Macron seeks Zimbabwe’s assistance to protect investments in Mozambique?

French President Emmanuel Macron has reportedly asked the Mozambican government to seek Zimbabwe's military assistance in fighting a jihadist insurgency…

French President Emmanuel Macron has reportedly asked the Mozambican government to seek Zimbabwe’s military assistance in fighting a jihadist insurgency in northern Mozambique, according to media reports monitored here on Friday.The Zimbabwe Independent reported on Friday that the military assistance was one of the issues discussed during a visit to Harare by Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi on June 6.

Quoting sources, the weekly said Nyusi’s visit to Harare was at the behest of Macron who is concerned about the safety of French investments in Mozambique’s troubled Cabo Delgado province where French oil and gas giant Total is pursuing a US$20-billion liquefied natural gas project.

The newspaper’s sources said the French government had initially asked Nyusi to seek troops from Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

Nyusi met Kagame in the Rwandan capital Kigali on April 28 to request military assistance and the latter is said to have positively responded to the request.

According to the newspaper, Kagame dispatched his military commanders to assess the situation in Cabo Delgado, before the two presidents flew to Paris where they met Macron on May 17. 

However, a Zimbabwe government source quoted by the newspaper said the Rwanda military intervention met some resistance after the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Double Troika meeting on May 27 diametrically opposed the idea.

It is alleged that SADC contended that the matter was still within the region’s confines “and an outside state cannot intervene militarily unless the bloc escalates it to the African Union”.

“It is this hurdle which has resulted in the French asking President Nyusi to approach Zimbabwe. Remember Mozambique has always preferred a bilateral arrangement with Zimbabwe, as opposed to a collective regional effort,” the source said.

According to the source, France is dangling an offer of both technical and financial support to Zimbabwe should President Emmerson Mnangagwa agree to deploy soldiers to save Total’s investment in Mozambique.

In addition, the source said Paris is also trying to entice Harare with a promise to help lobby for the removal of sanctions in the European Union (EU) where it is an influential member, and among its allies in the powerful North Atlantic Treaty Organisation such as the United States, Britain and Canada.

The EU has since 2002 maintained a raft of targeted economic sanctions against certain Zimbabwean individuals and corporations over what it claims are human rights abuses by the Harare authorities.

Mnangagwa is believed to have asked for time to assess the request and to “consult widely” before making any commitment.

There are about 500 Mozambican military personnel protecting gas companies and their operations in northern Mozambique, but foreign firms have asked for at least 3 000 more soldiers.

Fighters from an Islamic State-affiliated extremist group have escalated violent attacks in the country, resulting in killings, mainly in the resource-rich region.

The jihadists are said to be fighting for equitable distribution of oil and gas extraction proceeds. 

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