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Mozambique's Insurgency: a Cursed Paradox

Shwetang Desai

We’ve all heard of mind-boggling, perplexing paradoxes such as Fletcher’s paradox that make us question our logic and thinking. Mozambique is a country in Southern Africa along the Indian Ocean that faces a cursed economic paradox: the paradox of plenty. The paradox of plenty is used to describe countries with an abundance of natural resources that display poor economic growth and development. Mozambique’s struggle with insurgency and corruption has brought President Filipe Nyusi and his country face-to-face with the resource curse.

The insurgency started on 5th October 2017, when the port of Mocimboa da Praia was seized by insurgents. Mocimboa da Praia is a strategic port in the resource-rich province of Cape Delgado and large reserves of natural gas in the province placed Mozambique among the largest LNG producers in the world. 

The insurgency has since scaled at a rapid pace, over 1500 people have been killed so far and over 250,000 have been displaced by this conflict. The militant group responsible for the insurgency claims to be the Mozambique affiliate of the Islamic State group, and the group has exploited the poverty of the region to recruit new members. This insurgency combined with poor financial management and corruption has led to a paradox of plenty in the resource-rich Mozambique. Despite projections that Mozambique would become the world’s third-largest natural gas producer, it is now in a downward spiral leading to unserviceable debt and food inflation. 

Time and time again, Mozambicans feel most of the economic burden as the corrupt government robs the citizens of their “gas treasure.” The whereabouts of the billions of dollars that Mozambique borrowed for these corrupt and mismanaged gas projects are still unknown. Analysts speculate that this borrowed money has already been diverted into the private accounts of senior officials in Mozambique. We should consider this irresponsible management of valuable financial resources by Mozambique as theft. The money could have been allocated to economical and infrastructural development in the country.

Environmental groups such as Justiça Ambiental have also raised concerns about this issue. In 2010, a large gas field was discovered in Mozambique, only for prominent government officials and members of the elite to profit by the means of corrupt deals. They forced local farmers and fishers to move out, and many lost their land and boats because of this. Natural gas, a resource that was meant to benefit the citizens and usher a period of economic prosperity instead led to more poverty and instability for the populace. This is known as the resource curse.

Corrupt financial scandals create a continuous cycle of poverty and segregation in Mozambique, pushing many individuals to join the insurgents in a desperate attempt to put food on the table and lift themselves out of poverty. As this cycle continues, the insurgency will grow as the citizens fight back to claim their resources. With conflict, corruption, and financial scandals, the country lacks resources to sustain a continued fight against insurgents. According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, Mozambique’s troops ran out of ammunition during their engagement with the insurgents.

As the insurgents capitalize on local hardships to strengthen their cause, the country falls deeper into the resource course. Mozambique finds itself in a situation with increasing poverty, insurgency, and a populace that feels segregated and despondent. 

Mozambique’s government must adopt a long-term strategy to lift their country out of the resource curse. They must implement proactive economic strategies to avoid financial scandals and promote transparency. The key to ending the insurgency lies in the economics of this situation, and President Filipe Nyusi must find a solution before Mozambique’s paradox of plenty truly becomes perplexing.


*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.


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