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Mozambique Gas Bonanza in Limbo as Islamist Insurgency Simmers

Mozambique Gas Bonanza in Limbo as Islamist Insurgency Simmers

Southern African nations are considering extending the deployment of troops fighting an Islamic State-linked insurgency in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province that prompted TotalEnergy to stall a $20 billion natural gas project.

Ministers from the 16-member Southern African Development Community will meet in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria, on Sunday to discuss the bloc’s mission, which is due to expire on April 14. Heads of state were supposed to decide Monday whether to extend it, but their talks were postponed and have yet to be rescheduled. SADC first dispatched soldiers in July to help restore peace, joining troops sent by Rwanda, which isn’t a member.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi asked SADC and Rwanda for military help after a March 2021 raid on Palma, the town closest to the TotalEnergies site, that left dozens of people dead. The attack prompted the company to withdraw staff and declare force majeure on its project, which is one of Africa’s biggest private investments and has the potential to transform the economy of the word’s third-poorest nation. 

It will only restart once there is lasting peace and displaced people return home, Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanne said in February.

Delays in bringing the project online could threaten its feasibility, with Oxford Economics Africa analyst Zaynab Mohamed warning it’s unlikely to be able to help fill a gas void in Europe in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A spike in oil and gas prices because of the war may also accelerate Europe’s transition toward renewable energy.  

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