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.

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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.

Cape Verde and Drug Trafficking: A Major Challenge to the Rule of Law

drug-trafficking-west-africaWest Africa has been affected by a range of illicit maritime activities, such as human trafficking, the smuggling of small arms and narcotics, illegal fishing and piracy. In an increasingly interconnected world the rise in these activities in the region does not solely represent a challenge to security and stability. In fact, it has profound implications for the international community, namely the EU and the US. Those activities, drug trafficking in particular, are a major source of income not only for drug cartels in Latin America, but also for jihadi groups in West Africa, the Sahel and the Maghreb, thus threatening international security and stability.
Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde are two drug trafficking hubs in West Africa. While this is hardly a surprise in the case of Guinea-Bissau—some regard it as world’s first narco-state, Cape Verde has been away from the spotlight. The difference can partly be explained by the fact that Guinea-Bissau has become a main transit point of drug shipments to land-routes towards the Maghreb and Europe, therefore representing an apparent more immediate threat to the international community, while Cape Verde is a transit point between Latin America and the African continent.
Cape Verde, despite being considered a case of success in the continent in terms of socioeconomic development and democratic resilience, has faced recurrent difficulties regarding financing and capacity-building of its security forces, which, added to the fact that the archipelago is located in the route between Latin America and West Africa, makes the country extremely appealing for drug traffickers.
Cape Verde’s increasing relevance in the expansion of drug trafficking led to the inauguration in 2010 of the Maritime Security Operations Center (COSMAR) in the country’s capital, Praia. Financed by the US, COSMAR enables a more efficient collaboration between national agencies responsible for monitoring and controlling illicit activities along the territory. It facilitates the planning of joint operations with other nations. Among other benefits, COSMAR provides access to radar and satellite images. This is the second such center in Africa, the other being based in Morocco and focused on the Mediterranean region. Cape Verde’s choice to be the host for COSMAR indicates the country’s increasing centrality in international drug trafficking routes.
Drug trafficking clearly undermines the rule of law. In a recent interview, Cape Verde’s ambassador to the UN, Fernando Wahnon, alluded to the threat represented by the spread of drug consumption in the country, and also the greater risk of corruption among the authorities. In his words: “These [criminal] organizations’ power of corruption is immense. In a vulnerable state such as Cape Verde [criminal organizations] threaten the rule of law and the institutions themselves”.
Therefore, it is clear that Cape Verde’s democratic institutions must be robustly supported. Under this line of thought, in 2005 Cape Verde became the third country to join the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US-backed programme aimed at promoting economic growth in countries that abide by certain criteria of good governance. Cape Verde also managed to become the first African country to complete the programme, and in 2012 signed a second governance pact.
Often regarded as a democratic example in the continent, Cape Verde has been a relevant vector in Washington’s strategy for the region’s security and stability. Of equal importance, it is considered an important piece in the US campaign against international terrorism. The small African archipelago is not only a center of stability in a volatile region, but also enjoys a strategic location in the South Atlantic. To lose Cape Verde to drug trafficking would be a strategic nightmare for the US and Europe.
Coincidence or not, the new US ambassador to Cape Verde, Donald L. Heflin, previously served as the first official and general-consul at the Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo. Located in the border with the US, Nuevo Laredo is known for the drug trafficking and bloody clashes between rival drug cartels. Heflin also held high positions in Africa. However, it is his experience in Nuevo Laredo that makes his nomination to Cape Verde an interesting development. In his testimony to the Senate, Heflin could not have been clearer: “The United States and Cabo Verde are partners on a number of important matters. Among them, maritime security and transnational crime are key. The Government of Cabo Verde strongly supports counter-narcotics maneuvers and is a gracious host to U.S. ship visits. Cabo Verde is a model in the region for strategic partnership”.
As Fernando Wahnon affirmed, “Cape Verde’s inability to monitor its economic zone lures organized crime”. Without means and resources “it would be impossible to do it alone.” He concluded that in order to “try to overcome the difficulties [it is necessary] to initiate joint operations with other countries”. In the absence of support programmes for maritime monitoring (COSMAR) and socioeconomic development (MCC), Cape Verde would possibly place its democratic regime and rule of law at risk. That does not necessarily mean that the island nation will follow in the footsteps of neighboring Guinea-Bissau. Nonetheless, it is important not to let everything that was achieved in recent years go to waste due to drug trafficking.
Like the US, Portugal should strengthen cooperation with Cape-Verdean authorities in the fight against drug trafficking. The new Indicative Cooperation Programme (ICP) 2015/2017, which will soon be signed by both countries, will surely reflect this.

Read the original article on ipris.org: Cape Verde and Drug Trafficking: A Major Challenge to the Rule of Law

Angola’s role in the Democratic Republic of Congo: a unique opportunity

(Ifoto/Village Urugwiro)

(Ifoto/Village Urugwiro)

Angola has for the second time in its history secured a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC). In all likelihood, the 2015/2016 mandate will grant Luanda a more active voice in the defense of national interests, in particular on matters related to the Gulf of Guinea and the Great Lakes. It is also worth noting that in January 2014 Angola assumed the rotating presidency of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). The simultaneous presence in the UNSC and ICGLR adds greater diplomatic visibility and represents a relevant window of opportunity. If Angola’s interests over the Gulf of Guinea generically fall on commercial and economic matters, driven by the threat posed by the piracy phenomena, those related to the Great Lakes region have a more multidimensional nature, making this region of tantamount strategic importance.
Recent events in the Great Lakes region, namely the UN offensive approach against rebels in eastern DRC – in 2013 the UN mission’s mandate in the east of the country was extended and an unprecedented “intervention brigade” was created through Resolution 2098 – mean that presence in the UNSC and the ICGLR presidency places Luanda at the front line of security-related matters concerning Kinshasa. In fact, the Angolan president, José Eduardo dos Santos, has a clear notion of the danger and threat posed by a weak and insecure DRC government, and he knows the need for an active role in the fight against the rebels is of vital importance.
On October 20, 2014, Luanda hosted a ministerial defense meeting between the CIRGL and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). One of the focal points was the progress in the disarmament process of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel group active in the east of the DRC and comprised of mostly ethnic Hutu Rwandans, many of whom were involved in the 1994 genocide. Considering the slow progress, the ministers reiterated the need for military action in case the January 2015 deadline is not obeyed. Given Angola’s interests in the country, and the leading role in the ICGLR and UNSC, it is worth asking: What would be Luanda’s role in a military intervention?
The recent strengthening of bilateral relations between Angola and Rwanda should in theory allow for a quick understanding over a joint military action. This is in fact crucial since both countries are two of the most militarily capable nations in the region and, equally important, with probably the greatest interest in the rebel group’s elimination. Moreover, joint action would substantially increase the mission’s military, logistical, financial and material capabilities, at the same time guaranteeing better preparation over the stabilization process in a post-FDLR scenario.
Conversely, in the absence of a regional military intervention it is highly likely that Rwanda will initiate a unilateral operation in eastern DRC. Under this scenario, the resulting instability would have negative implications for regional cooperation, and it would also represent a step back in the ongoing deepening of relations between Kigali and Kinshasa. Luanda’s aim of regional stability would be severely hampered.
The prompt launch of an eventual military operation is contingent on political will and also on strong leadership of a government that is committed to putting pressure on regional actors. Equally relevant is the fact that the intervention will in principle have the support of the international community, which until recently had failed to undertake concrete and concerted actions aimed at tackling instability in the DRC. On the one hand, international support provides international legitimacy to the military intervention while, on the other hand, it goes along with the aim of securing “African solutions for African problems”. This is therefore a significant opportunity for the continent in the sense that it represents a milestone in emancipating itself from external meddling.
In the event of intervention and the suppression of the FDLR, Luanda would emerge as a key-actor in the mediation and resolution of conflicts in the African continent. Nevertheless, Angola’s gains are not limited to this. In fact, Luanda’s goal of diversifying the Angolan economy relies on stability in the DRC. The railway that connects the Lobito port in Angola’s Atlantic coast to the border with the DRC may turn out to be a strategic means of transport for the outflow of minerals sourced in the Congolese eastern province of Katangafamous for its vast cobalt and copper deposits. In other words, apart from security challenges, greater instability in eastern DRC will clash with Luanda’s economic interests and plans.
Furthermore, regional stability does not only depend on military campaigns to tackle rebel groups. The reintegration of thousands of Rwandan FDLR fighters is vital for the sustainability of the DRC’s peace and stability. Such a task will be hard and complex to undertake. Nonetheless, Angola may play an important part in the process. Authorities in Luanda can collaborate with their Rwandan counterparts in adapting the reintegration programme of former Angolan fighters to the FDLR context. Accordingly, Luanda has a unique opportunity to leave its mark, not only as a central actor in the suppression of rebel groups, but also in the reintegration of former fighters. It is exactly in this role as peace and security provider in the region where Angola may take the greatest advantages and benefits of its presence in the UNSC.


