News / Africa

Insurgency Threat May Dim Mozambique's Shine for Investors

FILE - Election posters of the opposition Renamo party in Mozambique's capital, Maputo, Oct., 2009.
FILE - Election posters of the opposition Renamo party in Mozambique's capital, Maputo, Oct., 2009.
Reuters
An economic take-off in Mozambique driven by bumper coal and gas discoveries two decades after the end of a civil war is facing disruption from disgruntled former guerrillas who feel they have not benefited from the post-conflict dividend.
 
A public threat by the ex-rebel Renamo opposition party to paralyze central rail and road links has put the Frelimo government on alert and alarmed diplomats and investors.
 
A slide back into the kind of all-out war that crippled the former Portuguese southern African colony between 1975 and 1992 looks unlikely.
 
Nevertheless, Mozambique's rebirth as an attractive tourism and investment destination could lose some of its momentum after armed attacks in the last two months blamed on Renamo.
 
The raids in central Sofala province killed at least 11 soldiers and police and three civilians and came after Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama returned with his civil war comrades to the Gorongosa jungle base where they operated in the 1980s.
 
"It does bring back all those fears of the war," said Joseph Hanlon, a senior lecturer at Britain's Open University and an expert on Mozambique.
 
Renamo, which signed a peace pact in 1992 with its former Marxist foe Frelimo, denied that it carried out a raid on an arms depot on Monday that killed seven soldiers. But on Wednesday it threatened to paralyze the main road through Sofala and the railway carrying coal exports to port.
 
There was no evidence by late Thursday that it had carried out the threat. Witness reports from Chimoio and Dondo on the Beira corridor railroad link indicated no immediate disruption.
 
"Everything here is absolutely tranquil. It is a normal day," Arnaldo Neves, Director of Production for Portuguese construction company Mota-Engil which is rehabilitating the railroad, told Reuters from Dondo railway terminal in Sofala.
 
Mozambican state railways spokesman Alves Cumbe said operations were continuing as normal on Thursday.
 
The Sena line to Beira port is used mainly by Brazil's Vale and London-listed Rio Tinto, which are among companies that have been developing Mozambique's coal deposits and offshore gas fields.
 
Vale, which is investing $4 billion in its Moatize coal mines near Tete and is the main user of the Sena line, declined to comment.
 
President Armando Guebuza's government said it was taking the Renamo threat seriously but insisted it would keep the country's strategic transport corridors open. Officials declined to detail specific measures taken to counter Renamo actions.
 
Renamo had claimed an earlier attack that killed four policemen in Sofala in April.
 
Complaints of exclusion

Renamo, originally founded with the help of white-ruled Rhodesia's intelligence services and then backed by apartheid South Africa, accuses Frelimo of maintaining a stranglehold over politics and the economy and stacking the election commission to ensure victory in a presidential vote next year.
 
"Renamo and its followers think that the political system is not inclusive enough," said Ozias Tungwarara, head of the Africa Governance, Monitoring and Advocacy Project at the Open Society pro-democracy network founded by financier George Soros.
 
Resentment at Frelimo's dominance of politics and elections since the end of the war has also been accompanied by opposition allegations that the party's leaders are hogging the spoils of the coal and gas bonanza.
 
"There is a feeling that an elite is getting rich and becoming wealthy, and that others are not," Hanlon said.
 
He saw Renamo's old military chiefs leading a campaign for Frelimo to cede to its former war foes a greater share of the national wealth, whether in state jobs or business patronage.
 
Hanlon said Dhlakama and his fighters — which some estimates put at around 1,000-strong — could certainly create a security problem for the government army from their Gorongosa jungle base by raiding and sabotaging nearby road and rail corridors.
 
"That central area is quite heavily forested. It's good guerrilla country. It's easy to attack traffic," he said.
 
But he believed neither Renamo nor Frelimo had the military capacity to go back to fighting an all-out conflict of the kind that left Mozambique in ruins two decades ago.
 
Hanlon saw "zero popular support" for war from a Mozambican population of 23 million which had come to appreciate an existence of peace but still remained among the poorest in the world, scraping by on an average wage of only $400 a year.
 
Call for 'give and take'

But there are fears that even sporadic attacks could badly undermine recent economic gains.
 
"It might start as a small fire now ... but a small group of determined, disgruntled people with some military training could still cause havoc and suffering," Tungwarara said, pointing to other debilitating insurgencies in Somalia and Mali.
 
Held up as a post-conflict success story, Mozambique has emerged as one of the brightest stars in the "Africa Rising" narrative, enjoying growth rates of more than seven percent.
 
Attacks and disruption to key coal exports and transport corridors could badly choke the enthusiasm of investors, Tungwarara added.
 
Hanlon said that if Renamo's "generals without soldiers" failed to make good on their threats to paralyze the country's logistics then the group's credibility was likely to suffer.
 
But both believed Guebuza's government should try to defuse tensions by opening up economic and political opportunities for Renamo, for example by addressing its demands for a more independent and representative electoral authority.
 
"The danger is that we will see increased polarization as we move towards the 2014 elections," said Tungwarara. "There is time to step back, but it requires genuine give and take."

You May Like

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid