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  • Writer's pictureThe Red Line

Episode 80. Mozambique: The Campaign Against Cabo Delgado

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Mozambique has been struggling with an insurgency in its north for a number of years now, but events now appear to be moving from bad to worse. The area known as Cabo Delgado has chewed up and spat out PMCs and soldiers ranging from Russia's Wagner Group to South Africa's special forces. Will the EU or Rwanda finally be able to finally secure the contagious revolution in the north, or will this instability continue to deter international investors from entering Mozambique?


Episode Overview:

Part 1: A Legacy Written by Lisbon (4:03)

  • Borges Nhamirre provides an overview of Mozambique, a unique Lusophone country with closer ties to English-speaking nations, going so far as to join the Commonwealth, a lack of rail and transport infrastructure that continues to hinder development, and a capital isolated in the south of the country.

  • We talk about the contrasts between the northern area of Cabo Delgado and the south, differing greatly in language and in religion, and how the flow of funds from northern gas extraction projects away from the region and towards Maputo has exacerbated tensions, leading to an attack on Total's Afungi gas field project near the town of Palma in April 2021.

  • The disconnect from the north has hampered efforts to provide meaningful economic and social support of the peoples of the north, as well as hindering negotiations with rebel groups in the north, often leading to frustrating stalemates and ongoing conflicts.

Part 2: A Privatised Crisis (24:39)

  • Irina Tsukerman notes a shift in rebel attacks in recent months, moving from exclusively economic targets towards more religious-related targets.

  • We talk about who Mozambique has become a hub for private military companies (PMCs) in recent years, following success by these PMCs in places like Angola. We talk about the presence of Russian PMC Wagner in Mozambique, which has suffered several setbacks in contrast to successes elsewhere on the continent such as Libya.

  • We talk about the role of Tanzania in the Cabo Delgado conflict, which has recently signed a counterterrorism agreement with Mozambique, as well as the role of South African and Rwandan militaries in fighting rebel forces.

Part 3: Repairing the Rupture (41:33)

  • Emilia Columbo identifies the disconnect between north and south Mozambique in this conflict, effectively creating two countries with a shifting dynamic as you travel from south to north.

  • Columbo discusses Tanzania's role in this conflict, with a shared interest in stabilising the border and tentative cooperation between the Tanzanian and Mozambique militaries. She also identifies pressure from South Africa to allow foreign troops into the area and Mozambique's resistance to this in favour of resources and support for their domestic forces. This resistance faltered in the aftermath of the Palma attack in 2021, leading to an increase in foreign presences in the conflict.

  • We discuss the risk of the Mozambique government focus exclusively on gas-producing regions of Cabo Delgado at the expense of developing the other areas of the region, leading to a possible two-track recovery.

  • We then turn our attention to the presence of China's investment and involvement in the country, and how this conflict has shifted that relationship along with Mozambique's relations with the United States.

  • We conclude with the move by Rwanda to serve as the 'Singapore of Africa', volunteering for peacekeeping missions, with the withdrawal of Ethiopian peacekeeping across the continent in the face of their own civil war, and being active in Capo Delgado, including mediating between rebels and Mozambique forces.


Episode Guests:

Borges Nhamirre

  • Research Consultant and Expert at the Institute for Security Studies

  • He is a journalist based in Maputo with over 15 years experience covering Mozambican politics and governance

  • He is a regularly featured correspondent for news sources such as Bloomberg News

Irina Tsukerman

  • New York-based human rights lawyer and national security geopolitical analyst

  • She has written extensively about Islamism, counterterrorism, and East African security

  • Her work has featured in places such as The Washington Institution for Near East Policy

Emilia Columbo

  • Senior Associate of the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Africa Program

  • Senior Security Risk Analyst for VoxCroft Analytics

  • Previously, she served as a senior analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency, covering African and Latin American political-security issues


The Red Line's Mozambique Reading List:

We’ve compiled a list of further reading to better understand the geopolitics of Mozambique.


The Looting Machine: Warlords, Oligarchs, Corporations, Smugglers, and the Theft of Africa's Wealth

Tom Burgis

The Battle for Mozambique: The Frelimo-Renamo Struggle, 1977-1992

Stephen Emerson

Africa Since Decolonization: The History and Politics of a Diverse Continent

Martin Welz


For episode transcripts, monthly geopolitics Q&A’s, member-only videos and to support the show, check out our Patreon here:

This episode is dedicated to Patreon member Ray Gerhard.



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