African Conflicts, Development and Regional Organisations in the Post-Cold War International System – Victor AO Adetula

A number of recent studies have expressed marked optimism about the constant decrease in armed conflicts around the world. One such study projects that by 2050 the proportion of countries at war will have declined significantly, with high prospects for global peace and security (Hegre et al. 2013). Using Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) data, Hegre et al. associate the long years of peace enjoyed in the world with decreased global poverty, and project that the trend is likely to continue into the future. The prognosis shows that many countries in the world will remain peaceful in coming years. It is, however, noted that countries with high poverty, low education and young populations are fertile ground for conflict, and that more than half the world’s conflicts during 2012 occurred in such countries. The prognosis for Africa does not reflect the same optimism. Poverty reduction, transparent and accountable governance and citizen satisfaction with the delivery of public goods and service have shown no sign of significant improvement. In consequence, peace has continued to elude the continent, and this trend may continue unless radical measures are taken to prevent further deterioration within a holistic and integrated strategy that emphasises democratic governance, economic development and equitable distribution of wealth as conditions for peace and security.

Civil war is a constant threat in many poor and badly governed countries in Africa. However, the causal relationship between armed conflict and underdevelopment is complex. Thus, analyses and prognoses that link conflict and underdevelopment require qualification. Recent studies suggest that “while … it seems plausible that poverty can create the desperation that fuels conflict, the precise … causal linkage is not quite evident. There are poor societies that are remarkably peaceful, and richer societies that are mired in violence” (Östby 2013:207). Africa is reported to have made “impressive progress in addressing other development challenges” since the beginning of the millennium in terms of economic growth rate, which was the highest in the world; improved business environment and investment climate; and a rapidly expanding labour force (Ascher and Mirovitskaya 2013: 3). Nonetheless, the continent still faces some of the most daunting global security threats. For example, 29 (40 per cent) of the 73 state-based conflicts active in 2002-11 were in Africa (Themnér and Wallensteen 2013: 47). Also, of the 223 non-state conflicts in 2002-11, 165 (some 73 per cent) were in Africa, and mostly in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan, which between them accounted for 125 of the non-state conflicts (Themnér and Wallensteen 2013: 52). In 2011, Africa recorded several significant internationalised intrastate conflicts, some of them of long standing (Allansson et al. 2013: 17). During this period, new conflicts erupted in Libya, Sudan and South Sudan. Also, dormant conflicts in Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal became active. The situation  in northern Mali remains a threat just as the deadly conflicts in the Central Africa Republic (CAR) and Libya are fast escalating into civil war. In East Africa, for many years the activities of al-Shabaab militants have made Somalia and the entire sub-region unsafe. In Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the military defeat of the M23 rebel movement has not brought lasting peace,
mainly because of the almost complete absence of a functioning state.

Armed conflicts in Africa, and particularly intra-state conflicts, have attracted the attention of the international community, which has responded by supporting various peace initiatives. A significant number of multilateral peacekeeping and peace operations have been launched to address African conflicts. By the end of 2013, eight of the UN’s 15 peacekeeping missions were in Africa, and involved 70 per cent of all UN peacekeepers deployed globally (Ladsous 2014). Despite this level of multilateral intervention, only limited impacts have been recorded. While one can argue that the number and intensity of armed conflicts has declined in Africa, violence by armed non-state actors is on the increase. Ongoing armed insurgencies in Nigeria and parts of the Sahel, notably Mali and Niger, best illustrate this trend, with several deaths recorded. In addition, organised crime is on the rise across the continent, coupled with the emergence of new forms of violence associated with contemporary globalisation and other post-Cold War phenomena.

The post-Westphalian international system introduced new challenges that have implications for global peace and stability, particularly for the most vulnerable regions of the world. With the end of the Cold War, the international system lost its highly structured “framework within which the internal and international behaviour of Third World states was regulated” (Snow 1996: 4). Donald Snow adds that “the end of the Cold War has been accompanied by an apparently reduced willingness and ability to control internal violence … Governments and potential insurgents no longer have ideological patrons who provided them with the wherewithal to commit violence and then expect some influence over how that violence is carried out” (Snow 1996: 46). These developments introduced “greater instability” that increases “the likelihood of the outbreak of violent conflict and opening the doors of atrocities.” Added to these are forms of violence that are partly enhanced by the “end of bi-polar Cold War stability” and “the fundamental changes in the social relations governing the ways in which wars are fought” (Melander et al. 2006: 9). Global illicit trade in drugs, arms and weapons; human trafficking; piracy etc. are now part of the threat to global peace and international security.

