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FILE - For illustration purposes only. [File photo: Lusa]
The European Union (EU) ambassador to Mozambique believes that within “months” there will be security in Cabo Delgado for the return of large investments associated to natural gas, he said in an interview with Lusa on Tuesday.
Asked whether Mozambique risks losing the opportunity to make a profit from the gas reserves in the Rovuma basin, if it takes years to resolve the armed insurgency in the region, António Gaspar said he preferred to talk “in months rather than years,” until the “normalisation” of life in Cabo Delgado begins.
Cabo Delgado “is much safer, no doubt,” he said, since troops from Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) began supporting Mozambican forces in 2021.
The EU is monitoring the situation and maintaining contacts, in coordination with SAMIM (the SADC military mission) and the Rwandan military, which now point to “more sporadic attacks” by the rebels who have been plaguing the region for four and a half years.
“It doesn’t mean that the situation is completely under control. We cannot lower our guard, but it has already improved a lot and the work that is being done by these forces, with Mozambique, is already giving results.”
Be that as it may, “there is a lot of long-term work” because “there may be mixing of insurgents with local residents, the borders [with Tanzania] are still porous”, among “many other reasons”.
“But I am optimistic,” António Gaspar emphasises.
The return of oil company Totalenergies, leader of the gas investing consortium, is not in doubt, he said, “it’s a question of [knowing] when. I personally have no doubt” about the return of projects to the Afungi peninsula, suspended a year ago after an attack on the town of Palma.
“It is those investors and above all Total that has to decide, with all the guarantees. It is true that last time, the attacks near Afungi were a shock” and companies “had to suspend” operations, António Gaspar said.
“Now, they want to return with all the guarantees,” he adds. “I think Mozambique gas, in the current context, with the EU’s strategic need to drastically reduce and end dependence on hydrocarbons from Russia” gets a new opportunity.
While he foresees life beginning to return to normal within months, António Gaspar believes that this will happen safely throughout the region.
The EU ambassador believes that “there will be no risk of double security”, tighter in the area of the gas projects (Palma district and Mocímboa da Praia) and less demanding in the rest of the province.
“Cabo Delgado is big, but it is not the Sahel, it is not that space of millions of kilometres where there is no State administration. In Mozambique, the State administration reaches all parts of the country”, he concludes.
Cabo Delgado province is rich in natural gas, but has been terrorised since 2017 by armed rebels, with some attacks claimed by the extremist group Islamic State.
There are 784,000 internally displaced people due to the conflict, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and around 4,000 deaths, according to the ACLED conflict registration project.
Since July 2021, an offensive by government troops with Rwandan support, later joined by SADC, has allowed areas where rebels were present to recover, but their flight has provoked new attacks in other districts used as passage or temporary refuge.