for natural deaths are far higher than usual - suggesting thousands of Covid-19 deaths may be going unreported. (BBC 23 July)

Official figures show 6655 people have died from Covid-19. But a study of the past 10 weeks shows there have been 17,000 more deaths than usual for this time of year. That suggests more than 10,000 unexplained deaths.

Many are likely to be Covid-19-related but who died at home. There is also concern that South Africans are staying away from hospitals - because of a lack of space, or fear of catching the virus, which could mean more people dying of illnesses, such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, that are not being treated.

South Africa has double the population of Mozambique. South Africa currently reports 112 deaths per million population so if all extra deaths are counted as Covid-19 related, this would be nearly 300 deaths/mn, which is at levels similar to Brazil, Russia, Netherlands, and Ireland. (Germany is 110, Portugal is 167, UK is highest in Europe at 670)

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