Renamo "Junta" threatens military action if Mozambican government refuses to renegotiate
Rosneft, Russian oil company. Its largest shareholder is the Russian government.
In the search for alternative sources of investment, Mozambique is strategically approaching Russia, which in turn can profit from the move. The recent visit of the Mozambican Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Pacheco, to Moscow reveals the outlines of the new chess game.
The visit of Mozambican Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Pacheco, to Russia ended on Monday, with agreements reached in various areas, particularly defence and energy. Mozambique plans to acquire more arms from Moscow and to sign agreements by the end of 2018 for Russia’s Rosneft to start operating in the gas sector in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.
However, a number of issues are emerging in this new era of relations between the two countries. We talked about some of them to Calton Cadeado, analyst at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
DW Africa: To a certain extent, the defence of sovereignty legitimises the acquisition of arms. But is it justified that this is done at a time when Mozambique is heavily indebted and is not even sure how it will finance this purchase?
Calton Cadeado (CC): I think so because, as you put it, it is a matter of sovereignty. But it would be a good idea to point out that there are several types of armament necessary for the defence of the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the state to provide stability. There are weapons that are used from the point of view of deterrence and vigilance and there is also the cooperation with other countries which is necessary to guarantee territorial integrity and sovereignty. So, it is always necessary, and no state can afford to disarm, especially when it comes to a desirable country like Mozambique.
DW Africa: Mozambique plans to sign an agreement with Russian oil company Rosneft by the end of this year for gas exploration in the north of the country. Maputo is looking for more, and more differentiated investors. What would be the advantages of this economic and political redirection?
CC: First thing to emphasise is [the need] to avoid any attempt to monopolise the delivery of natural resources of strategic value that Mozambique has to whatever country. And this political and strategic stance of Mozambique is consistent in almost all natural resources. The Americans pushed hard for a monopoly and failed because of the policy of the state’s current policy of partner diversification. On the other hand there is a disadvantage, which is that generally these great companies unite to safeguard their interests, and sometimes even hurt sovereign states. But this is a disadvantage that I think Mozambique sees as minimal.
DW Africa: In the relationship between the two countries there is also a controversial factor: the hidden debts. Russian bank VTB lent US$535 million to MAM. The visit of the Mozambican foreign minister to Russia is also related to this, although nothing has been officially disclosed …
CC: Undoubtedly, this is almost undeniable. However, there are still no details about this situation, but the Russians may be using this to step up their position as a strategic partner of Mozambique. We cannot rule this out. But it is also true that the Russian foreign minister has been to Mozambique twice recently, at a crucial moment in Russian foreign policy. Lavrov came to Mozambique when the war in Syria was peaking in terms of verbal and violent confrontation in the theatre of operations, and this raises the importance that the Mozambican state attributes to Russia, and probably the importance that the Russians attribute to Mozambique. The fact is that, at this moment, many powers are circulating in the Indian [Ocean] zone, including Mozambique and Russia, which is a power that does not have as much money to spend as some others, but has political capital that can be exploited by Mozambique to protect itself against the monopolistic ambitions that often go hand in hand with these lucrative hydrocarbon industry projects.
DW Africa: You mentioned [Russian Foreign Minister] Lavrov’s visit to Mozambique, where in relation to VTB it was agreed that this would be solved, the only thing left to do would be to correct technical details. To what extent does this openness of Russia to re-negotiate debt coincide with Rosneft’s interests in Mozambique?
CC: At this moment, anything we could say would be speculation, because we do not have the technical details. Theories can help us to realise this: Russia needs Mozambique and vice versa, maybe Mozambique needs Russia more than the other, because at the moment Russia does not have much money to invest far beyond its borders, especially when we know that Russia is engaged in Syria and engaged in the defence and protection of its territorial integrity with the threats of Ukraine’s approach to the European Union and NATO. But for Mozambique, the presence of Russia represents important political capital because Russia has power in the UN Security Council. Then, from this whole circuit of interconnected interests comes certainty that Russia does not want to lose influence with Mozambique. It is already obvious that in coming years Mozambique will not be the same [as it is now].Deutsche Welle