MAPUTO, Mozambique (AP) — Extremist rebels in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province have killed a worker for the international charity Doctors Without Borders, shortly after the organization’s former vice president was asked to report on the humanitarian situation in the conflict. hit region.
An Islamist extremist insurgency in Mozambique, which began in October 2017, has been blamed for the deaths of more than 3,000 people and the displacement of around 900,000 people. In March 2021, rebel violence forced French firm TotalEnergies to suspend its $20 billion liquefied natural gas project in the north of the province. TotalEnergies invoked force majeure after rebels attacked the town of Palma, very close to the gas project.
Palma was later recaptured by Mozambican and Rwandan forces, and the government invited TotalEnergies to resume work on the gas project.
Last week TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanne made a lightning visit to Mozambique during which he inspected the gas project site and Palma, as well as the port city of Mocimboa da Praia, once a rebel stronghold. Pouyanne later dined with Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi in the capital of Cabo Delgado province, Pembi before departing the same day.
At the end of the top executive’s visit, TotalEnergies announced the appointment of Jean-Christophe Rufino, a “recognized expert in humanitarian action and human rights”, to undertake an “independent mission to assess the humanitarian situation in the province of Cabo Delgado”. Rufin is the former vice president of the organization Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym, MSF, and the former president of the non-governmental organization Action Against Hunger. Rufin also served as France’s ambassador to Gambia and Senegal, appointed by then-Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, one of MSF’s co-founders.
Rufino’s report is due to be published at the end of February, and TotalEnergies said it would help it and its consortium partners in the gas project “decide whether the conditions are met to continue project activities”.
“The lifting of force majeure and the resumption of activities at the LNG project site in Mozambique require, in particular, the restoration of security in the region, the continuation of public services and the return to normal life for the people of the region,” said Pouyanne.
But while Mozambique’s armed forces and its regional allies have made gains, the rebels are still capable of launching deadly attacks – including on the main north-south road linking the city of Pemba to the Palma gas project.
On 1 February, two vans and a minibus were attacked south of the town of Macomia, killing an estimated seven people, including a nurse, and injuring seven. Vehicles burned on the road, local Zitamar News reported.
Then on February 4, the day after Pouyanne’s visit, another attack hit the same stretch of road. An MSF staff member, on his day off, was fatally injured while traveling by public transport to visit his family in Pemba, MSF said. The man was a driver in Macomija for MSF, which he joined in 2019. He is survived by his wife and five children.
“Today we mourn the loss of a colleague who, like all staff, is fully committed to helping displaced families and often faces significant risks,” said Federica Nogarotto, MSF’s director of mission in Mozambique. “This is a very sad day for us and for our team.”