On the afternoon of 01 September 2021, Johan Viljoen, the Director of Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI), was among a panel of four speakers addressing the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) as well as the European Parliament Development Committee (DEVE) on the situation in Mozambique. The following was his address:
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I am the Director of the Denis Hurley Peace Institute. We are an agency of the SA Catholic Bishops’ Conference. Since 2018 we have been working on the crisis in Cabo Delgado, in partnership with the Church in Mozambique, and our partners in Germany – Misereor and Brot fur die Welt.
On 12 July 2021 the decision was taken by the EU to send a training mission to Mozambique. The reality on the ground today is very different to what it was on 12 July.
- The SADC Mission to date has been slow in materializing. It was only reported on 30 August that they are finally active in the operational area. Rwanda, by contrast, sent almost 1 000 soldiers. They arrived in Cabo Delgado on 9 July, well ahead of the SADC forces, and hit the ground running. They have been involved in military operations that recaptured key towns occupied by the insurgents. At the moment they appear to be firmly in control, and in command. There is appreciation at local level for the fact that they have driven the insurgents away. But there is increasing unease about how it will end, looking at the role played by the Rwandan army in the Eastern DRC. Rwandan soldiers have been there for many years. Under their watch, Mineral resources have been extracted from the DRC and exported globally through Rwanda, accounting for much of the country’s new found prosperity. Will the same happen in Mozambique? The role of Rwanda will have to be carefully monitored. This will not be easy. The EU Mission will be based in Chimoio (more than 1 000 km from the operational area) and in Catembe (near Maputo, almost 3 000 km from the operational area), effectively being sidelined, with no access to the conflict zone.
- The conflict is likely to expand within the country. Since its beginning, analysts in Mozambique have been saying that the conflict is not religious, but that it is about control of the area’s mineral wealth. All land in Mozambique belongs to the State. Those living on it have a right to occupy. This right can be withdrawn at the State’s discretion, and given to somebody else. The map issued by the Mozambique Department of Mineral Affairs shows that the entire Cabo Delgado Province, almost all of Nampula province and the entire coastline from the Zambezi River to the Tanzanian border has already been allocated to investors and prospectors. Recently, the Italian company ENI and ExxonMobil have been appearing in villages near Angoche, in Nampula Province, to survey the land. The mining concession was awarded to the two companies in 2014. There has been no consultation with local communities and no transparency. Local people are saying: ”If petro dollars equal conflict, then it is just a matter of time before conflict erupts here as well, to drive us off our land”. The EU must ensure that its companies operating in Mozambique consult extensively with affected communities, that all decisions are reached by consensus, that vigorous CSI programmes are in place to benefit affected communities, and that training programmes and preferential employment policies for local communities are in place. This will address the root cause of the conflict. It is only when local communities have security of land tenure, and are benefitting materially from the extractive industry, that conflict will be averted.
- The conflict is spreading regionally. On 30 August Deutsche Welle reported that insurgents dispersed by the Rwandan forces are now finding their way to Tanzania and Kenya, placing security agencies in these two countries on high alert. Already, on 28 August, four people were killed in a bomb explosion near the French Embassy in Dar es Salaam. Local authorities indicated that the explosion was linked to the conflict in Cabo Delgado. If this is any portent of the future, European interests throughout the region can become targets.
- It would be wrong to assume that the insurgents are solely responsible for atrocities. There are many atrocities and gross human rights violations committed by government forces. This was highlighted in the report published in March this year by Amnesty International. Referring to Mali, The New Humanitarian on 26 August reported the following:
- The Malian army is accused of killing more civilians last year than the jihadist insurgents it is supposed to be battling.
- The EU and France continue to provide the army with training and equipment support worth millions of euros each year.
- The EU has no systematic vetting mechanism to check whether the units it is training have committed rights violations.
- Elite units that had received EU training have a history of abuse against civilians.
- The jihadists are expanding their area of control, with recruitment driven in part by anger over the rights violations committed by the army.
This could just as easily have been written about Mozambique. European taxpayers need to know: is their funding being used to stabilize Cabo Delgado, or is it being used to strengthen the capacity of the Mozambican State to repress its own citizens?
- Until now the military option is the only option that has been pursued by the Mozambican government, claiming that negotiations were not possible, as they were dealing here with a “faceless enemy”. In August, the US government identified the leader of the insurgency. Two Mozambican NGO’s, OMR and the Centre for Investigative Journalism, have identified a further six leaders. All are local people from Cabo Delgado, well known in the communities where they grew up. One person interviewed by OMR said that “we know who they are. We went to school with them. We played football with them”. The argument of a “faceless enemy” no longer holds water. The enemy has a face. Former President Joaquim Chissano has generated a polemic within the country after his unequivocal call to abandon a military solution and negotiate peace. Instead of focusing on a military solution, the EU should put its full weight behind the call for negotiations.
- After recapturing various towns and villages, the Rwandan military have published photos of people returning to their villages and life returning to normal. Those returning are the displaced that fled into the surrounding bush. Those who fled further afield, for instance to Pemba or Nampula, are fearful of going back. There is nothing to go back to – almost everything has been destroyed. Many don’t know if they can go back to their home villages, because they had their “right to occupy” the land cancelled when they registered at the IDP reception centres in Pemba, further fueling speculation that the main reason for the war was to drive them off their land, to give it to investors and mining companies. It is too early to scale down humanitarian assistance.