Mozambique Takes Territory Back From Insurgents

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Mozambique says its armed forces, backed by troops from Rwanda, have recaptured parts of the northeastern province of Cabo Delgado, including the port of Mocimboa da Praia, that were seized by Islamist insurgents last year. The insurgency has played havoc with Mozambique's plans of becoming a major LNG exporter by developing the large deepwater gas reserves discovered in the Rovuma Basin off the coast of the province (IOD Mar.29'21). TotalEnergies was forced to suspend work on its $20 billion Mozambique LNG project earlier this year after a series of bloody attacks near its facilities in the Afungi Peninsula (IOD Apr.29'21). Work will not restart for at least another year, pushing back the project's start-up to 2025. More than 2,600 people have been killed in the insurgency since it erupted in 2017. Eni is also battling to start LNG production next year at its $8 billion Coral South project. All of the LNG will be produced from an offshore facility, shielding the Italian company to some extent from the violence onshore. Exxon Mobil, meanwhile, has delayed a final investment decision on the $23 billion Rovuma LNG project by several years. Mozambique still has plenty of work to do to recapture all the territory lost to the militants and create the right conditions for Total and its partners to return to the region. Speaking on Monday in Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado, President Filipe Nyusi said he was "happy" with the territorial gains, but added that it would be challenging to retain them in the face of "terrorism and violent extremism." After Total's withdrawal from Afungi, Nyusi faced intense pressure to bring in military forces from the West, including the US, to stem the insurgency. Instead, he opted for an African solution, with Rwandan troops taking their positions in Cabo Delgado last month. And this week, additional troops from Botswana, South Africa and other countries arrived in the region under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community. The oil companies that have invested in Mozambique's LNG bonanza are prepared to bide their time and wait for the situation in Cabo Delgado to stabilize. "The gas is there, the project is there, so let's be patient," Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne told analysts in late July. Paul Sampson, London

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