The international system is presently resting on fragmented global governance foundations. The multilateral system is not working that well, despite the rhetoric by states in support of global cooperative responses. Neither the Bretton Woods-UN system nor informal plurilateral bodies such as the Group of Eight (G8) and G20 Leaders’ Summits have demonstrated the potential or capacity to help Africa and other vulnerable regions in overcoming global pressures. For instance, while Africa and the challenges of development feature regularly on the agendas of international organisations and development partners, commitments to assist the continent are generally accompanied by new conditionalities and other criteria that are justified under the new discourse on aid effectiveness and aid for trade. With the end of the Cold War, powerful and rich countries of the global North redefined their national interests and reorganised them in less altruistic ways that seem not to emphasise cooperative initiatives. Meanwhile, the world is being treated to the emergence of new global powers, notably Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC). The BRIC states are increasingly involved in global issues such as trade, international security, climate change and energy politics. However, while they have shown an interest in global issues, they are not necessarily prepared to assume responsibility for international development, including global peace and security. These developments provide opportunities for regional actors to become more engaged in developing and expanding their roles in conflict management and maintaining regional security.

The strengthening of regional organisations and the emergence of new regional networks are important features of the post-Cold War system. Regional institutions are becoming increasingly prominent in contemporary international relations. The complexity of security challenges in the post-bipolar world requires greater cooperation and coordination among states within a region. Current waves of globalisation are already promoting regional consensus-formation and coordination. The inability of many national governments to address problems with cross-border dimensions, such as pests, desertification, drought, climate change, HIV/AIDS, drug and human trafficking has further encouraged states to embrace regionalist approaches. Both in the areas of economic development and security, many states now favour regional organisations and other forms of alliance. These organisations have become more associated with the task and responsibility of maintaining world peace. In this context, the emergence of the African Union (AU), for instance, represents a renewed commitment by African states to a regional approach.

Dominant international relations discourse in the post-Cold War era acknowledges “complex interdependence” as one of the defining characteristics of the global system and tends to favour a regionalist approach to the management of inter-state relations. There are still challenges at various levels – national, regional and global. For example, some states are still protective of their sovereignty despite the overwhelming impact of globalisation and the attacks on the territorial state. Regionally, many organisations have serious capacity gaps. And globally, there are, among other things, the challenges of power politics. In this lecture, I examine the performance of Africa’s regional organisations in ensuring peace and security on the continent. In doing this, I draw attention to the need for national and regional actors to pay attention to good governance and development as part of their efforts to operate effective collective security systems and conflict resolution mechanisms without ignoring the essence of the global context.

Originally published in The Nordic Africa Institute (NAI). See full complete article here.

New Report: The Anatomy of the Resource Curse: Predatory Investment in Africa’s Extractive Industries

Lesley on Africa

My colleague, J.R. Mailey of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, just published The Anatomy of the Resource Curse: Predatory Investment in Africa’s Extractive Industries. Full disclosure: I haven’t read the report in its entirety, but I’ve seen J.R. brief on this topic and know the investigative and analytical work that went into producing it, so I’d highly recommend reading it. A summary is below:

With more than 20 countries possessing bountiful oil and mineral deposits, Africa is home to more resource-rich states than any other region in the world. If accountably governed, natural resource wealth could be a boon to a society, enabling valuable investments in infrastructure, human capital, social services, and other public goods. Yet, living conditions for most citizens remain dismal as a result of inequitable distribution of resource revenues. Natural resource wealth is also strongly associated with undemocratic and illegitimate governance. Roughly 70 percent of…

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Mozambique: How Big of a Threat is Renamo to the Frelimo-led Government?

imagesSince the end of Mozambique’s civil war the political landscape in that nation has never been so uncertain and unstable. Renamo, the rebel group turned opposition party, made an assertive comeback in the October 2014 elections and is increasingly motivated to press the government towards satisfying its demands. In this context, the ruling party, Frelimo, faces a dilemma: Should they cede more ground to Renamo’s leader, Afonso Dhlakama, to accommodate him, or refuse and risk new armed clashes?

Things get gloomier when considering Dhlakama’s demand for the introduction of autonomous management over those provinces where he obtained more votes than his adversaries in the last elections.[1] Additionally, suspicions abound that the ruling party was involved in the assassination of Gilles Cistac, a constitutionalist who upheld the legality of provincial autonomy[2] and called for President Filipe Nyusi to free himself from Frelimo’s tight grip on power.[3]

While there is a growing perception that the ruling party often abuses power, Renamo is increasingly recognized as a valid political alternative. Hence Armando Guebuza’s resignation as head of Frelimo, on March 29,[4] which appears to have been motivated by the need to change the course of events. However, that may not be enough to stop Renamo’s momentum.

Is the government going to concede to Dhlakama’s demand for provincial autonomy? Whereas Renamo is surely motivated—due to prior concessions—Frelimo is highly unlikely to abdicate from the strategic provinces.[5] Given this conjuncture, tensions will surely be on the rise.

