Cabo Delgado problems …why the West cannot be sanitised

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By Eunice Masunungure

THE ongoing military conflict in Cabo Delgado Province, Mozambique, between the country’s security forces and Islamic State affiliates amidst existing Western multinational companies’ industrial advancement are typical of turmoils Africa continues to experience because of its resources.

The unrest in Cabo Delgado, dating back to October 2017, with 10 beheaded in May 2018 in Monjane (Palma District), would not have happened if Western multinational companies were not in the country. 

There are huge quantities of offshore gas in the Cabo Delgado District that may make Mozambique one of the largest exporters of liquefied natural gas . 

The presence of the resource should have been good news but it has been a source of conflict in the area.

Cabo Delgado has been the centre of Islamist insurgency with at least 1 100 dead, according to Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLEDP).

France has been accused of “…helping ignite tensions in Cabo Delgado Province by supporting multinational gas companies and  militarising the zone.”

According to ACLEDP: “For several years now, the entire arsenal of French economic diplomacy has been working to defend French interests in Mozambique.”  

Total, Exxon Mobil of the US and Italy’s ENI, reportedly, hope to start exploiting the resources by 2022-23, with Total allegedly planning to invest US$25 billion in the venture.

Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi SpA (ENI) secured a purchasing contract with British Petroleum (BP), which will buy gas for 20 years.

The US has gas reserves located in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.

Pundits contend foreign conspiracy against Mozambique’s development and terrorist aggression are the reasons behind the Cabo Delgado problems.

Fredson Guilengue argues, in Banditry, Terror or Revolt? that if  ‘banditry’, ‘foreign conspiracy against Mozambique’  or ‘terrorist aggression’ are reasons for the unrest, they fall short in that they do not consider the role of the historically constructed political and socio-economic dynamics in Mozambique.

Notions that the killers are bandits or insurgents intending to cause disorder so that they mine gold and trade in rubies does not ascribe to political ambition of the group. 

Another theory is that multinational companies involved in mining gas are behind the conflicts.

Can Mozambicans murder for foreign interests?

Another assumption is that ISIL has been causing havoc.

The Islamic population represents more than half of the total population of Cabo Delgado.

Arab expansion and ‘Islamisation’ of the northern coast of Mozambique resulted in particular political social and cultural institutions.

The codes are affecting dress, religion and language.

After the Berlin Conference (1884), Portuguese colonisation process enforced Christianity upon a territory and a population with many years of Islamic tradition.

Western Christian, Atheist and Marxist values might have  affected the sense of dignity of the local population.

However, one thing that raises eyebrows is that the so-called terrorism based on Islamic fundamentalism seems to be taking place in places where natural resources are.

Natural resources in Africa have always resulted in ‘problems’.

They have become a curse!

Even in historical perspective, colonial imperialists targeted the riches of Zimbabwe, for example.

Zimbabwe is diamond and gold-territory, and the West and its allies won’t ‘let it go’.

Nigeria was manipulated from as far back as 1960 in support of Britain’s oil interests. 

It was colonised by the British in 1885 as other European powers acknowledged Britain’s dominance in the area at the 1885 Berlin conference.

History testifies that the Western attachment on Africa has always been about riches and the greatest pain is the unrest that unfolds.

The Portuguese occupied Mozambique since 1448, using it as a trading post.

By the 1530s, small groups of the Portuguese penetrated the interior regions seeking gold. 

They set up garrisons and posts at Sena and Tete on the Zambezi River and tried to gain exclusive control over the gold trade.

The Portuguese also used Africans as their slaves, working on their prazos between 1500 and 1700.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Arabs reclaimed much of the Indian Ocean trade, forcing the Portuguese to retreat south. 

In the 19th Century, other European powers came and these were British and French traders as well as politicians.

The country gained its independence in 1975 after a protracted guerilla war waged by the FRELIMO Party. 

According to the War on Want (2015) research titled, ‘Africa: A Continent  of Wealth, a Continent of Poverty’: “The exploitation of mineral resources has all too often led to corruption, and large proportion of the continent’s resources and revenues benefiting local and foreign elites rather than the general population.” 

Mining routinely damages people’s livelihoods, health and environment.

Richard Drayton’s (2005) article, titled ‘The wealth of the West was built on Africa’s exploitation’, argues, Africa’s richness did not just underpin the European earlier development but its palm-oil, petroleum, copper, chromium, platinum and gold are crucial to the later world economy.

The fragility of Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado is a microcosm of the fragility of contemporary Africa in direct consequence of slavery, colonisation and infringement on local sovereignty.

That is why any sane person must wish that Mozambique and any other country experiencing an afterlife of slavery must overcome a modern experience of feeding Western privilege.

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