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

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.