How France and Total Are Militarizing Mozambique

Will the militarization of Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, where the French oil and gas giant Total has invested nearly 20 billion euros, overcome the Islamist insurgency? Is the country becoming the new Mali of southern Africa?
  • Philippe Alcoy | 
  • September 16, 2021
Photo: Adrien Barbier/AFP

Since 2017, the province of Cabo Delgado, in the extreme north of Mozambique, has seen an Islamist insurgency by a group claiming to be ISIS. The security situation has degraded to such a degree that TotalEnergies SE (Total), the French multinational oil and gas company, had to “suspend” its work in the region last March, following  the attack on Palma, a city several kilometers from the Total’s base. It’s important to note that, since August 2020, the Islamists of Al-Shabab (not to be confused with the organization of the same name in Somalia) have taken control of the port city of Mocímboa da Praia, which was retaken by Mozambican and Rwandan forces.

The situation in Cabo Delgado has begun to attract quite a bit of regional and international attention. The province has been the center of multiple major investment projects worth tens of billions of euros since large gas deposits were discovered off the coast of the Cabo Delgado in 2009. Total invested around 20 billion euros, which became the biggest private investment in Africa’s history. ExxonMobil, the U.S. multinational company, has yet to decide whether it will commit to a 30 million-dollar investment. ENI, the Italian multinational, is moving forward with a $7 million offshore liquefaction project. The ENI project is the only one that seems to have evaded the threat posed by the Islamist group. Other multinational companies from India, Japan, South Korea, China, Thailand, and Portugal are also involved in this exploitation of Mozambique’s natural resources. Some analysts estimate the total investments in the Mozambican oil fields add up to between $50 and $100 million. In addition to its gas deposits, Cabo Delgado has also captured the attention of multinational mining companies because of its mineral wealth — in particular, the ruby mines.

To better understand the importance of these figures for Mozambique, keep in mind that the country’s GDP this year is estimated at only $14 billion, according to the IMF; the annual revenue per capita of this nation of 32.8 million is only $425. Mozambique is, in effect, the eighth-poorest country on the planet, and Cabo Delgado is the poorest province in the country. According to the MASC Foundation, the poverty rate in September 2020 was 44.8 percent in this majority-Muslim province; the official unemployment rate was 16.2 percent; illiteracy was 53 percent, the highest in the country; and the average lifespan was only 48 years. As for public services, the system of drinking water reaches only 44.5 percent of the province, and only 16 percent has access to electricity, in addition to very poor or nonexistent infrastructure.

In other words, these rich mineral and gas resources are found in the middle of an ocean of misery and underdevelopment. It’s in this context that the Islamist revolt arose in 2017. And it’s not shocking that a large part of these Islamist combatants are composed of unemployed youth and people who have been expelled from their homelands or forced to abandon their farming, subsistence mining, or fishing so that multinationals such as Total or MRM (Montepuez Ruby Mining) can move in. In this context, the “risky bet” of multinationals has been to exploit the natural wealth of a region plunged into poverty, all while trying to spare themselves from the conflicts that such a situation inevitably create. That bet seems to have failed, for the moment.

On top of Total’s suspended activities, the conflict has killed at least 3,000 and displaced 800,000 (information is highly controlled by the government, so these figures could be even higher). The locals are thus cornered between the violence and crimes of Islamists, on one hand, and the brutality and crimes of the Mozambican army and mercenaries the government has hired to fight the Islamist insurgency (unsuccessfully), on the other hand.

Militarizing Cabo Delgado

For many months, Total CEO Patrick Pouyanné had tried to convince Mozambican president Felipe Nysui and European Union (EU) leaders to adopt a more aggressive posture against the Islamic insurgency in Cabo Delgado. Before that, the Mozambican government had been reluctant to call for foreign military intervention and preferred hiring mercenaries. But the attack on Palma last March accelerated things. Following the attack, Total decided to suspend its activities in the country. Mozambique, afraid of losing its investors, began to intensify its efforts to recruit the armies of its allies ready to intervene in Cabo Delgado. 

This does not mean, though, that the Mozambican government has dropped all of its resistance to foreign military interventions in the country. For historical and political reasons, President Nyusi and his party FRELIMO (Front for the Liberation of Mozambique) are wary of the presence of South African troops — under the guise of national sovereignty. South Africa is the number-one power in the region and within the Southern African Development Community (SADC). This is why Mozambique, until just recently, had rejected proposals from the regional organization to deploy a standby force to help fight terrorism.

