Mozambique: Defence Minister visits UK and France - RM
In Paris, Filipe Nyusi is expected to offer security guarantees to France in order for the oil major to return to Cabo Delgado. But France’s President Macron may wish to specify the presence of French forces as a condition. Will there be a middle ground?
The Mozambican president, Filipe Nyusi, on Sunday travelled to France at the invitation of his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron. President Nyusi will participate in the Summit on the Financing of African Economies scheduled for this Tuesday (18-05) in Paris.
The return of the French oil company Total to Cabo Delgado and the operational conditions for gas exploration are likely to dominate the meeting between the Mozambican and French presidents on the fringes of the France-Africa summit.
At the Elysée Palace, Filipe Nyusi will need to play a trump card if he is to continue to dream big at the expense of gas. But does the Mozambique president really have such a card up his sleeve?
“The only thing that Mozambique will be able to offer is that the security conditions in the gas exploitation zone can be improved. However, it is already understood that it does not have resources or military forces to offer Total guarantees, and Total must know the situation on the ground and the Defence and Security Forces very well, and that they are not in a position to do so,” explains economist João Mosca.
Second chance for Mozambique?
Mozambique has already given France security guarantees that it has failed to comply with. The March 24 terrorist attack on Palma, close to Total’s activities, was the most recent proof of Mozambique’s inability to prevent the oil company temporarily leaving the country.
Will Mozambique get a second chance, even in the face of the evidence?
For peace and security expert at the Joaquim Chissano University, Calton Cadeado, “France is in its right to have doubts, because it has already seen these conditions tested with the latest attack on Palma”.
“But this time, it is necessary to establish what else the Mozambican government has to offer. And maybe, since the Mozambican government managed to [make a counteroffensive to] reoccupy Palma in such a short time, perhaps this could be the opportunity for Mozambique to earn some degree of confidence from France,” he adds.
But in the meeting, it will not just be Mozambique which “plays its cards”; France also has its own. Total risks putting large-scale investments at stake. Should Paris impose, as a condition for the return of its oil company, the presence of French military forces in northern Mozambique? The expert is categorical in his response:
“There is no doubt that this is a bargaining chip that the French can use, and has used before. I underline, where there is a hydrocarbon business, there must be security businesses. These two are like twin brothers; where one goes, goes the other.”
Who will win the “arm wrestling”?
The scenarios make evident a kind of “arm wrestling” which offers no guarantee of easy victory for the one considered the weakest link. So, in the short term, Total should not return, contrary to what Mozambique wishes, if a lack of compromise dominates the meeting between Filipe Nyusi and Emmanuel Macron.
“But Total is very interested in playing this game of diplomatic and economic charm – I don’t want to use the word ‘blackmail’ – to put pressure on Mozambique to speed up the discussion and facilitate its return to the gas exploitation operations,” Cadeado underlines.
Mozambique has put its foot down as to demanding an equal relationship with France, and Maputo wants the discussion of cooperation in terms to be approved between the parties. The Mozambican head of state defends dialogue and not imposition, Calton Cadeado says.
The opposition´’s nose wrinkle
Regardless of the cooperation model, the relationship is not well regarded by some sectors, such as Renamo, the largest opposition party in Mozambique.
“I think that, instead of Mozambique speaking to the French, I would ally myself with the best allies, the traditional ones. Whenever we had problems, we had a quick response from the Portuguese and the Americans, despite what people say. In the past, we had a quick response from Cubans and Germany. I think these are the ones closer to us and can help us get where we want to go quickly,” Renamo deputy António Muchanga says.
“But it seems that the understanding is that the armed forces have to be trained and that they will fight themselves,” he concludes. “And the training programme will take five years and the people ask: will we be dying in Cabo Delgado for another five years? So, I have no idea what the president is going to do by going to France, because France said that the condition is to maintain security there.”