Renamo has the game in its favor

It is often argued that Renamo does not meet the necessary conditions to launch a large-scale offensive against Maputo. However, one should not underestimate its ability to destabilize the country and inflict considerable damage to government forces. In the summer of 2013, Renamo’s forces managed to face up to Mozambique’s Armed Forces, virtually divided North from South by blocking the main EN-1 road, and threatened to suspend traffic along the Sena railway—vital to the coal industry.

Recent government concessions and the expected natural resources boom[6] are strong motivational drivers. In fact, Dhlakama’s return took place shortly after the discovery of large natural gas reserves. Furthermore, the poorest sectors of the population want to benefit from the natural resource wealth. To a large extent, it is from the mobilization of those sectors of the population that are hoping for change that Renamo has managed to come out rejuvenated.

Furthermore, the party’s leadership enjoys vast experience in guerrilla operations and is familiar with the country’s geography. In addition, Dhalakama’s return and the establishment of a military base was accompanied by the provision of military training to war veterans.[7] Moreover, Renamo has other factors in its favor: a Mozambican army comprised of 13,000 soldiers and deliberately weak;[8] and the abundance of small arms across the country.

It is estimated that 3 million to 4 million arms were in circulation by the end of the civil war. In fact, there is still a high number of small arms available in Mozambican territory. Also relevant is the ignorance on the part of government authorities over the exact amount of weapons possessed and stocked by national security forces, something which raises questions regarding the ability of authorities to address the proliferation and illegal use of small arms in the country.[9]

Coupled with the proliferation of small arms, the sacking of weapons from governmental forces has boosted the group’s offensive capabilities. In January 2014, Renamo’s political advisor to Mozambique’s southern region claimed that the party did not dispose of an inventory for the totality of the weapons from the civil war, adding that there are weapons spread across the country.[10]

Some reports have given indications that the illegal ivory trade is potentially one of the group’s sources of financing. In fact, the majority of foreigners detained in South Africa under charges of poaching are Mozambican nationals. Adding to this, former military officials have been providing political protection to criminal groups involved in that illegal activity, while weapons and uniforms used by the Mozambican armed and security forces were found in poaching areas.[11]

Although these allegations are mostly targeted at individuals associated with Frelimo, could that also apply to Renamo? Part of the ivory passing through Mozambique is extracted and exported in and via the northern region, namely through the Pemba airport.[12] It is also known that Renamo used poaching as a finance source during the civil war. Moreover, Dhlakama’s return coincided with a substantial increase in poaching.[13]

Foreign influence: a game-changer

The success of Renamo’s 2013 insurgency showed that Mozambique’s security forces do not have effective control over the country’s northern and central regions. That strengthens Renamo’s position and increases the risk associated with ceding to provincial autonomy.

However, it does not serve the interest of both parties to provoke an escalation in tensions and initiate armed clashes, since the immediate outcome would be an interruption in the inflow of investment, in particular in the highly profitable extractive industries, as well as in international and regional isolation and condemnation.

Roughly half of SADC member-states are landlocked—such as Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe—making them dependent on other countries to export their produce. Also worth noting are South Africa’s interests in Mozambique, which risk being seriously affected in a setting of instability. Additionally, these countries’ border regions with Mozambique are also likely to be destabilized. Considering these threats, regional countries and SADC have expressed their concern. Thus, given that a stable Mozambique is of strategic interest to the region, it is highly likely that further insecurity in the country may mobilize SADC towards an intervention.

Furthermore, in recent years Mozambique has positioned itself at the centre of international attention largely due to the natural gas reserves. However, despite the unstable environment in the country, natural gas discoveries appear to be so promising that international investors and buyers are willing to sign long-term deals.[14] It remains to be seen up to what point these entities are willing to tolerate a spiral of instability.

The resource-hungry Asian countries have shown particular interest in Mozambique’s resources. China, in particular, “is fast emerging as the most important economic and diplomatic player in Mozambique, bringing billions of dollars in investments and asking no questions”.[15] In this setting, the instability generated by Renamo is an obstacle to Beijing’s goals.

Given the obvious strategic shift in Beijing’s policy towards Africa[16]—aimed at protecting its interests and boosting cooperation with regional organizations—[17] one should not exclude the possibility that Chinese authorities begin demanding more conditions from Maputo so as to safeguard investments. Additionally, one should also consider that Beijing may exert greater diplomatic pressure—in coordination with the AU and/or SADC—to push for a bipartisan understanding. It is highly unlikely that Beijing will stand idly by as Mozambique’s power games threaten its interests in the largest natural gas reserves in sub-Saharan Africa.

Conclusion

The next few months promise to be exciting for fans of political thrillers. The investigation into the murder of Gilles Cistac is currently underway and the outcome may benefit Renamo’s popularity. Meanwhile, the issue pertaining to the establishment of autonomous provinces is still uncertain. One can clearly note that the two historical rivals have entered a collision course. Only time will tell which side will eventually give in. In the unlikely case that no party concedes ground, the resulting collision will have repercussions reminiscent of the civil war.