While agreeing to the deployment of troops from various SADC countries, President Nyusi increased the number of meetings to reach bilateral agreements, both with leaders of SADC countries and countries that are not part of the bloc, notably Rwanda. As the Portuguese newspaper Publico wrote at the end of July:

The president of Mozambique was in Harare in June, according to the president of Zimbabwe Independent, with the goal of ensuring that Zimbabwe, in addition to participating in the contingent of 2,900 soldiers that SADC is sending to Mozambique, is also sending a force under a bilateral agreement. On Friday, Angola will send 20 military advisers, Botswana has already sent 296 soldiers, and the South African parliament approved sending 1,495 South African soldiers (who began to arrive on Wednesday.

(Botswana Defense Force picture)

However, one week before SADC forces were  deployed, a thousand Rwandan soldiers and police officers entered Cabo Delgado and immediately sprung into action, affirming the Mozambican government’s distrust of its neighboring countries. This rapid deployment shocked not only SADC member countries but also civil society and politicians in Mozambique, who denounced the fact that parliament was not informed of their arrival.

To some analysts, the use of Rwandan forces is an attempt by Nyusi to maintain control of the military actions by foreign troops in the country. The Rwandan intervention would allow Nyusi to act as a counterweight to SADC and South Africa. But others point as well to the risk of conflict between different intervening forces, and possible misunderstandings due to a lack of common command. Mozambican analyst Manuel de Araújo explains, 

Rwanda will want to show results to SADC. There will be competition on the ground, and it might not go as expected. What’s expected is a force that has a common, joint command, a disciplined force that works in harmony, able to exchange tactical and strategic operational information so that, if necessary, they can count on support in terms of information, resources, and troops. In the opposite scenario, I see a powder keg where we will have a divided Cabo Delgado, a “Berlin Conference” scenario, where each district will be under the command of a different force or country.

To make the situation even more complicated, the imperialist EU and the United States already have forces in the country for various missions. Portugal, Mozambique’s former colonial power, sent 60 troops last April to train Mozambican forces. In May, another agreement was signed with Maputo to send an additional 60 military personnel. The United States also sent Green Berets to Mozambique to train its armed forces for a renewed mission last August. The EU decided in mid-July to send a training force of between 200 and 300 soldiers. In this European mission, as well, Portugal will take the lead. France says that it’s ready to use its navy to secure the Canal of Mozambique (it already has its navy there as part of long standing military agreements with Mozambique). 

At the moment, the exact number of foreign soldiers in Mozambique and in Cabo Delgado is not known, but it is estimated to be between 3,000 and 4,000, on top of Mozambican troops. Even if, theoretically, these missions are short term, it’s difficult to say exactly how long these forces will stay in the country. But this sudden militarization of Mozambique did not fall from the sky. It’s the result of pressure from investors such as Total and  countries such as France and the United States, whose major banks are involved in financing these investments in Cabo Delgado.

As the Cabo Delgado conflict observatory Cabo Ligado writes in its May report,

On 17 May, [President Nyusi] met with President Macron and Total’s chief Jean Pouyanne with a view to convincing both that he can re-establish security in Cabo Delgado. After the Palma debacle, a convincing security plan that persuades Total and the French has become an urgent priority for Maputo, which is understandably keen to get the company’s liquified natural gas project back on track. Total has undertaken to return when  the situation is calm. Reaching agreement on what that will look like and how security will be strengthened is now central. The predictions of a so-called “Iraqification” model (i.e., privileging security of key strategic interests over wider security needs of the population) appear to be unfolding.

Questions About Rwanda’s Intervention 

Among the armies intervening in Cabo Delgado, the Rwandan Defense Force (RDF) has attracted particular attention. Rwanda has experience in interventions in the region, notably in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic. However, its participation in the fight against the Islamic insurgency in Mozambique is surprising given that the two countries didn’t seem to have particularly close ties.

There is speculation about France’s role and recent contact the countries have had. As mentioned above, the Mozambican government has an interest in pushing Rwandan forces against the weight of SADC and South Africa. However, Rwanda has its own political and strategic interests in an intervention in Cabo Delgado. In addition to the potential economic opportunities in Cabo Delgado, Rwanda — by partnering with foreign investors — could try to use its intervention in Mozambique to strengthen its economic and political position in the region. We interviewed Jasmin Opperman, an analyst for 14°North who has covered the conflict since the beginning. She believes that

Rwanda derives multiple advantages, and we must examine the position of President Kagamé on national soil. He’s in a relatively isolated position and is constantly searching for alliances to strengthen his position … Look at the medical coverage in Rwanda and media statements. Their victories are directed towards the Rwandans, showing formidable strength and a strong president in the region. They hijacked the ‘war narrative’ and thus positioned themselves as the dominant force. We are also seeing this in its recent deployments in the Central African Republic.

