On 21 August of this year, French multinational oil and gas company Total signed a security agreement with the Government of Mozambique (GoM) to provide “logistic support” to Mozambican armed forces in exchange for the protection of Total’s liquified natural gas (LNG) project, according to the company’s accompanying excerpted press release from 24 August 2020. The project is being developed on the Afungi Peninsula along the country’s northern coast. It is the largest single foreign direct investment in Africa to date, drawing investments totaling $20 billion.

The agreement was made as the security situation in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, where the project is based, continues to deteriorate. An Islamist insurgent group, Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jammah (ASWJ), took control of a key port town in the province in August. According to second article from The Africa Report, an English language magazine, ASWJ is capitalizing on low morale, where “soldiers are ready to drop their uniforms and weapons to ‘run away from a war which they do not see as theirs.’” The article also points out that “the Mozambican army currently lacks the financial resources or a coordinated regional approach to effectively stem ASWJ’s advances.”

The article states that ASJW is becoming better equipped and better organized, “closing the capability gap with the Mozambican military,” and compares the situation to the initial stages of the conflict with Boko Haram in Nigeria. The Africa Report article assesses that while an imminent attack on the project “is unlikely,” the risk is growing. The article also predicts an increasing frequency of opportunistic attacks on the project’s personnel and “key infrastructure installations” in the province, causing greater disruption to supply lines.

In a commentary on the security pact between the GoM and Total, a Mozambican NGO, the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD), argued that it was effectively “privatizing” the services of the military in violation of Mozambican law and “jeopardizing” the country’s sovereignty. The CDD recognized the need for the military to protect LNG projects but asserted that the current arrangement, in addition to being illegal, would create pay disparities between Mozambican troops protecting LNG assets and those conducting other operations in the province. This, according to the CDD, could further “demoralize the troops deployed to protect the civilian population and other national interests” who lack Total’s logistic support.

…By allowing the deployment of the defense and security forces (FDS) troops to protect private interests in exchange for monetary payments, the government is privatizing the FDS services and, consequently, violating the Defense and Security Policy…

Source: “Total Signs Agreement with the Government of Mozambique Regarding the Security of Mozambique LNG Project,” Total S.A. (France), 24 August 2020. https://www.total.com/media/news/communiques/total-signs-agreement-with-the-government-of-mozambiqueregarding-the

This new Memorandum of Understanding provides that a Joint Task Force shall ensure the security of Mozambique LNG project activities in Afungi site and across the broader area of operations of the project. Mozambique LNG shall provide logistic support to the Joint Task Force.

Source: Andrew MacDonald, “Mozambique: Sophistication of Islamic insurgency threatens LNG plans,” The Africa Report (France), 24 August 2020. https://www.theafricareport.com/38238/mozambique-sophistication-of-islamic-insurgency-threatens-lng-plans/

Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jammah (ASWJ) has developed into a well-equipped and coordinated insurgency and is now closing the capability gap with Mozambican security forces.”

As with the Nigerian army in the initial stages of the fight against Boko Haram, the Mozambican army currently lacks the financial resources or a coordinated regional approach to effectively stem ASWJ’s advances.

Morale is low, and many soldiers are ready to drop their uniforms and weapons to ‘run away from a war which they do not see as theirs.’ Although an imminent attack on the Afungi peninsula is unlikely, the risk of such an attack has grown considerably in the last few months.

“Operators must anticipate further disruptions to their supply lines as ASWJ will likely continue to regularly target key infrastructure installations across Cabo Delgado.

Source: Adriano Nuvunga, “Security Memorandum between the Government and Total jeopardizes national sovereignty,” Center for Democracy and Development (Mozambique), 26 August 2020. https://cddmoz.org/protection-of-mozambique-lng-project-securitymemorandum-between-the-government-and-total-jeopardizes-national-sovereignty/

By allowing the deployment of FDS troops to protect private interests in exchange for monetary payments, the government is privatizing the FDS services and, consequently, violating the Defense and Security Policy, approved by Law 17/97 of 1 October.

The staff assigned to Afungi will have better wage and working conditions than those who will be fighting terrorism elsewhere in the same province of Cabo Delgado. This may demoralize the troops deployed to protect the civilian population and other national interests without the right to subsidies.

In return, the Mozambique LNG project will provide logistical support to the Joint Task Force. In the communiqué, Total does not specify the type of logistical support, but it is known that it should include equipment and money that should be used by the Government to pay subsidies to the FDS troops deployed to protect oil operations in Afungi.

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