The conflict that has already caused 2,600 deaths and the displacement of 670,000 people threatens one of the largest extractive industry projects in East Africa. The fabulous reserves of natural gas have the potential to raise US $ 100 billion in 25 years and transform Mozambique, one of the countries most threatened by global warming, into the equivalent of Qatar in the Indian Ocean.
Many investors felt that the chaos scenario could be overcome in Cabo Delgado. As in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s oil hub, corporations would be able to thrive despite the insurgency. The events of the past week show that this cynical solution is unattainable.
After almost three years of conflict, it is clear that Maputo will not do the job. If Angola inherited from the civil war one of the largest armed forces on the continent, Mozambique has a military contingent falling apart. With security costs exploding, the French oil company Total suspended operations in Cabo Delgado and sent a clear message: the development of the industry that can lift Mozambique out of poverty requires resolving the armed conflict.
Recently freed from Ernesto Araújo’s straight jacket, the Foreign Ministry must look at the Cabo Delgado crisis with new eyes. Of course, the last thing Mozambique wants is to land an army with stars like Eduardo Pazuello. The impact of Bolsonaro’s disastrous management of the pandemic on the external image of the Armed Forces will hinder Brazil’s return in the great operations of the international community.
But Brazil has a role to play in the Cabo Delgado conflict. In the neighboring province of Nampula, Odebrecht built a phantom airport and Vale developed a logistics corridor. For researchers at the Institute of Social and Economic Studies, a local think tank of excellence, the region’s abandoned youth is also being mobilized by extremist predicators.
It would not be a surprise if they came to the conclusion that the failure of Brazilian illusions in Nampula contributed to the degradation of state authority, social disorganization and, consequently, the expansion of radical Islam. Brazil’s famous “historic debt” in Africa continues to grow.
A new African agenda would bring obvious political benefits to Itamaraty. The new chancellor, Carlos França, could stand out in a land far from the Middle East, converted into a sand tank by Eduardo Bolsonaro, and prove useful for international diplomacy, on the eve of the Cop26 in the United Kingdom. Mozambique shows that, despite the chronic incompetence of the Bolsonaro government, Brazil can still be relevant in the world.
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