Mozambique retakes lucrative gas zone from jihadists with help from Rwanda

Mozambique retakes lucrative gas zone from jihadists with help from Rwanda
Rwandan soldiers and police are ready for a military mission in Mozambique.AFP photo

The restoration of Mocímboa da Praia appears to be part of a campaign to get gas production in northern Mozambique back on track. Mocímboa da Praia is located in the province of Cabo Delgado, where there are huge amounts of gas offshore. Foreign companies such as France’s Total have been preparing in recent years to extract billions of dollars worth of gas.

Mocímboa da Praia served for a long time as a transit port for materials to the site where a large gas plant was to be built: the Afungi Peninsula, 80 kilometers away. But after the jihadists captured Mocímboa da Praia and then Afungi in March, Total withdrew from Cabo Delgado.

Recovery

Now the armed forces of Rwanda and Mozambique are committed to restoring the entire gas region. They were also going to reach the Afungi Peninsula by now. In Mocímboa da Praia, the armed forces said they encountered little resistance over the past weekend. After besieging the city, the Rwandan army said, the militants withdrew into the forest.

Analysts warn that the jihadists will not surrender in the vast, sometimes inaccessible, hinterland of Cabo Delgado. Since the conflict began in 2017, around 3,000 people have been killed and more than 800,000 displaced. Rebels in traditionally deprived Cabo Delgado are attacking the local population and forcing them to join the rebellion. Dozens of villagers have also been beheaded in the past year.

Recently, the President of Mozambique, Philip Noisy, decided, after much hesitation, to ask for the help of other African countries. Last month, a thousand soldiers arrived from Rwanda, which has a better organized army than the weak Mozambique. Rwanda also supplies troops to UN missions, and is also active in the Central African Republic.

On the other hand, Botswana and the neighboring country of Mozambique, South Africa, send troops and equipment to Cabo Delgado. The European Union and former colonizer Portugal provide training for the Mozambican army.

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