Mozambique’s Problems Are Ours Too

A few months ago, I travelled to Mozambique. I was struck by the stark dichotomy — on one hand — between the unmistakeable sense of optimism which is palpable when you talk to the local intelligentsia and the expatriate community and — on the other hand — the suffocating stench of pessimism which hits you in the face when you converse with ordinary citizens. Talking to the various segments of the population, you are left with the distinct impression that these people are living in separate countries.

Something very fascinating is happening in Mozambique. The discovery of oil and gas is promising to transform the fortunes of a country racked by civil war and bad governance. But just as the nation begins to relish the prospects of a new day, a twin menace emerges: the rise of Islamist insurgency in the north and opposition Renamo banditry in the central region.

Southern Africa is endowed with vast natural resources. It has become an intriguing theatre of the geopolitics of strategic minerals as China, the United States and Russia are locked in a renewed scramble for economic opportunities in this region. Mozambique is one of the countries where the planet’s powerful governments are now locked in a frantic scramble for precious resources.

Last week, the US Export-Import Bank approved the widened scope of a US$4,7 billion loan to back American companies involved in liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in the African country. This week, French energy giant Total announced it has secured US$14,4 billion funding for Mozambique’s LNG development.

But all this could come to nought if security and governance issues are not addressed. This week, the presidents of Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe met in Harare to discuss Maputo’s rapidly deteriorating security situation.

It really boils down to a very difficult question: will Sadc deploy troops in support of Mozambique’s counter-insurgency operations? The regional leaders are generally in agreement that it is indeed necessary to assist that country militarily. No doubt, they have carefully assessed the situation; after all, nobody wants to casually stroll into a war. Clearly, they would have reasoned that the cost of inaction is far greater than that of military engagement.

War is no picnic, of course, so political leaders must always fully explore dialogue. It is only when dialogue fails that the drums of war can be thumped — but, all the same, every conflict must eventually lead to dialogue if sustainable peace and stability are to be achieved. It is always better to pursue peace and spare the lives of innocents than recklessly dive into an armed conflict and cost lives.

Enduring peace — and it is vital to emphasise this — does not come from the barrel of the gun. Africa is failing to silence the gun primarily because injustice has taken root in many parts of the continent. Where there is no justice, the rule of law cannot prevail. Where there is no rule of law, the consequences are dire: democracy and the socio-economic development can only remain a pipe dream.Barely a decade ago, Mozambique was feted as one of the “economic miracles” of Africa.What has happened? The answer is found in governance.

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