The Economist takes the same position, and adds another element: “Rwanda is also short of friends, a result of hunting down enemies in other countries and backing rebels in its neighbourhood. Helping Mozambique gains Rwanda a new ally. And it pleases America, Britain and France. The presence of Rwandan dissidents in Mozambique may have played a small role in the decision, too.”

This last element, the hunt for opponents of Paul Kagame’s regime in the countries of the region, indeed raises questions. Even if it plays a minor role compared to the other factors, as the Economist says, it should be mentioned that in recent months, the Rwandan government has tried to reach agreements with southern African countries to track down opponents who have taken refuge abroad. Another important element in this regard is the disappearance of the Rwandan journalist and dissident Cassien Ntamuhanga, who was taken by Kigali agents last May in Mozambique, where he was living.

Even if tracking Rwandan opponents was not part of the main reasons for the intervention in Mozambique, fears that Rwandan forces are taking advantage of their access to Mozambican soil to gain intelligence about and repress its opponents do seem justified. This becomes more apparent given that Rwandan general Innocent Kabandana is heading the mission. He is known for tracking Rwandan opponents abroad. As DW Africa writes, Kanandana 

Is responsible for the assassination of Catholic bishops in Gakurazo in 1994, and for hunting Rwandan dissidents in the United States and Canada when he was a military attaché for the ambassador of Rwanda in Washington … And Kabandana, as the commander of the Rwandan special forces, would have directed operations in South Kivu, in the DRC, with the mission of eliminating Hutu refugees and repatriation of women and children, creating and fighting in the name of RED Tabara — a resistance movement against the Burundian government — and dismantling resistance groups suspected of being allies of armed Rwandan groups.

But General Kabandana’s involvement is not the only concern that this intervention raises. Indeed, while some praise the quality and professionalism of the Rwandan army, the reality is that it is marred by accusations and suspicions of crimes committed in countries of the region. The Cabo Ligado report affirms, “The 2010 ‘Mapping Report’ of abuses by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights presented evidence of alleged war crimes by Rwandan forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the First and Second Congo Wars of 1996 and 1998.” 

Groupe Mars, which has close ties to French defense circles, wrote in La Tribune on Rwanda’s intervention in the DRC: 

A simple internet search leads to a series of studies, in French but not by French people, tending to show that the current regimes in Kigali and Kampala gain the greatest economic benefit from the humanitarian catastrophe that the Congo has become. Thus, Rwanda would have become the world’s leading exporter of coltan, an essential mineral in particular for the telecom industry because of its conductive properties. However, it is in the Kivus, in the DRC, that the purest ore is located. It’s extracted in artisanal mines controlled by militias that defy the authority of Kinshasa and export the ore to Rwanda, where it is refined to extract tantalum, which would help bring back one of Rwanda’s main sources of foreign exchange.

Rwanda is projecting itself as a state that provides security to the region, working closely with the UN and regional and international powers. This could, eventually, open the door to investments. It’s through this lens that we should also understand its intervention in Mozambique. However, all the previously mentioned factors evidently raise questions regarding risks, not only for Rwandan political refugees in Mozambique, but also for the security of local populations, which have already been victims of abuse by Mozambican forces and their allies. As the first reports of violence against civilians begin to emerge, the risk of abuse grows as the foreign forces remain in the country. From an economic standpoint, this also raises questions as to what the Mozambican government could promise Rwanda in terms of accessing the country’s natural resources. Remember, Cabo Delgado is also  a mineral-rich region.

 Are France and Total Financing Rwanda’s intervention?

“Who’s paying the bill?” It’s a question that many are asking, yet politicians from the intervening countries have only vague answers. This raises many more questions when we know that the majority of the countries involved are themselves in economically delicate situations. Given the importance of these regional investments, notably those by Total, all eyes are now on France. Speculation on the possibility of French financing is beginning to grow. And the claims are not without merit.

Against the backdrop of a partial recognition of French responsibility in the Rwandan genocide of Tutsis in 1994, the two states initiated a reconciliation and normalization process. It’s important to add that last May, French president Emmanuel Macron visited Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, before his visit to South Africa (another country that has been very involved in the Mozambican intervention). Also, Rwandan president Paul Kagamé and Nyusi were received in Paris by Macron for the Summit on Financing African Economies. Nyusi also visited Rwanda last April 28 for talks with Kagamé. 