Both clearly know that a spiral of armed conflict will most probably halt the wave of investments planned for the coming years, ultimately benefiting other countries in the region with natural gas reserves. To witness international markets shifting attentions to Mozambique’s neighbors would be a harsh defeat for Frelimo and Renamo, as well for the general population.

Conflict is not an inevitability. The dynamics between Beijing’s strategic shift in Africa and the need to protect its interests may represent a key factor in guaranteeing stability. Moreover, regional countries have every interest in avoiding a new civil war. Awareness of the consequences deriving from a regional intervention should suffice to deter both parties.

In sum, Renamo does represent a real threat to Frelimo. However, the cards on the table show there is more at stake than their private ambitions. Pressure by international actors with immediate interests in Mozambique will certainly dictate up to what point the two sides can continue on a collision course. Until then both are likely to stand their ground and small-scale clashes are likely to occur. But in the end, someone has got to give.


[1] “Afonso Dhlakama quer ser Presidente do centro e norte de Moçambique” (Deutsche Welle, 11 January 2015).

[2] “Indignação e acusações em Maputo devido à morte de Gilles Cistac” (Voice of America, 5 March 2015).

[3] “Gilles Cistac sugere que Filipe Nyusi se “desvincule” da Frelimo para ser soberano” (Verdade, 4 February 2015).

[4] As head of Frelimo, Armando Guebuza held substantial powers over the country’s presidency. “Nyusi Named Mozambique Ruling Party Leader as Guebuza Steps Down” (Bloomberg, 29 March 2015)

[5] Strategic both to domestic finances and the interests of the party’s elite. Namely Tete, due to the large coal reserves, and Nampula, for its precious stones and access to the resource-rich maritime territory.

[6] “Mozambique to become one of biggest coal & gas producers” (Mozambique Political Process Bulletin, 15 Feburary 2013).

[7] Estimates point to a 1000-strong Renamo armed wing. “Armed Forces for the Defence of Mozambique” (Defence Web, 23 August 2013).

[8] The 2014 national budget allocated a mere 2.2% of the GDP to the Armed Forces. This can be justified by the tight public finances and also by the potential threat to the regime.

[9] “Avaliação do crime e violência em Moçambique” (Open Society Foundation, 2012).

[10] “Assessor da Renamo garante que homens do partido têm armas em todo o país” (Lusa, 10 January 2014) e “Polícia descobre 39 armas de fogo enterradas em Cabo Delgado” (Verdade, 13 November 2014).

[11] “Obama Urged to Sanction Mozambique over Elephant, Rhino Poaching” (Inter Press Service, 2 July 2014).

[12] “Home-grown corruption is killing Africa’s rhinos and elephants” (Daily Maverick, 28 November 2014).

[13] “Poaching Peace and Security” (Atlantic Council, 28 October 2013).

[14] In 2014, U.S. oil giant Anadarko announced the conclusion of long-term natural gas supply agreements with Asian buyers. See “Anadarko Signs Supply Contracts With Asian Buyers, Defining Clearer Investment Plans For Mozambique LNG” (Forbes, 31 March 2014).

[15] “East Africa eyes the race for LNG exports” (Office of the Federal Coordinator for Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Projects, 27 May 2014).

[16] The mediation efforts undertaken by China in South Sudan and the contribution to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali indicate a more active commitment in supporting peace and security in the continent.

[17] One example is the African Union’s admission as a full member in the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and the launching of the AU-China Strategic Dialogue for Peace and Security in Africa.

Original article published here.

Extended version in Portuguese here.

Mozambique: is Renamo a real threat to Frelimo’s leadership?

Gustavo Placido dos Santos

Portuguese Institute of International Relations and Security – IPRIS

Since the return of Afonso Dhlakama to the foothills of the Gorongosa mountains, in 2012, and the resumption of Renamo’s armed insurgency, in April 2013, Mozambique’s political future has become uncertain and with few perspectives of stabilization in the short-term. As long as Renamo is motivatated to press the government towards obtaining further concessions,[1] the government and Frelimo – the ruling party – face a conundrum: cede further ground to Dhlakama, in a way to accommodate him, or refuse and thus risk new armed clashes?

