Rwanda eyes the spoils of war in Mozambique

NDP, a major civil engineering group in Rwanda owned by the ruling party of President Paul Kagame, is reportedly in the running to win a big contract on Mozambique’s huge liquefied natural gas project in the country’s troubled north

The move has raised questions about what Rwanda, or its politicians, are getting in return for providing military assistance in Mozambique’s insurgency-hit north.

Paris-based news site Africa Intelligence reported at the end of February that NPD had joined Italian, South African and Portuguese contractors in bidding for the contract on the TotalEnergies-led project and was added to the shortlist at the last minute, the report said. 

The work would involve clearing the site and doing structural work at the project. 

TotalEnergies did not respond when asked for comment.

In July last year, Rwanda deployed to Mozambique’s north-eastern province of Cabo Delgado a 1 000-strong military and police force, which has since doubled in size. In the face of much speculation that the deployment was being paid for by France or French oil major TotalEnergies, which operates the gas project there, Kagame said in an interview with state broadcaster RBA that “no one is sponsoring” the military support in Mozambique.

Maputo has since appealed to the European Union for financial support for the continuing deployment, which has been broadly successful in returning Palma and Mocímboa da Praia, the two key districts for the gas project, to government control.

“We’re using our means,” Kagame said in September. “We have decent means, which we are also ready to share with friends and brothers and sisters. So there is no one who sponsored us for this.”

Rwanda’s high commission in Mozambique said: “The first step of help is military. Second is development for the Cabo Delgado province, with high interest from Rwandan companies.”

But journalist Michela Wrong told Zitamar News: “Rwanda has a track record of benefiting economically from its military interventions.” 

NPD is a subsidiary of Crystal Ventures (CV) which, according to Dr Phil Clark of the School of African and Oriental Studies in London, is the investment arm of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, Kagame’s ruling party.

Clark said there was “an ever-revolving door between senior Rwandan government positions and CV management … it is entirely plausible that CV has tendered for a job on the back of the RDF’s involvement in Mozambique”.

Edson Cortez, director of the Mozambique’s Centre for Public Integrity, said the entry of NDP was a sign that “there are no free lunches”.

“It is understandable that the government of Rwanda had some kind of gains from the investments made in the security of Cabo Delgado and it may be that the form of payment arranged was this,” he said.

“We regret that local content is again being relegated to the background, because the work that this company will carry out could be carried out by Mozambican companies that will pay taxes in Mozambique, and pay salaries to Mozambicans.”

According to Fidel Terrenciano, an academic and dean of the Arco Iris University based in Pemba, Cabo Delgado, the entry of the NDP company in the gas business in Palma was another step in the increasing rapprochement between Mozambique and Rwanda — but also a sign of the close relationship between Rwanda and TotalEnergies.

“From a reliability point of view, Total trusts Rwanda more, to the detriment of face-to-face negotiations with the [President Filipe]Nyusi government,” he said. “More business will be managed by Rwandan companies in the coming years. Let’s keep our eyes open.”

Clark agrees. “With close links between Crystal Ventures and the Rwandan military, as well as the deepening economic and military ties between Rwanda and Mozambique over the last three or four years, it makes sense that CV would see vast opportunities in Mozambique.” 

This article first appeared in The Continent, the pan-African weekly newspaper produced in partnership with the Mail & Guardian. It’s designed to be read and shared on WhatsApp. Download your free copy here

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Luis Nhachote, The Continent
Luis Nhachote is an award-winning investigative journalist, editor and researcher, specialising in organised crime and the extractive industries

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