At least 24 nations have sent troops to help Mozambique combat militants in the northern region of Cabo Delgado.
The finding of 7,000 “ghost soldiers” in the ranks of a poorly paid and poorly trained army underscores the need for assistance in Mozambique.
The media discovered that many of the fake soldiers’ salaries were paid to senior defense officials, and that a growing number of children of former officers and politicians are receiving salaries despite never having received military training, let alone having served in a military unit.
More about 2,000 Rwandan troops were enough to wrest control of the two coastal districts of Palma and Mocimboa da Praia, which are located near massive gas resources. Despite their victories, the civil conflict in Mozambique continues.
The current political battles are about money, the reasons of the conflict, who can fight, and whether the gas project can restart.
Protests grew as it became clear that the profits went entirely to the ruling party, Frelimo, and that few local employment were being generated.
Historically, the coastline zone has been Muslim. Local fundamentalist preachers claimed that Sharia, or Islamic law, would provide equality and a fair distribution of wealth, thus promoting socialism.
The conflict began in 2017 when young people in Mocimboa da Praia stormed and looted guns from the local police station and army post.
More than 4,000 people have been killed and 800,000 have been displaced since then.
The first battle is over the war’s origins. President Filipe Nyusi and Frelimo claim that the attack is the result of external hostility and that they are not to blame.
The European Union (EU) and the World Bank want to contribute hundreds of millions of euros to help end the war, partly by generating employment and settling complaints, but Frelimo has refused to present an EU-World Bank plan to the cabinet for six months.
Outsiders are usually drawn to civil wars, and there has been some involvement from the Islamic State (IS) and jihadists from past conflicts, as well as funding from some Middle Eastern countries.
Local concerns, according to the majority of Mozambican scholars, remain dominating. However, both the US and IS want this to be perceived as a global conflict rather than a local civil war.
The US designated the militants as Isis-Mozambique and “global terrorists” in March 2021.
The US declined to provide their proof, which was largely dismissed by those investigating the conflict.
On July 14, 2021, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that the major US objective in Mozambique was “countering Isis.”
On April 4, 2022, the United States designated Mozambique as one of five nations under the Global Fragility Act, implying a significant rise in US involvement in the country.
Meanwhile, IS began to refer to the terrorists as IS Mozambique, evidently happy with the increased exposure for such a minor outlay.
IS and the US appear to be looking for a proxy war in Mozambique, according to the fear.
This brings back painful memories since, prior to the conclusion of the Cold War, the US launched a proxy war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, killing one million Mozambicans.
As a result, Mozambique is attempting to keep the United States at bay. A limited military training operation has been permitted, but no more.
Portugal and South Africa have both asked for their forces to be sent in.
Portugal is a former colonial power that was defeated in the independence struggle of 1965-1975 and has been attempting to reclaim its military presence ever since.
It has dispatched troops to a European Union training mission; the majority of the soldiers are Portuguese, but Greece, Spain, and Italy have also contributed.
South Africa views Mozambique as its backyard and sees itself as a regional power.
It lobbied for the formation of a military force for the Southern African Development Community (Sadc). Mozambique is stuck.
Last year, President Nyusi met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Rwanda has a professional army that is highly involved in peacekeeping missions, and TotalEnergies, the principal corporation in the stalled gas project, is French.
The first 1,000 Rwandan forces arrived on July 9, 2021, and removed militants from crucial locations in three weeks.
The Sadc Mission in Mozambique (Samim) was established in 2021, but Mozambique only let the first South African troops to enter on July 19, after Rwandan forces had already been deployed.
The majority of the Samim forces are from South Africa, although nine other Sadc countries have also provided troops. Angola, Botswana, and Zimbabwe are among them.
Samim has been sent to less crucial zones away from the gas, where he has proven ineffective in combating the militants.
President Nyusi paid a visit to Uganda in late April and met with President Yoweri Museveni, who got military training from Frelimo in Cabo Delgado in the 1970s while fighting a guerrilla war against the Ugandan government.
Mr Museveni said that he was already backing the Mozambican military and recommended dispatching a force.
Two more battles are still ongoing. The first is that Frelimo and the military want to maintain tight control over the battle zone, prohibiting journalists and relief workers from entering.
The government and military want to keep a tight grip over assistance delivery. Special humanitarian visas must be authorized by the National Disaster Agency individually and are limited to working for a specific organization.
On April 28, TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanné informed investors that no return to Mozambique would be possible until the people of Mocimboa da Praia had returned to peace and were enjoying a normal life. He stated that a basic security zone was insufficient.
However, the Mozambican government has so far refused to allow displaced residents to return to the majority of Mocimboa da Praia. They claim that the conditions are not yet adequate, and that many displaced persons are still supporting the militants.
As a result, there is a standoff. Would the government allow people to return and relief agencies to enter, or are they hoping that TotalEnergies will accept a security zone with no people?