Such a conundrum becomes even more relevant when considering Dhlakama’s demand to establish an autonomous management over the provinces where he got more votes than his adversaries in the October 2014 elections.[2] Such an already complicated situation aggravated with the assassination of Gilles Cistac, a known Mozambican constitutionalist who upheld the constitutional legality behind the creation of autonomous provinces. Dhlakama immediately accused “Frelimo’s radicals” of Cistac’s murder, something which was rejected by the ruling party’s leadership, affirming their intention to “hold the criminals accountable”.[3] Cistac was murdered shortly after defending the decentralization of power, the legal validity of provincial autonomy, and the need for President Filipe Nyusi to disassociated himself from Frelimo, as a way to become independent from the party’s upper echelons, namely from the country’s former President and then leader of Frelimo, Armando Guebuza.[4]

Regardless of Frelimo’s role in Cistac’s assassination, an outcome of this event is the strengthening of the popular perception that the ruling party not only enjoys a wide degree of impunity but also that it regularly abuses power. Conversely, the assassination serves to promote Renamo’s status as a political alternative. In fact, Renamo – which was widely regarded as a dying force –[5] made a strong comeback in 2014. Through the resumption of a strategy based on the threat to use armed action and boycott of electoral processes, Renamo managed to see some of its demands satisfied while recovering some of the popular support it lost over previous years.

Having said this, is the Mozambican government going to concede to Dhlakama’s demand to create autonomous provinces? Renamo has a clear sense that is possible using the threat of armed action. However, Frelimo is not going to easily abdicate of provinces, the likes of which are strategic[6] to the domestic finances and to the interests of the party’s elite, among which one can highlight the economic interests associated with Guebuza’s family. Given this conjuncture, i.e. considering Renamo’s intention to acquire greater power in the country’s north and centre, and the reluctance by the government and Frelimo to lose control over major sources of revenue, will we witness a dangerous rise in tensions?

Renamo has the game in its favour

It is usually said that Renamo does not have the resources nor the conditions to launch a large-scale offensive against Maputo. Even though that is probably true, one should not underestimate the ability of Renamo’s armed wing in destabilizing the country and inflict considerable damage to government forces. After all, in the summer of 2013, Renamo’s armed men managed, with relative success, to face up to Mozambique’s Armed Forces (FADM in the Portuguese acronym), virtually divided North from South by blocking the main road EN-1 – key to the domestic economy – and threatened to suspend rail traffic along the Sena railway – vital to the coal extraction industry.

The success of an armed insurgency is partly measured by the group’s levels of motivation. In what concerns to Renamo’s leadership, the recent government concessions, as well as the expectations related with the access to the coming natural resources boom (coal and natural gas),[7] represent two highly motivating elements. Curiously, Dhlakama’s return to Gorongosa took place shortly after the announcement of the discovery of large natural gas reserves. Furthermore, and regarding popular support, the poorest sectors of the population, especially rural communities, want to benefit from Mozambique’s natural resource wealth.[8] Renamo emerges in this context as an alternative to the status quo. In part, it is from the mobilization of those sectors of the population wishing for change that Renamo managed to come out rejuvenated in 2014. Adding to this, Gilles Cistac’s assassination is likely to increase that support. Also worth noting is that, despite a number of defections and relative protest on the part of some members, Renamo’s leadership is highly capable of exerting command and control.

On the other hand, one should take into account Renamo’s human and military resources. The party’s leadership, especially the older members, has not only vast experience in guerrilla operations but is also highly familiar with the country’s geography – namely in the center and north. In addition, Dhalakama’s return to Gorongosa and the establishment of a military base was accompanied by the provision of military training to war veterans. Although there is no concrete data on the number of Renamo’s fighters, estimates point to 1000 armed men. This reinforces the idea that Renamo may not have the capabilities to initiate an open war against a larger and better equipped regular army.[9] However, the success of some insurgencies in Africa shows that this logic is not entirely accurate.[10] Moreover, Renamo has two additional factors in its favour: a Mozambican army comprised of 13,000 soldiers and deliberately weak;[11] and the abundance of small arms across the country.

According to a study by the Open Society Foundation, it is estimated that around 500,000 and 6 million weapons were imported during the civil-war, and that 3 to 4 million were in circulation by the end of the war. The study also remarks that despite the success of disarmament programmes there is still a high number of small arms available in Mozambican territory. Furthermore, this research highlights the ignorance on the part of government authorities regarding the exact amount of weapons possessed and stocked by national security forces, something which raises questions regarding the national authorities’ ability to tackle and stop the proliferation and illegal use of small arms in the country.[12]

The proliferation of weapons in Mozambique works in favour of Renamo’s armed wing. In addition to this, and also worth noting, is the sacking of weapons from governmental forces, which has contributed to the group’s greater military capacity. In January 2014, Renamo’s political advisor to Mozambique’s southern region, Rahil Khan, affirmed that the party did not dispose of the totality of the weapons inventory used during the civil-war, adding that there are weapons spread across the country.[13] However, those declarations were contradicted in September 2014 by Renamo’s spokesman, António Muchanga. According to Muchanga, the weapons currently held by the armed wing belonged to the FADM and were appropriated following attacks on Renamo men.[14] Muchanga also denied the existence of hidden weapons caches in Mozambique. Despite Muchanga’s denial, the veracity of Rahil Khan’s declarations ends up strengthened when considering situations when weapons of military calibre were found, increasing the possibility of the existence of further hideouts across the country.[15]

