12.000 hectares of Palma given to unknown agency,underlining belief that grievance does not fuel war

Photo: Estacio Valoi

The Council of Ministers on 17 May gave 12,000 hectares in Palma district to a previously unknown agency, the Cabo Delgado Economic Development Promotion Centre (CPD). Spokesperson and Deputy Justice Minister Filimão Suazi gave no details on the company or the location of the land. CPD was created in July 2021 as a non-profit company controlled by the Cabo Delgado governor, to promote Cabo Delgado development. Its links to the various competing agencies are unclear. (CDD 22 May)

The 12,000 ha would be a square block 11 km on each side. By law, any land concession over 10,000 ha is so large that it must be approved by the Council of Ministers. By law, a concession can only be granted after consultation with the occupants. But they are not there because they have been displaced by the war, so there apparently has been no consultation. Smaller land concessions are made by the Ministry of Agriculture (1000 to 10,000 ha) and the province (below 1,000 ha). No such concessions have been published but it seems likely some may have been made; it is known that further mining concessions have been made in Cabo Delgado

Land is highly prized and contested in Palma. Rwandan companies linked to President Paul Kagame have apparently been promised contracts and will want land. With Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi fighting to retain power at the September Frelimo party Congress, Palma land will be an important way to buy support.

Researchers point to land concessions and displacement, notably from the Montepuez ruby mine and the Afungi gas site, as having contributed to the insurgency. People moved out of Afungi were resettled in Quitunda, just outside the gates of the gas camp. And attacks in 2020 in the zone were said to be partly launched by guerrillas housed by supporters of the insurgency inside the village.

President Nyusi denies that there is any grievance. He stated publicly in Brussels in February that Mozambique has no responsibility for the war in Cabo Delgado, and that it is entirely caused by foreign militants. This is Mozambique's official policy. And grabbing 12,000 ha from thousands of already displaced people will cause huge resentment. But apparently Nyusi's dubious belief is that it will not. Or, for immediate political gains, his he is prepared to take a very great risk? (See our special report 7 for a more detailed discussion of the issue, 19 April, bit.ly/Moz-593)

The Frelimo leadership's dubious belief in lack of grievance comes is part from closing their ears. Graça Machel said recently that grievances are "a fact. We cannot think that it is just infiltration from outside." And the joint World Bank, African Development Bank, UN and EU ERDIN proposal which the Council of Ministers refused to consider says that "at the root of this insurgency are perceptions of inequality, exclusion and marginalisation [and] perceptions of injustice in the distribution of benefits and opportunities arising from extractive activities."

This is not a new issue. In 2020 Mozambique blocked SADC summit meetings and attempts by SADC to create a military force to intervene, because South Africa also demanded that Mozambique look at the causes of the war. "Silencing the guns in [Cabo Delgado and elsewhere] requires dealing with the root causes of conflicts, which invariably includes governance deficits, human rights abuses and contestation over resources," said Naledi Pandor, South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, in a media briefing on 14 December 2020. https://bit.ly/Moz-510

And Frelimo was right to be worried that SADC would raise the issue. The head of the Southern African Development Community Military Mission (SAMIM) in Cabo Delgado, Botswana Professor Mpho Molomo, gave lectures two weeks ago at Joaquim Chissano and Eduardo Mondlane universities in Maputo. He said that security efforts will not be enough to bring stability in the region until social development issues are resolved. Insurgents are still at large in the bush, he said, and the terrorist threat there persists, despite the setbacks that the rebels have suffered. (Cabo Ligado 24 May)

“Generalised poverty and inequality, especially in rural areas, where the majority of the population lives, are Mozambique’s main development challenge,” said African Development Bank representative in Mozambique, César Augusto Mba Abogo, on 17 May. The country must promote and accelerate the structural transformation of the economy aimed at creating jobs to reduce poverty and inequality, he said. (Lusa 18 May) He is citing the entire country, but it clearly applies in Cabo Delgado. (https://bit.ly/Moz-597)

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