Read the original article on ipris.org: Angola’s role in the Democratic Republic of Congo: a unique opportunity

Angola’s economy grows, but what about the poor? | Southern Africa

Although Angola’s economy grew by 5.1 percent in 2013, making the Southern African country one of the world’s fastest growing economies, ordinary Angolans have seen little change in their standard of living.

As major public infrastructure investments in energy and transport kick in, Angloa’s growth is projected to reach 7.9% in 2014 and 8.8% in 2015. Yet, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reports that around 36% of Angolans live below the poverty line and one in every four people is unemployed.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Angola is a “post conflict country that produces a lot of oil and faces the challenges of both.”

Despite being the fifth largest economy in Africa, ordinary Angolans have seen little change in their standard of living. Only 37.8% of country’s 21 million people have access to electricity. While about half of the population has access to safe drinking water, this number falls to 34% in rural areas, says the World Bank. There are few jobs for the unemployed, mostly under 25 years, who make up 60% of the population.

What should Angola do to change the current situation? Analysts say the solution is for Angola to diversify its economy, save and invest for the future — especially in skills and infrastructure development — and improve governance.

 

Angola: already invests more than it receives

Angola is fast becoming a strategic actor in sub-Saharan Africa and is seeking to expand its interest outside the continent. Portugal and other lusophone countries are the prime targets.

The large size of Angolan investments abroad, namely in Portugal, is already reflected in the country’s statistics, which showed that in 2013 Angola was the only country in Africa that made more investments than those it received from abroad.

Angolan state oil company Sonangol has spearheaded Angolan investments abroad in recent years, notably in the energy sector in Portugal (Galp Energia), Brazil (oil exploration), Sao Tome and Principe and Cape Verde (fuel distribution and logistics). Some of the latest investments include banking, Sonangol being the main shareholder of the largest Portuguese private bank, Millennium bcp, as it recently accompanied a capital increase involving investment of almost 435 million euros, according to the Africa Intelligence Monitor.

More recently, Angolan private groups have begun to take an interest in the construction and banking sectors, especially in Portugal, with businesswoman Isabel dos Santos leading the way. The daughter of President José Eduardo dos Santos, listed by Forbes magazine as the first African female billionaire, shares control of Portuguese telecommunications operator Nos, with Portugal’s largest private group Sonae, is one of the largest shareholders of Banco BPI and continues to increase her investments. In addition, Angolan businesspeople have taken stakes in the media sector, as is the case of António Mosquito in the Controlinveste group and Álvaro Sobrinho in weekly newspaper Sol and, now, in daily newspaper “I”.

Guinea-Bissau: Indjai exonerated and Nan Tan takes over

GBissau

GBissau

This week has been rich in surprising but nonetheless good news.

First, the Guinea-Bissau army chief of staff behind the 2012 coup and other equally damaging developments in the country, Antonio Indjai, was exonerated by a Presidential decree. Yesterday, Biaguê Nan Tan, a discreet member of Guinea-Bissau’s armed forces, and also a ethnic Balanta like his predecessor, was appointed to the position.

Said to be close to the recently elected President of Guinea-Bissau, José Mário Vaz, Nan Tan was a United Nations military observer in Angola, in 1995, and took part in joint operations with 12 regional countries plus France, Russia and England. He is always a former deputy-chief of the army.

During the take-over ceremony, Nan Tan  affirmed that under his command the Armed Forces will respect the Constitution and be subordinated to the democratically elected political establishment.  Nan Tan also affirmed that one of the main aims of his mandate will be to organize the Armed Forces and prepare the youths that in the future will take up the task to run the country’s military establishment.

These are indeed good news. However, one must wonder what will happen with the military nomenclature that, alongside Indjai, took part in the Guinea-Bissau’s troubling recent history. Will they remain in their positions as not to initiate a potentially dangerous revolution in the Armed Forces? Probably.

Nonetheless, it is obvious that these individuals deserve at least the same treatment as Mr. Indjai, if not something worse such as legal prosecution. But for this to happen it is first necessary that the main culprit, Indjai, is taken to justice and face the consequences for his actions. This might turn out to be hard to implement: during the ceremony President José Mário Vaz said words of appreciation directed to Antonio Indjai, which may mean that the newly democratically elected political power may be willing to temper any possible source of tensions, worried about the potential consequences of legal actions being taken against the former head of the army and his circle.