If on the one hand Renamo’s political wing has a regular source of revenue from the subventions related to parliamentary representation, the ways in which the armed wing finances itself are less clear. Given the uncertainty surrounding this matter, it is possible to say that one of those potential sources of financing is the illegal ivory trade. It has been reported that the majority of foreigners detained in South Africa under charges of poaching are Mozambicans. Moreover, it has also been reported that former military officials provide political protection to criminal groups involved in poaching, while weapons and uniforms used by the Mozambican armed and security forces were found in poaching areas.[16] Despite the fact that these allegations are apparently targeted at Frelimo members, could that also apply to Renamo? Part of the ivory passing through Mozambique is extracted and exported in the northern region, namely via Pemba airport, in the province of Cabo Delgado.[17] It is also of public knowledge that Renamo used poaching as a means of financing during the civil-war. In addition, Dhlakama’s return to Gorongosa coincided with a considerable increase in poaching.[18] Given the uncertainty regarding Renamo’s current involvement in poaching and ivory trade, it is possible to affirm that the party’s present campaign is in itself a strategy aimed at accessing greater financing, in particular Mozambique’s immense natural wealth.

External influence: a game changer

Dhlakama’s stronghold, the province of Sofala, is strategically located between the north – rich in natural resources – and the distant centre of economic and political power, Maputo – located in the south, considerably poorer in natural resources. The success of Renamo’s 2013 insurgency showed that Mozambique’s military and police forces do not have effective control over the country’s northern and central regions. That, simultaneously strengthens Renamo’s position and increases the risk associated with ceding to provincial autonomy. However, it does not serve the national interest, i.e. of the two political forces, to provoke an escalation of tensions and initiate armed clashes. The immediate outcome would be an interruption in the inflow of investment, in particular in the highly profitable extractive industries, as well as isolation and international and regional condemnation, especially from neighbouring countries and SADC.

In what concerns to nearby countries, roughly half of SADC member-states are landlocked, making them dependent on other countries to export their produce onto international markets. Such is the case of Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, whose socioeconomic stability greatly depends on goods transportation routes crossing Mozambique. Also noteworthy are South Africa’s economic interests in Mozambique, the likes of which risk being seriously affected in a setting of instability in Mozambique. Moreover, these countries’ border regions with Mozambique are also likely to be destabilized due to incursions by Renamo armed men, with the consequences arising therefrom. Taking these threats into account, regional countries and SADC itself have already expressed their concern with the recent instability in Mozambique.

The most aggressive stance towards this matter came from Zimbabwe. Authorities in Harare are especially concerned with the economic consequences of potential disruptions in the pipeline and railway connecting Zimbabwe to the port of Beira, as well as with security in the Marange diamond fields – a major source of revenue located close to the border with Mozambique. Following Renamo’s decision to abolish the 2013 peace agreement, a member of Zimbabwe’s government stated that “[i]t will be misguided for Renamo to bring instability and expect Zimbabwe to watch”, adding that SADC “would consider sending troops to help the government if the security situation deteriorated”.[19]

It is however unlikely that Harare orders a unilateral intervention. Doing so outside SADC’s context, would complicate the prospects for any future regional intervention in the country, since it would undermine the legitimacy of SADC’s principle of collective action.[20] SADC’s Mutual Defense Pact calls for collective action whenever a democratically elected government is faced with a threat. Nevertheless, that principle is not immune to potential divergent positions – over when and how to take military action – arising when the time comes to discuss an intervention in Mozambique, as shown by the intervention in Lesotho and DRC.[21] Despite the difficulties associated with reaching a consensus within SADC, stability in Mozambique is of strategic interest to every single country in the region. Thus, it is highly likely that a deterioration in stability and security in the country lead to the mobilization of member-states towards an intervention. In sum, any large scale offensive by Renamo must have in consideration a possible SADC-mandated intervention.

The same logic applies to those multinationals who are currently investing, or intend to do so, in the vast natural resource wealth in Mozambique. In recent years, largely due the potential of its natural gas reserves, Mozambique has positioned itself at the centre of world’s attention. However, to take the Mozambican natural gas onto international markets is a complex and expensive process that requires a stable government and, above all, risk-taking investors. Investment is key for the construction of infrastructures essential for the industry’s efficient operation. This, in turn, requires a relatively limited level of political risk. Despite the instability in Mozambique, natural gas discoveries appear to be so promising that international investors and buyers of liquefied natural gas are willing to sign long-term deals in order to kick-start these projects.[22] Notwithstanding, it is still uncertain up to what point are these international investors and buyers willing to tolerate a spiral of instability.

