Bottom Line: After two decades of relative post-civil-war peace, Mozambique is seeing a resurgence of violence and the fact that the country made the largest natural gas discovery in the world this decade plays into the mounting tensions. Local elections this week are marred already by violent clashes.
Analysis: In December 2012, things took a turn for the worse when former-guerrillas-turned-opposition party Renamo got only two of eight seats on the country’s new electoral commission, sending a clear message that the long-time ruling Frelimo party was in charge. In October this year, Renamo withdrew from the 1992 peace deal and the security situation has been on a downward spiral since. This summer, Renamo threatened to attack a critical rail transport link that runs from Zimbabwe to the port of Beira in Mozambique—a key line that now cannot run without military security at all times. Sporadic clashes have ensued in key flashpoint areas such as the provinces of Nampula and Sofala. Foreign companies with oil, gas and mining operations in Mozambique have reason to be worried because the violence is now extending to kidnappings. In October alone, we saw 15 kidnappings for ransom.
On 18 November, clashes in the second-largest city of Beira between Frelimo and Renamo supporters and riot police saw more than 20 people injured ahead of local elections on 20 November, which Renamo boycotted.
Mozambique’s gas potential plays into all of this, and Renamo is gaining enough public support to make them a very serious threat to the government and to stability. Not only does a large part of the public seem to be sympathetic to Renamo’s calls for a reduction in Frelimo’s power, but it also—as is the trend across Africa—wants the country to get more from its new gas wealth (and coal). This situation was clearly demonstrated on 31 October when thousands joined in a protest march in the capital Maputo, with economics spurring them on. What the public is very closely scrutinizing is government contracts with foreign gas companies.
The growing instability bodes ill for gas plans, which significantly include the opening of an LNG terminal in 2018 to tap the offshore fields currently being developed by Italy’s Eni SpA and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. This will be the second-largest LNG export site after Qatar’s Ras Laffan.
Adding fuel to the fires was a report released on 18 November by…