Rwanda eyes the spoils of war

Rwanda eyes the spoils of war

When Rwanda sent its army to help Mozambique battle the insurgency in the north, many wondered what it might be getting in return for its

Photo: Presidency of Rwanda on Twitter / @UrugwiroVillage

When Rwanda sent its army to help Mozambique battle the insurgency in the north, many wondered what it might be getting in return for its largesse

Luis Nhachote in Maputo

NDP, a major civil engineering group in Rwanda owned by the ruling party of President Paul Kagame, is reportedly in the running to win a big contract on Mozambique’s huge liquefied natural gas project in the country’s troubled north. The move has raised questions over what Rwanda, or its politicians, are getting in return for providing military assistance in Mozambique’s insurgency-hit north.

Paris-based news site Africa Intelligence reported at the end of February that NPD had joined Italian, South African, and Portuguese contractors in bidding for the contract on the TotalEnergies-led project – added to the short-list at the last minute, the report said. The work would involve clearing

the site and doing structural work at the project. TotalEnergies did not respond when asked for comment by the The Continent.

In July last year, Rwanda deployed to Mozambique’s north-eastern province of Cabo Delgado a 1,000-strong military and police force, which has since doubled in size. In the face of much speculation that the deployment was being paid for by France or French oil major TotalEnergies, which operates the gas project there, President Kagame said in an interview with state broadcaster RBA that “no one is sponsoring” the military support in Mozambique.

Maputo has since appealed to the European Union for financial support for the continuing deployment, which has been broadly successful in returning Palma and Mocímboa da Praia, the two key districts for the gas project, to government control.

“We’re using our means,” Kagame said in September. “We have decent means, which we are also ready to share with friends and brothers and sisters. So there is no one who sponsored us for this.”

Rwanda’s High Commission in Mozambique told The Continent: “The first step of help is military. Second is development for the Cabo Delgado province, with high interest from Rwandan companies.”

“Rwanda has a track record of benefiting economically from its military interventions,” journalist Michela Wrong told Zitamar. At least part of the answer now seems apparent. NPD is a subsidiary of Crystal Ventures (CV) – which, according to Dr Phil Clark of the School of African and Oriental Studies in London, is the investment arm of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, Kagame’s ruling party.

Clark said there was “an ever- revolving door between senior Rwandan government positions and CV management … it is entirely plausible that CV has tendered for a job on the back of the RDF’s involvement in Mozambique”.

Edson Cortez, director of the Mozambique’s Centre for Public Integrity, said the entry of NDP was a sign that “there are no free lunches.”

“It is understandable that the government of Rwanda had some kind of gains from the investments made in the security of Cabo Delgado,” he told The Continent – “and it may be that the form of payment arranged was this”.

“We regret,” Cortez added, “that local content is again being relegated to the background, because the work that this company will carry out could be carried out by Mozambican companies that will pay taxes in Mozambique, and pay salaries to Mozambicans.”

According to Fidel Terrenciano, an academic and dean of the Arco Iris University based in Pemba, Cabo Delgado, the entry of the NDP company in the gas business in Palma was another step in the increasing rapprochement between Mozambique and Rwanda – but also a sign of the close relationship between Rwanda and TotalEnergies.

“From a reliability point of view, Total trusts Rwanda more, to the detriment of face-to-face negotiations with the Nyusi government,” he said. “More business will be managed by Rwandan companies in the coming years. Let’s keep our eyes open.”

Clark agrees. “With close links between Crystal Ventures and the Rwandan military, as well as the deepening economic and military ties between Rwanda and Mozambique over the last three or four years, it makes sense that CV would see vast opportunities in Mozambique,” he said. ■



How Rwanda is exporting its military- industrial complex

War is expensive. Someone has to pay.

When Rwandan President Paul Kagame visited his troops in Mozambique last year, he admitted that the intervention had been “costly”. Butdespite much speculation to the contrary, he insisted that Rwanda was carrying those costs itself – a remarkable feat for a nation which remains among the 25 poorest countries in the world.

But now things are starting to add up: a Rwandan company with close links to the ruling party is in the running for a slice of Mozambique’s $60-billion gas bonanza, after being added to the bidding list at the very last minute.

A similar dynamic is at play in the Central African Republic, where Rwanda maintains two separate troop deployments: 2,189 security personnel are there under the auspices of the United Nations peacekeeping mission, while another battalion – of undeclared size – has been deployed as part of a bilateral agreement with the Central African government.

According to a recent report in The East African, Rwandan soldiers played a crucial role in protecting Bangui, the capital, from a rebel advance. And they provide security for the country’s president.

In return, Crystal Ventures – the same company that is bidding in Mozambique – has signed a deal to use 70,500 hectares of fertile land. Crystal Ventures is the business arm of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front.

But it is in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo that Rwanda’s links between conflict and profit are most obvious – and most disturbing. In a report last year, the United Nations accused Rwanda of smuggling minerals such as gold and coltan out of the conflict-ridden eastern DRC, and thenexporting them from Rwanda. If true, this would violate international regulations governing “blood minerals”. Coltan is a critical ingredient in cellphone batteries.

Rwanda’s links between conflict and profit are most obvious in the DRC

One American mining group, which pulled out of Rwanda over these concerns, estimated that 90% of all of Rwanda’s coltan exports actually originates in the DRC.

The Rwandan government dismissed these allegations as “baseless and scurrilous” – even as it reported record gold and coltan exports in 2021. ■

This article was original publication at The Continent