It is also worth to take into consideration those which are set to become the major players in the Mozambican natural gas market: the Asian countries. The resource-hungry Asian countries have shown particular interest for Mozambican resources, not only by the size of the reserves but also by the strategic location in the Indian Ocean – making it more attractive than other African energy giants, such as Angola and Nigeria. The main Asian actors in Mozambique’s natural gas are India, Japan, South Korea and, of course, China. In fact, as pointed out by Loro-Horta, “China is fast emerging as the most important economic and diplomatic player in Mozambique, bringing billions of dollars in investments and asking no questions”.[23]

In this setting, the instability generated by Renamo is an obstacle to Beijing’s authorities. Recent developments, such as the mediation efforts undertaken by China in South Sudan and the contribution of 500 military personnel to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, point to Beijing’s strategic shift in what concerns to Africa: founded on a more active commitment in supporting peace and security in the continent – contrary to the traditional stance of non-interventionism and relative indifference. While this shift has as its essential foundation the protection of China’s interests in Africa, it has also allowed for a deepening of multilateral cooperation not only with the UN but also with regional organizations such as the African Union.[24] Having said this, and considering the changes in Chinese strategy, as well as Beijing’s intent to establish Mozambique as a major natural gas hub, one should not exclude the possibility of Beijing starting to make further demands regarding its investments and also exerting more diplomatic pressure – potentially in coordination with the African Union and/or SADC – as a way to push for an understanding between Frelimo and Renamo. One thing is clear: it is highly unlikely that China will stand by idly while watching Mozambique’s power games threatening Beijing’s interests in the largest natural gas reserves in sub-Saharan Africa.

Conclusion

The next few months promise to be exciting for fans of political thrillers. The investigation into the murder of Gilles Cistac is currently underway and the outcome will tend to benefit Renamo’s position. Meanwhile, the issue pertaining to the establishment of an autonomous management in the provinces won by Dhlakama is still uncertain. As we have seen, Renamo is aware of the leverage it has in this process, while Frelimo has little leeway. Unconsciously, the two historical rivals of Mozambique have entered a situation in which both are in a collision course. Time will tell which one will eventually give in. In the unlikely case that none does so, the resulting collision will have repercussions reminiscent of the civil-war.

Frelimo and Renamo clearly know that a spiral of armed conflict will bring with it negative consequences to the promising exploitation of natural resources. Inescapably, the investments planned for the coming years are highly likely to be suspended, ultimately benefiting other countries in the region with natural gas reserves, such as Tanzania. To watch international markets, especially the Asian one, shifting attentions to Mozambique’s northern neighbour will be a harsh defeat for Frelimo and Renamo, as well for the economy and the Mozambican population – who regard the energy boom as an opportunity to improve their socioeconomic situation.

Thus, conflict is not an inevitability. If, on the one hand, natural gas exploitation in Mozambique has only to benefit from China involvement, on the other it serves Beijing intention to guarantee new supply markets, among which Mozambique arises as one of the most attractive. Hence, the dynamic between Beijing’s strategic shift towards Africa and the need to protect its interests and investment, has the potential to become a key factor in guaranteeing stability. Moreover, not only do neighbouring countries have every interest in deterring a new civil-war in Mozambique, but also SADC has mechanisms that may be activated for that purpose. Awareness of the consequences deriving from an eventual regional intervention should suffice to act as a deterrent for both parties.

In conclusion, Renamo does represent a real threat to Frelimo. However, the cards on the table show there is more at stake than the ambitions of the two major political forces of Mozambique. Pressure by international actors with immediate interests in Mozambique will dictate up to what point the two sides of the political spectrum can continue on a collision course. Until then both will likely stand their ground and small scale clashes, either armed or merely political, will most probably be inevitable. In the end, one of them will have to give in.

Endnotes:

[1] Noteworthy among them the electoral law reform and the integration of Renamo’s fighters in the armed and security forces. The latter, which has not yet been materialized, was made in the eve of the October 2014 elections.

[2] The provinces of Sofala, Manica, Tete, Nampula, Zambezia and Niassa. Cabo Delgado, the north-easternmost Mozambican province. Would stay under Frelimo’s control. See” Afonso Dhlakama quer ser Presidente do centro e norte de Moçambique” (Deutsche Welle, 11 January 2015).

[3] “Indignação e acusações em Maputo devido à morte de Gilles Cistac” (Voice of America, 5 March 2015).

[4] Guebuza resigned as leader of Frelimo on 29 March 2015. As head of Frelimo, Armando Guebuza held substantial powers over the country’s presidency. “Gilles Cistac sugere que Filipe Nyusi se “desvincule” da Frelimo para ser soberano” (Verdade, 4 February 2015) and “Nyusi Named Mozambique Ruling Party Leader as Guebuza Steps Down” (Bloomberg, 29 March 2015).

[5] A consequence of bad planning and strategy. In the 2008 elections, Renamo lost control over every municipality it controlled, even losing the important Beira municipality to Daviz Simango, a former Renamo member and founder of MDM – the current third political force in the country.

[6] Namely Tete, due to the large coal reserves, and Nampula, for the abundancy of precious stones and access to the sea, rich in natural gas.

[7] Mozambique is set to place itself among the 10 largest global producers of coal and also among the 20 largest producers of natural gas. See “Mozambique to become one of biggest coal & gas producers” (Mozambique Political Process Bulletin, 15 Feburary 2013).

[8] Despite the enormous natural wealth, Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world: placed at the 178th position, among 187 countries, of the Human Development Index.

[9] “Armed Forces for the Defence of Mozambique” (Defence Web, 23 August 2013).

[10] As in the case of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in the 1990’s and, more recently, Boko Haram in Nigeria.

[11] The 2014 national budget allocated a mere 2.2% of the GDP to the FADM. The average in today’s Africa averages 8%. FADM’s apparent weakness can be justified by the burden it represents in public finances and also by the perceived threat to the established order represented by powerful armed forces. However, investment in the armed forces has been increasing, in large part due the necessity of developing a navy capable of protecting and monitoring the maritime territory.

[12] “Avaliação do crime e violência em Moçambique” (Open Society Foundation, 2012).

[13] “Assessor da Renamo garante que homens do partido têm armas em todo o país” (Lusa, 10 January 2014).

[14] “Que garantias há de que RENAMO entregará todas as armas?” (Deutsche Welle, 9 Setember 2014).

[15] “Polícia descobre 39 armas de fogo enterradas em Cabo Delgado” (Verdade, 13 November 2014).

[16] “Obama Urged to Sanction Mozambique over Elephant, Rhino Poaching” (Inter Press Service, 2 July 2014).

[17] “Home-grown corruption is killing Africa’s rhinos and elephants” (Daily Maverick, 28 November 2014).

[18] “Poaching Peace and Security” (Atlantic Council, 28 October 2013).

[19] “Zimbabwe warns Mozambique’s Renamo not to resume war” (BBC News, 23 October 2013).

[20] “Why Zimbabwe can’t invade Mozambique” (Mail & Guardian, 8 November 2013).

[21] “Renamo – The Next Battle” (The Southern Times, 15 November 2013).

[22] In 2014, U.S. oil giant Anadarko announced having signed long-term natural gas supply agreements with Asian buyers. See “Anadarko Signs Supply Contracts With Asian Buyers, Defining Clearer Investment Plans For Mozambique LNG” (Forbes, 31 March 2014).

[23] “East Africa eyes the race for LNG exports” (Office of the Federal Coordinator for Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Projects, 27 May 2014).

[24] One example is the African Union’s admission as a full member in the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and the launching of the AU-China Strategic Dialogue for Peace and Security in Africa. See “Drawing in the dragon: China’s involvement in Africa’s peace & security” (Strife, 29 January 2015).

Article originally published in portuguese. Available here.

Security Threats Facing Africa and its Capacity to Respond

AU-SUMMIT-GROUP-OF-AFRICAN-LEADERSAfrica is currently facing two entirely distinct security threats, one from the rise of radical Islam, the other from increased natural resource extraction. African security forces are ill-equipped to meet these threats. Much of this is deep-rooted, rather than due to deficiencies that could readily be addressed. I first set out each of the new security threats. I then turn to Africa’s military capacity, tracing its limitations to underlying motivations. I suggest that the most straightforward way of changing the belief systems that generate motivation is strengthening national identity, but that this has been made more difficult by the divisive force of electoral competition. I conclude that Africa will need three forms of international support.

Paul Collier (2015), on journal PRISM. See complete article here.

Nigeria’s main opposition candidate, former military leader and retired General Buhari, speaks at Chatham House.

If his governing skills match the quality of his speech, I am afraid no good will come to Nigeria.

Let’s wait and see. First, let the elections take place.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY: IS NIGERIA A SAFE INVESTMENT?

Guardian Global Resources-West Africa

The conspiracy theories are rampant; the mudslinging has already begun. President Goodluck Jonathan has allegedly even threatened to unearth proof of corruption and failures of former Nigerian leaders whom he faults for Nigeria’s contemporary problems, in what many have seen as a quiet dig at his biggest contender: the erstwhile Nigerian head-of-state, Muhammadu Buhari.

This political pandemonium emerged as President Jonathan and his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) kicked of their election campaign in Lagos’ Tafawa Balewa Square on 08 January 2015. Meanwhile, Gallup polls indicate that only 13% of Nigerians surveyed actually “express confidence in the honesty” of their elections, a sad figure for citizens preparing to head to the ballot boxes on 14 February 2015. With such political uncertainty, one question arises: is Nigeria still a safe investment?

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