(Macron pictures)

All these factors lead one to believe that France has something to do with the Rwandan (and South African) deployment in Mozambique. As J. Opperman explains,

The renewed friendship is part of an alliance. The fact that Rwanda is responsible for Mocímba da Praia [an important port city recently captured by Islamists] and the security corridor says a lot. Having a well-trained and well-armed military force would clearly help jump-start the development of LNG. Rwanda presents the best opportunity for Mozambique and France, and with it Total … I have no doubt that France will provide financial support.

António Rodrigues, in the Público article quoted earlier, goes the furthest in this direction. Referring to the change in French strategy toward the Sahel, where Macron intends to reduce the number of French soldiers by having them replaced with African troops, he writes,

This same strategy seems to have been already adopted by  Mozambique to protect the interests of the French multinational Total and its natural gas project in Cabo Delgado. The Rwandan contingent, which is already fighting jihadists in the northern province of Mozambique, will be financed by France, which already told Zimbabwe it was prepared to pay for its troops as well if it decides to send forces to Cabo Delgado.

Rodrigues, who does not reveal his sources, says Total will also join France in financing these operations. With respect to the possible involvement of French-backed Zimbabwe, he affirms,

The suggestion came from the French president, who Nyusi visited in Paris in mid-May, and who was ready to finance the operation (in fact, the money will come from Total, which can claim it as start-up costs and get a tax deduction). Macron reportedly proposed to establish the same type of technical and financial assistance agreement with Zimbabwe that he signed with Rwanda.

There are other indications of Total’s participation in supporting the Rwandan forces, such as the fact that the Rwandans have made Total’s plants in Afungi their base.

The fact is that after the difficulties encountered by the French intervention in the Sahel, which seems to be heading straight to a failure comparable to that of the United States in Afghanistan (if not worse), France is attempting to avoid direct involvement in the new African conflict at all costs. This is even more important given the political situation in France, with the population increasingly hostile to Operation Barkhane and the 2022 presidential campaign period already underway. It’s not absurd to think that the French, facing the need to help Total, are moving in the direction of involving regional partners, even if it means discreetly financing their interventions.

However,  it would be a mistake to think only France (and Total) have an interest in financing such an intervention. Remember that the multinational ExxonMobile is considering investing $30 billion for gas extraction in Cabo Delgado. U.S. investment banks are already committed to Total. Portugal is playing a major role in coordinating EU involvement in the region, and Germany has provided 4.2 million euros to protect the border between Mozambique and Tanzania, where Islamist fighters may seek refuge. China and Russia already have interests in the gas of Cabo Delgado, but India is without a doubt one of the countries in the Indo-Pacific zone with the most commercial links with Mozambique: from 1996 to 2021, Mozambique was the leading recipient of Indian investments in the world. Japan and South Korea could also be added to this list.

In short, even if the main stakeholders here are Total and France, multiple regional and global powers have an interest in “pacifying” Cabo Delgado. When it comes to Cabo Delgado, there are many candidates for an intervention or for financing interventions.

South Africa — France’s Other Ally

While France does not have the historical ties to southern Africa it has to Central and particularly West Africa, a consequence of its colonialist past, its recent interest in the region shows that it is searching for new, reliable allies and strengthening existing partnerships. This is how France “naturally” turned to South Africa. France and Total are fully aware that South Africa is a key player in the region and that its participation is essential to countering the Islamist insurgency in Cabo Delgado.

This is how the NGO Centro Para Democracia e Desenvovimento (Center for Democracy and Development) described this situation last July:

France was exploiting the economic and political influence of South Africa in the region to play a strategic role in the SADC military intervention in Mozambique. Pretoria has always advocated a regional solution for Cabo Delgado rather than intervention by international powers. Recognizing this, Paris has joined forces with South Africa to influence the structure of regional support for the fight against terrorism. Before the meeting in Pretoria, Macron and Ramaphosa had met in mid-May in Paris and terrorism in Mozambique was one of the topics discussed.

This rapprochement between France and South Africa is combined with a significant increase in France exporting arms to South Africa. In fact, in the French arms exports report to Parliament published in June 2021, we can see that the value of French military equipment delivered to South Africa in 2020 more than tripled from 2019, from 4.2 million euros to 14.1 million euros. These figures are certainly still far from the 20.2 million euros of sales to Morocco and even further from the 51.3 million euros to Algeria, but in 2020 South Africa was France’s biggest customer in sub-Saharan Africa, far ahead of Uganda (7.6 million), the second largest in the region.

