Humanitarian disaster looms in northern Mozambique's gas development zone as Islamist insurgency takes its toll on military morale amid growing lawlessness
OPINION: Total chief executive Patrick Pouyanne flew to Maputo last week to review progress on the $24 billion Mozambique LNG project, now ripening off the country’s northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, and to hear first-hand from President Filipe Nyusi how security had improved. The French company leads a consortium seeking to build two LNG trains at Afungi in the Rovuma basin capable of producing about 13 million tonnes per annum, initially tapping into 18 trillion cubic feet of gas with another 40 Tcf left in the ground for later. Islamist insurgents — locally described as Al-Shabaab because of assumed links to extremist militias active in Somalia and Kenya — took over the port of Mocimboa da Praia last month and have been harassing what’s left of the Mozambique military in the region, bordering Tanzania. Some 300,000 have been displaced from besieged villages, triggering a humanitarian disaster, with the United Nations World Food Programme this week reporting an explosion of Covid-19 cases in the region and a real concern over a deepening of the conflict. Amid reports of atrocities against civilians by both Islamists and government forces, Total has agreed to provide logistical support for a Joint Task Force to protect staff and small enterprises around Afungi. Total says it will report and investigate all grievances arising from the initiative, which aims to shore up Maputo’s capacity to restore peace and quash fears expressed by the European Union of imminent breakdown in regional stability if insurgents are not uprooted.