Mozambican troops are failing to recapture a port town from Islamist militants which is important for developing one of the largest natural gas reserves in Africa, as the country – three years into an Islamist insurgency – becomes yet another “resource-curse” state, writes Mozambique analyst Joseph Hanlon.
President Filipe Nyusi is finally facing the reality of the “resource curse”.
Insurgents are recruiting more members by exploiting the poverty of young people in the north of Mozambique, he explained in a recent speech in Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado province.
And he admitted that despite the three northern provinces – Cabo Delgado, Niassa and Nampula – having great natural wealth and enormous agricultural potential, they have the country’s highest levels of poverty.
For 15 years, Mozambique’s GDP rose by more than 6% a year, largely thanks to coal, titanium, hydro-electricity and other natural resources. Yet the majority of people did not benefit; poverty and inequality both increased.
Discoveries of a huge ruby deposit and a giant gas field in Cabo Delgado in 2009-10, raised hopes of jobs and a better life for many local people, but those hopes were soon dashed.
It was alleged that any benefits were being taken by a small elite in the Frelimo party, which has governed Mozambique since independence in 1975.
Roots of the Islamist uprising
A war started on 5 October 2017 when a group of insurgents occupied the district town and port of Mocimboa da Praia for two days.
The town is just 60km (about 32 miles) south of the major gas development base at Palma and the port was important to supply the gas project.
The insurgents were recognised as local men.
Since then the war expanded rapidly; at least 1,500 people have been killed and an estimated 250,000 have fled their homes.