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.
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

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs