1. UAE Involvement in Cabo Delgado


Since the war in Cabo Delgado began, observers (particularly in the West) have been trying to prove support of the insurgents by ISIS. A direct ISIS link has been difficult to prove, with evidence being tenuous or circumstantial at best. The “smoking gun” points elsewhere. UAE and Abu Dhabi in particular is a major stakeholder in the Cabo Delgado conflict, for political, religious, economic, and military reasons – a stakeholder which has been overlooked so far in the relevant analytical studies on Cabo Delgado.

During in the first years of Armando Emilio Guebuza’s first mandate (2010 -2014) UAE became the main investor in Mozambique. It has remained on the top of all bilateral Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in 2017. UAE is among the largest oil producers and exporters in the Middle East. Its main areas of interest in Mozambique are the energy (gas), logistics (ports), commerce (merchandise, retail), agriculture, and real estate sectors (housing, tourism). UAE is particularly interested in Mozambique’s agricultural sector to contribute to sustained food production and imports into the UAE. End of 2017 trade between UAE and Mozambique stood at around 500 million US$ annually, The UAE has invested US$3.3 billion in 52 projects. Of this amount, US$1.3 billion was direct investment. Thirty-three UAE companies were in operation in Mozambique, at the time, against seven Mozambican companies operating in UAE1.

Beyond trade, UAE is also a regional actor with growing military might in the defence and security industry. Their regional and foreign policy is defined by three momentums: Unconditional support to the US anti Iran political and military policies (even at the cost of conflict with their neighbour Qatar), the spread of Wahhabi Muslim doctrine and the fight against Sufi forms of Islam considered aberrations from the true belief. Thus UAE is seen to be playing a missionary role: many of their activities are influenced by a specific form of Islam. Gulf charities targeted sub-Saharan Africa’s many Sufi orders to -re-educate them according to their Salafist Islamic doctrines (Todman, 2018: 3).

It has been observed, that ‘UAE’s foreign policy is assertive and patronage-based, and it provides direct financial aid or budgetary support to the leaders of African states in the expectation that it will be reciprocated with personal loyalty and preferential treatment for UAE companies and investors (de Waal, 2018). ‘Militarization is preferred to democratization’, and ‘military victory is regarded as a legitimate political objective’ as the case of Yemen demonstrates: ‘There is no Arab peacekeeping’ (de Waal, 2018).

For this type of regional power projection the UAE and particularly Abu Dhabi has developed a strong defence technological and industrial base (DTIB). With over 80 companies registered, the UAE has the highest concentration of companies in the shipbuilding, aviation, unmanned systems, and land systems segments in the GCC. Most of these 80 firms are subsidiaries stemming from a variety of state-owned investment funds (Gaub &Lockman, 2017: 3).

A key industry in this regard is the Abu Dhabi based company Privinvest, which is part of Abu Dhabi Mar, a company owned by Iskandar Safa, a French citizen of Lebanese origin. Privinvest is the core piece of his business conglomerate, dedicated to naval security and shipbuilding. The company claims to be a ‘world leader in naval ship building’2. It represents a private enterprise embedded in the State owned enterprise (SOE) structure of the UAE DTIB conglomerate with its two pillars Tawazun Economic Council and Mubadala Development (Gaub and Lockman, 2017: 50f). Privinvest, one of the subsidiaries of Abu Dhabi Mar, is intrinsically linked to Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, who is a shareholder of this company3, and a mandatory institution for all armament contracts. Safa’s private conglomerate owns shipyards in France, Greece and Germany, among others, and has cooperating agreement regarding military technologies, munition production, surveillance systems and other military hard and software with companies in Austria , Finland, Germany, Italy, South Africa the US (Gaub and Lockman, 2017). The UAE both have the foreign exchange reserves and the political will to invest in broadening and diversifying their armaments industry. This means, in a regional context, ‘preparing capabilities for actual conflict rather than theoretical readiness’ (Gaub and Lockman, 2017: 70). In recent years, military – technological cooperation between Abu Dhabi and South Africa’s arms manufacturer Denel has picked up. The former rear admiral of the South African navy, Jonathan Kamerman, with its links to naval shipbuilding in Germany, is considered one of Iskandar Safa’s business contacts (Insiders, 2013). On the occasion of a state visit of Cyril Ramaphosa to Abu Dhabi in 2018, the leaders of both countries agreed on being ‘partners in achieving peace and stability in their regions’4. They are committed to boost bilateral cooperation in trade, investment, defence, and security.

Mozambique and Cabo Delgado match the profile of Abu Dhabi’s strategic foreign policy orientation. The ‘Swahili coast’ on the western Indian Ocean running from Kenya in the North to Mozambique in the South with its practise of Islam historically stemming from Persia provides fertile grounds to meet Abu Dhabi’s regional policy objectives of minimizing Iran’s regional influence. And the strong Sufi traditions along this coast may provide targets for its patriarchal efforts of ‘re-educating’ Sufi Muslims along the line of Salafist Islam.

The expected economic boom associated with the enormous gas reserves and the investment in LNG in Cabo Delgado, and associated industries and infrastructure, ports, shipping, housing etc. corresponds to an investment priority area of Abu Dhabi where it can bring its technical competence, petro Dollars and DITB capacities to bear. And the agricultural potential of Northern Mozambique holds promises to contribute to increased food security in UAE. Militarily securing the gas installations, port infrastructure, and maritime transport matches Abu Dhabi’s interests as a growing reginal military power with a diversified DTIB.

A South African former intelligence officer facilitated Privinvest’s Jean Boustani access to members of the Mozambican political elite in 2011. As the well-documented evidence5 of the New York court case US vs Privinvest’s Boustani and others shows, Privinvest bribed its way into the inner circle of the Guebuza government. It aimed to gain contracts for supplying boats, radar etc., surveillance hard and software, as well as port management and ship repair facilities in favour of three private companies (EMATUM, Proindicus, MAM) hidden under the national State Security Services (SISE) from public scrutiny . Privinvest also provided the necessary credits of 2.2 billion to finance these projects which are associated with the Special Economic Zone (ZEE) in Cabo Delgado, including the port of Pemba. This amount includes up to 150 Million USD paid, via Abu Dhabi Mar subsidiaries, in ‘facilitation fees’, too, among others, the then President’s oldest son and friends of his family, the government6, SISE, the Frelimo Party, intermediaries, as well as to a team of three bankers of the London branch of Credit Suisse. These were rewarded for facilitating parts of the credit without all the necessary due diligence procedures. This highly secretive scheme implemented between 2011 and 2014, commonly known in Mozambique as occult or odious debts violated major legislation and bypassed parliament. Its hiding from public accounts and scrutiny triggered the halt of IMF support to Mozambique and of donor support to the government budget, plunging the state into a major economic and fiscal crisis, with features of state failure.

In two meeting between the Privinvest representative and the then Mozambican head of state in January 2013 the latter asked, according to Boustani, for priority support for the army and SISE, since the president considered security as paramount for the country. Support for increased FDI from UAE and productive businesses were also on the president’s wish list, together with support for the party which he chaired at the time7. The partnership with Abu Dhabi based businesses including Privinvest continues until today according to Boustani’s testimony to the New York court. This almost personal link certainly adds value to Abu Dhabi’s strategic interest in Mozambique.

Particularly relevant to the war in Cabo Delgado is the appearance of Eric Prince on the scene. The former owner of the Blackwater private security and military contractor (PSMC) notorious for its human rights abuses in Iraq is now CEO of Hong Kong-based security company, Frontier Services Group (FSG). Its PSMC outlet in Mozambique is known as Lancaster 6 Group (L6G), which has allegedly been involved in providing the government refurbished Alouette Gazelle 341 combat helicopters to fight insurgents in Cabo Delgado in August 2019.

Erik Prince, a former Navy Seal and self-declared supporter of the present US president Trump, has been befriended with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi since 2009, for whom he provided security services and facilitated access to military technology. At some stage, Prince took residence in Abu Dhabi where he worked for a company named Assurance Management Consultancy, a subsidiary of Reflex Responses (R2). It put together a 800-member battalion of foreign troops with the purpose to train the force to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolt (Isenberg, 2017).

Prince has therefore been considered the ‘ prime contractor for the establishment and radical up-scaling of the UAE military forces’, according to Isenberg, a U.S. Navy veteran and analyst of US middle East policies8. Shaik bin Zayed has been holding Eric prince in high esteem.

