Russian Military Personnel in Mozambique: Bringing Another African Nation Closer to Moscow

Russian Military Personnel in Mozambique: Bringing Another African Nation Closer to Moscow

Written on 09/30/2019
by Warsaw Institute


According to unofficial reports that have been on since mid-September, Russian military personnel has been deployed to a few of Mozambique's naval ports, a step that might have been taken in the wake of a batch of deals inked by Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi during his August visit to Moscow. Mozambique is yet another African country where Russia has been looking to push forward its economic and military presence.

The general elections will be held in Mozambique on October 15, with the ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) party and the incumbent leader Filipe Nyusi having an appetite for keeping themselves in power. The recent time has seen them tightening cooperation with Russia. During the official visit of the President of Mozambique to Moscow on August 22, Nyusi and Putin signed bilateral energy and security agreements to bolster Moscow's military and economy commitments in Mozambique. The two countries have historic ties stretching back to the Soviet times when the Soviet Union supported FRELIMO fighters in their war of independence. Moscow has been looking for FRELIMO to win because its primary political opponent RENAMO remains somewhat skeptical of partnership with Russia.

In August, in the Kremlin, President Nyusi announced that Moscow had agreed to forgive 95 percent of its debt and that Russia would work to increase investment in the East African country. Under the signed documents, Rosneft will be granted the right to study available geological data to examine the potential of a number of Mozambique's onshore and offshore blocks, with the opportunity to enter projects on those blocks in the future. But while in the Kremlin, both leaders agreed on deepening their countries' cooperation in the domain of security. In mid-September, reports emerged of Russian military equipment and personnel arriving in Mozambique despite the Russian Embassy denying any Russian military presence. The Mozambican government signed a resolution allowing Russian military vessels to dock at its ports. Unofficial reports say that Russian troops are present at Nacala Port, Nampula Province and in Mueda and Palma, Cabo Delgado Province. Palma is one of the areas most affected by the Ansar al-Sunna insurgency. In addition to that, it houses a critical LNG production facility. 

The Russia-Mozambique security agreements pave the way for the Russian military to train and advise their Mozambican peers. The Kremlin is pushing for inking similar deals with other African nations. In addition to armaments deal, Russia is investing in the economy of other African countries, mainly through extracting minerals, or is tightening security cooperation. The Russia-Africa summit is scheduled to take place in the resort town of Sochi in October 2019.