The document has no record of arms sales by France to Mozambique in 2020. South Africa, though, approved half a million rands in arms exports to Mozambique in 2020. Given the level of corruption and opacity of the Mozambican government and business in the region, it is very difficult to know the details of these sales and even to obtain more information about them. The South African military and defense website DefenceWeb quotes Dewa Mavhinga, Human Rights Watch director:

His organization is aware that officially, South African authorities announced last year that they are providing weapons to Mozambique to help end the insurgency in Cabo Delgado province. However, they did not provide further details. Having documented allegations of serious human rights abuses in Cabo Delgado by both the insurgents and Mozambique security forces, including killings, kidnappings, ill treatment of detainees, and arbitrary detentions which are happening with impunity, we urge the SA authorities to ensure that their support will not result in further abuses.

It is very difficult to know at this point whether French arms were delivered to Mozambique through South Africa or other covert channels. However, there seems to be no doubt that the arms Pretoria obtained from France will be largely used for the intervention of the South African military in Cabo Delgado. This is another way for France to push for the militarization of Mozambique and the entire southern African region — always aiming to protect multinational interests.

Military Option Powerless to Address the Cabo Delgado Crisis

The military option in Cabo Delgado has become “common sense” among local and regional decision-makers, investors, and politicians in the imperialist states. There have been some initial military successes, such as the recapture of Mocímboa da Praia by Rwandan forces (which could accelerate the return of Total). The question that continues to be asked, though, is whether the Islamist insurgency can be stopped solely through military means. As we witness the terrible failure of 20 years of imperialist occupation in Afghanistan that has led to the shattering return of the Taliban to power, or France’s disastrous Operation Barkhane operation in the Sahel, we have contemporary examples of the harmful nature of these military interventions, particularly for local populations.

Jasmin Opperman says that a military intervention was necessary in Cabo Delgado, but points to the limits of this option despite short-term successes:

The recapture of Mocímboa da Paria comes at a time when the insurgents have already made the most of their opportunities. Reports indicate that the insurgents began to withdraw even before Rwanda arrived. Development is nothing but a cliché if we do not define it in the context of a forgotten Cabo Delgado, where human dignity must take precedence but where fear is used in a structured way to conquer hearts and minds beyond the economic expectations of employment and infrastructure development. The latter are only facilitators in the fight against the root causes of the insurgency. Neglect them and the insurgent lifeline remains intact. The Mozambican government is faced with Matthew’s principle and a global economy that favors the elite: “To those who have everything, more will be given. From those who have nothing, everything will be taken.” The people of Cabo Delgado have experienced this for far too long.

The poverty and misery that submerges Cabo Delgado, some of the figures of which have been exposed above, are indeed the key to the entire situation. The armies of SADC and Rwanda, and perhaps even those of other states, could overcome the current insurgency, but as long as the structural social, economic, and political causes that provoked it remain, other insurgencies will emerge. The military intervention itself could fuel a revolt among the local population. As noted above, the abuses of the military act as a driving force, pushing some into the arms of the Islamist insurgents. But there are also other factors related to the war that can fuel popular discontent.

To take one example, one of the major points of contention between locals and foreign investors’ projects has been the issue of land. Many fishermen, subsistence miners, and farmers were more or less forcibly removed from their land and fishing waters to make way for the multinationals. In the case of the miners, they were criminalized and forced to stop their work. Some of them, especially youth, even joined the insurgents after these expulsions. But now that the fighting has intensified and the number of displaced people has increased, the question of the refugees’ return and the fate of their land is becoming an increasingly central issue that could result in class struggle in the province. As the Cabo Ligado report states,

As the government continues to avoid making systematic efforts to ensure that displaced persons will be able to return to their homes in the future, there is growing concern that what appears to be temporary resettlement is in fact permanent. Among those displaced, this fuels theories that the conflict exists only to deprive them of the land on which they have long lived, farmed, and fished. For the host communities, it portends a future in which competition for land will be much fiercer, prompting them to act now against the displaced to secure an advantage in that competition.

It is no coincidence that the same report expresses fears that Islamists are taking advantage of this situation and are secretly recruiting among the displaced and in the refugee camps. This has led the Mozambican authorities to cultivate a great mistrust of refugees.

