The extremely violent jihadism in the northeast of Mozambique is related to the activities of Western companies in the region, including Dutch companies. Gas extraction plays a major role in the region.
The worlds of the jihadists and this one gas companies have clearly clashed in recent days after fighters from a Mozambican Islamist group seized the port city of Palma. Dozens of people were murdered, including South African and British expats working for the French gas company Total. Thousands of Mozambicans and expats fled.
Total gas production headquarters are located in Palma. The Dutch dredging company Van Oord provides manual and tensioning services for the construction of the pipelines and the Dutch Ministry of Finance is considering taking out credit insurance worth 600 million euros for this.
Van Oord stated this week that it had moved its four ships to the more southern city of Pemba. A spokesperson previously called the situation to NRC distressing, but withdrawal from the gas project is premature, he says.
Violence in northeast Mozambique began in 2017, seven years after one of the world’s largest gas bubbles was found off the coast. Investments in the gas industry exploded, but the local population lagged behind.
The jihadist uprising started out of the local population’s dissatisfaction with the neglect of Cabo Delgado, a province where mostly Muslims live. Mozambique is predominantly Christian.
But violence has increasingly turned against the civilian population in recent months. More than 2,500 Mozambicans were killed in mass beheadings and clashes between the jihadists and the government army.
Correspondent Bram Vermeulen visited the region and talked to refugees:
Many Mozambicans suspect a connection between the jihadists and organized crime syndicates who have been using Cabo Delgado for years as a transit port for drugs from Afghanistan, which are brought ashore in northern Mozambique. This explains, among other things, why the jihadists are driving the inhabitants of the villages to flee en masse and holding back government troops.
The Mozambican army often proves impotent against the guerrilla tactics of the jihadists, who swore allegiance to the Islamic State in 2018. Soldiers often flee from attacks. That also happened in Palma.
The army has now regained control of the city. But there are fears for the lives of the 20,000 refugees stuck near Total’s compound, which its guards withdrew from the area this week.
According to Amnesty International, soldiers are guilty of human rights violations. Also the pilots of the helicopters of the South African security company Dyck Advisory Group, mostly South African mercenaries are guilty of serious human rights violations, according to Amnesty International.
Bullet in bag of rice
A resident of the village of Macomia told the NOS that his house had been shot at from the air by helicopters. A bullet from one of the machine guns the mercenaries installed in their helicopters got stuck in a bag of rice in Marquiola Dunya’s house.
“If that bullet had hit me, I wouldn’t be here anymore,” he says. Dunya says the helicopters opened fire when jihadists invaded Macomia and beheaded several villagers.
The mercenaries also played an important role in the attack in Palma, where they managed to keep the jihadists at bay for a long time and evacuate a number of expats. The Dyck Advisory Group says it will leave Mozambique on April 6. The American army and the army of former colonizer Portugal has also sent ‘advisers’ to Mozambique to assist the army in the fight against the jihadists.