Southern Africa: Mozambique Asks EU for Military Help

Mozambique flag.

Mozambique has asked the EU for "support in the area of specialist training for the fight against terrorism and insurgency." This support could take the form of training, logistics for the forces fighting the insurgency, equipment for medical assistance in combat zones, and technical capacity building. The explicit request for military support was sent by Foreign Minister Veronica Macamo to EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell on 16 September, several months after the EU made a vague offer of support.

The letter was sent a week after an 8 September meeting between Borrell and Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva. Portugal is pushing Mozambique's case and Silva said that there was a "terrorist and jihadist insurgency" in Cabo Delgado. In an interview with Lusa on 24 September he said "I am confident that the EU will respond positively" to the Mozambican request for military help. In part this is because Portugal will be president of the Council of the European Union for the first half of 2021.

In exchange, Mozambique has agreed to open a dialogue with the EU on humanitarian issues.

European parliament says root causes are poverty, human rights violations

But a highly critical European parliament resolution was overwhelmingly approved on 17 September. It admits that the "Mozambican army is ill-equipped to deal with the surge in terrorism," but the resolution puts more emphasis on internal causes.

The resolution stresses "the need to work towards the elimination of some of the root causes of terrorism such as insecurity, poverty, human rights violations, inequality, exclusion, unemployment, environmental degradation, corruption and misuse of public funds, impunity, thereby contributing immensely to the eradication of terrorist organisations."

Parliament "underlines the importance of pursuing the necessary reforms in order to adequately respond to the needs of the Mozambican people, preventing them from being vulnerable targets of radicalisation; underlines in particular the urgent need to create jobs and opportunities for the people in Cabo Delgado, in particular young people."

The resolution "considers it of the utmost importance that the local population, in particular in the poorest provinces of the country, benefit from the exploitation of their natural resources [and] calls on the government to fairly allocate incomes from exploitation projects to local development projects."

The European parliament says that the "Mozambican government security forces have responded with disproportionate violence, at times in contravention of international human rights commitments." It "calls on the Government of Mozambique to launch an independent and impartial investigation into torture and other grave violations allegedly committed by its security forces in Cabo Delgado." It cautions that "barbaric actions attributed to Al-Shabaab should not be met by further violations of human rights by the security forces of Mozambique."

Finally, it notes "incidents of crackdowns on freedom of expression, as well as harassment of journalists." The full text is here.

Government says donors and lenders returning

Mozambique's government believes global politics and gas have trumped governance, and five years of aid and loan restrictions due to the $2 bn secret debt are ending. The Council of Ministers approved the draft economic and social plan at its 22 September meeting, which includes includes a 43 bn Meticais ($ 600 mn) deficit, which it believes will be met by foreign aid and loans. After five years of no budget support due to the secret debt, Council spokesperson, Deputy Justice Minister Filimao Suaze, said enthusiastically that "our partners are returning in a wave", led by the IMF. (AIM 22 Sep, O Pais 23 Sep)

The US stressed its priorities when the US Export-Import Bank (Exim) in July approved a US$4.7 billion loan for the Cabo Delgado gas, the largest direct loan in the bank’s history to Sub-Saharan Africa. Exim head Kimberly Reed said explicitly that this was to block China lending for the project. And the loan involved contracts for at least 68 US companies and will create 17,000 US jobs.

Comment: choosing sides

The dispute about causes of the Cabo Delgado civil war is deepening, and interveners are being pushed to choose sides. President Filipe Nyusi told the UN General Assembly on 23 September that Mozambique is subject to attacks from international terrorism linked to organised crime, and he asked for international support to combat terrorism. (Full text on https://www.presidencia.gov.mz/por/Media/Files/100-Discurso-PR-AGNU-2309020) Nyusi and Frelimo are making clear that any intervener must choose their side, blaming Islamic terrorists and backing the corrupt elite.

The European parliament put the emphasis on internal causes - poverty, inequality, corruption, and the failure of the wealth of the province to reach the majority.

Is the Cabo Delgado civil war rooted in external terrorist destabilisation, or internal concentration of wealth and power in the hands of an elite creating a failed state?

The international community, ranging from the US State Department to Tony Blair, blames Islamic State. Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva wants the European Commission to take that line. The Commission will probably ignore the European Parliament, which has little power on foreign policy and aid matters.

The dispute over the roots of the war really date back 30 years, to long before the start of the war.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991, there have been two key agendas of the victorious "West". First, in 1993 Samuel Huntington published his notorious paper "The Clash of Civilisations", arguing that a confrontation between the West and the "Muslim World" was inevitable. This thinking was widely adopted and Islam came to replace communism as the enemy and evil ideology.

The second agenda was economic. The world came to be dominated by a free market ideology known as neo-liberalism; from the 1990s the Mozambican elite was told that the free market would end poverty, and that by becoming rich they were helping the poor because wealth would "trickle down" to the poorest. Transnational companies made deals with local elites, creating local oligarchs, and both profited.

The European parliament analysis of the war in Cabo Delgado is that this neo-liberal, trickle-down, "greed is good" ideology has failed - it has worsened poverty rather than redressed it, and the victims are prepared to go to war to force a change.

That creates a challenge. The EU, IMF, and others cannot admit that the ideology imposed for three decades on Mozambique has failed. Mozambican oligarchs cannot admit, perhaps even to themselves, that their getting rich harmed the majority of Mozambicans. It is probably too much to ask, so they will fall back on the clash of civilizations, and say it is fundamentalist Islam trying to destroy us - that the war in Cabo Delgado is part of the new cold war.

It looks increasingly like the European parliament will be ignored. The implications of accepting their analysis are just too great.

Instead, the European Commission, the Portuguese foreign minister, Tony Blair and others in the international community are choosing the side of the Frelimo elite, blaming Islamic jihadists for the war. Which also allows European companies and the Frelimo elite to continue to take the profits of minerals and gas. jh

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