In December 2017 Prince declared in a press conference in Maputo9 , that his company, Frontier Services Group will enter into a joint venture with EMATUM, one of the companies set up by Privinvest which had supplied a fleet of 24 fishing boats built at the company’s shipyard Constructions Mécanique de Normandie (CMN) in Cherbourg, France. The company, which never made any profit and whose boats are not fully equipped for tuna fishing, will be renamed TUNAMAR. Prince also mentioned at the possibility of TUNAMAR to contribute to better surveillance of Mozambique’s fishery resources beyond its main task of making tuna fishing a viable business. And he hinted at the possibility to get involved in protecting Mozambique’s oil and gas assets at a later stage. Since then little has transpired regarding the TUNAMAR activities, its capital endowment, viability, and profitability.


What are the conclusions to be drawn and questions that arise?


Firstly, Abu Dhabi as part of the UAE is a strategic stakeholder in Cabo Delgado, given its regional policy agenda, its strategic interests in gas, ports, and maritime security, its DITB coupled with its military capabilities, and above all, its financial muscle. Secondly , particularly regarding its proven alliance with Eric Prince’s PSC, UAE and Abu Dhabi show an inclination to military solutions of strategic ‘problems’, which is echoed by the Mozambican FDS. Thirdly, is the major investment by Privinvest in maritime security in Mozambique written off or does it have a life of its own, matching the strategic interests of both the Abu Dhabi government and at least the Guebuza fraction in Frelimo, which has benefitted materially from this investment? Fourthly , is the Guebuza faction surrendering its strategic interests in Cabo Delgado to the present Nyusi government , which is seen to reap fruits of trees planted by its predecessor, or is it fighting back , politically, strategically and militarily ,to re affirm its claims to the expected benefits of the economic boom in Cabo Delgado? And if yes, can the deployment of Somali recruited type of militia under the command Prince’s PSC be excluded in the Cabo Delgado case, a force, which, under the guise of terrorist activities serves to strategically control parts of the territory, resources and infrastructure?


1 https://clubofmozambique.com/news/united-arab-emirates-announces-mozambique-investments/

2 https://www.privinvest.com/privinvest/

3 Testimony of Privinvest senior manager jean Boustani to the United States District Court Eastern District of New York in the case of the United states of America (plaintiff) against Jean Boustani (defendant), cited by CIP, Maputo , 19/11/2019. Boustani, a Lebanese national employed by Prinvest Holding Company Abu Dhabi Mar is accused by the US court of conspiracy to commit economic fraud and wire transfer, bribery and money laundering.

4 https://gulfnews.com/uae/government/uae-south-africa-models-for-development-say-mohammad-and-ramaphosa-1.2250958

5 See the regular reporting by CIP and Carta de Moçambique on the case.

6 The then finance minister Manuel Chang, who signed off the deal, is in custody in South Africa, waiting for a final extradition decision by the South African government either to face the court in the US , as per extradition request issued by the US authorities, or in Mozambique, as requested by the Mozambican government. Also the present president, then minister of Defence in the Guebuza government is said to have received 1 million USD as ‘facilitation fee. See CIP documentation

7 https://clubofmozambique.com/news/boustani-tells-court-what-former-president-armando-guebuza-asked-of-privinvest-147468/?utm_source=The+Mozambican+Investor_&utm_campaign=bb2a27eb69-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_05_25_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d3b369a42d-bb2a27eb69-237799545

8 https://davemarash.com/2018/08/22/david-isenberg-military-analyst-author-shadow-force-private-security-contractors-in-iraq-saudis-and-emeratis-are-bombing-yemen-from-the-air-but-whos-fighting-on-the-ground/

9 https://clubofmozambique.com/news/watch-us-businessman-may-invest-in-ematum-aim-report/



2. Newly Displaced From Ancuabe Arrive in Nampula


On 18 August 2022 DHPI, with Caritas Nampula, visited the newly arrived IDP’s at Namiconha – a settlement approximately 20 km from Nampula, remote and inaccessible with no infrastructure whatsoever. They were displaced from Mocimboa da Praia to Ancuabe in 2020. Ancuabe was considered to be safe and they were given land there. Ancuabe was subsequently attacked in June this year, and the IDP’s were subsequently displaced a second time. They are currently living in the bush in grass shelters, with no means of survival. According to official statistics, there are already more than 2 000. Their main request was for a tractor to clear the bush, so that they could cultivate their land, and for seeds to plant. There is no school anywhere in the vicinity for the children to attend, and no medical services of any kind. See more pictures below.

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