Another issue likely to fuel popular discontent and revolt in the province is a perception by the population that all the efforts are dedicated not to protecting them from the abuses and atrocities of the Islamist insurgents, but rather to protecting the interests of the multinationals. The Portuguese labor sociologist Mariana Carneiro, in an article entitled “Total’s gas is a ‘curse’ for Cabo Delgado,” describes how the population of Palma was completely abandoned in the face of the worsening fighting, while aid and resources went primarily to the employees of the multinationals on site:

All the food went by sea. And even by sea, there were sometimes incidents, attacks on the boats. When this happened, the government struck an agreement with Total and the other companies operating in Palma to guarantee their safety. All the workers from the companies and the banks moved to the hotels. In other words, the food did not reach the people of Palma, but it did reach the hotels. The few ships that managed to dock in Palma would first go to supply the hotels and the camps of the big companies. This population remained hungry.

Even if recently there have been images of Rwandan soldiers trying to help the locals, it’s clear to everyone that the priority is to secure the perimeters and the communication channels of the bases where Total and other foreign companies are investing so that they can come back as soon as possible and resume their activity. “The presence of a Rwandan contingent and the deployment of an SADC force seems to be aimed at protecting the interests of the multinationals involved in the natural gas projects in the Rovuma basin, which could result in an ‘oil enclave’,” says researcher João Feijó.

What all this shows is that a military intervention and the militarization of Cabo Delgado are completely powerless to resolve the fundamental problems that set the stage for the emergence of the Islamic insurgency. But that’s not the real objective. The primary goal of the military interventions, which Total and imperialist powers have begged for, is to ensure the security of investments, not people. In fact, the multinationals have done nothing but create structural socioeconomic problems for the people of Cabo Delgado. It is in this sense that we can compare the risk of this situation to that of Afghanistan. As Opperman said, 

SADC is confronted with budgetary constants and its presence will depend on foreign donors. Rwanda, with the support of France, could be there even longer. However, counting on such a presence would simply mean an Afghanistan II — security that rests on a mentality of a war on terror is not sustainable, and in my humble opinion, the insurgents are well aware of this reality. Getting involved is the easy part. Leaving is more difficult, as a departure means simply that the insurgents will come back to the conflict.

Today, Cabo Delgado is completely militarized — something for which France and Total are directly responsible. The militarization of Cabo Delgado and Mozambique will not solve the problems of illiteracy, unemployment, or the region’s land and natural resources issues. On the contrary, the youth, peasants, fishermen, and workers of Cabo Delgado will face even more violence and abuse, whether from the Islamists or the military. None of the promised development will come to pass for the working class of Cabo Delgado. Imperialist capital and the national bourgeoisie are unable, and have no interest, in solving the structural problems of the living conditions of the local people. To do so runs counter to their own economic interests. Instead, they will only fuel further popular discontent and provide a possible recruiting ground for the Islamists.

When it comes to popular discontent, this is not only about it being channeled through the Islamist insurgents. Even if military missions crush the Islamists, it will not eliminate the sources of revolt. The struggle for land, for dignity, for survival, and against the contempt and cynicism of both the multinationals and the national ruling classes in Cabo Delgado could also take a progressive form, rejecting both the interests of the capitalists and the barbarity of the Islamists. If that transpired, the same forces that today are being sent against the Islamists would be used to suppress a legitimate popular revolt involving the most oppressed and exploited of the province. This is another result of the reactionary character of the pro-imperialist militarization of Cabo Delgado.

For the moment, imperialist powers such as France would rather not get directly involved in the fighting, but instead prefer to train Mozambican forces. However, there is no doubt they are pushing regional armies to act in their place, and likely are financing their operations. As with the current catastrophe being suffered by the Afghan people, the workers’ movement and the working class in the imperialist countries cannot stand idly by. There is no simplistic military response to a complex situation such as the one in Cabo Delgado, as the imperialist militarists claim. The workers’ movement in France should oppose any military intervention in Mozambique undertaken in the name of Total and the interests of the French state. A pro-working class and internationalist orientation would be to support any potential progressive movement in the province and the region, against the multinationals and also against the Islamists, who offer no solutions to the misery of Cabo Delgado. 

Unlike the militaristic imperialists, we are counting on the emergence of a movement of the oppressed and exploited that will sweep away the Islamists of Cabo Delgado and challenge the power of the multinationals — a movement that fights for the masses and the workers to be the ones who decide what to do with the natural resources. That is the only possible way out. Anything else will lead to disaster.

First published in French on August 30 in Révolution Permanente.

Translation by Emma Lee

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Philippe Alcoy

Philippe Alcoy

Philippe is an editor of Révolution Permanente, our sister site in France.

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