Mozambique’s national flag features a kalashnikov rifle; a symbol of the country’s tragic history. After winning independence from Portugal, a disastrous civil war followed, which dragged on for seventeen years. More than a million people died before peace accords were agreed in 1992.
Mozambique has tried to move on from its violent past, but recently insurgents have caused tensions to flare in the north of the country, which is majority Muslim. Some jihadist groups have allied themselves with ISIS and several thousand fighters have spread terror through the region. As a result, more than 3000 people have died, and 800,000 have been displaced.
The Rwandan army, the most battle-seasoned troops on the African continent, were called in to help and in just a few weeks they succeeded in retaking Caliphate strongholds. But the peace is fragile, and poverty, injustice and corruption feed the conflict. Refugees have been stuck in camps for over a year, suffering from severe shortages of the most basic necessities.
Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world. Yet it has an extraordinarily rich heritage, including a World Heritage Site of colonial treasures from the era of Portuguese rule. And another treasure – gas reserves. Huge gas deposits were discovered in the north, but, due to the threat of jihadists, all plans are on hold for the moment, including the interest from French group Total Energy.
Mozambique is also rich in rubies. We gained exclusive access to the biggest ruby mine in the world. Every day hundreds of tons of earth are sifted in search of precious gems. Rubies, gas reserves, pristine beaches… and jihadists. Mozambique is a country torn between its rich natural resources, and the ever-present threat of armed conflict.
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