Combating the Mozambique insurgency: maritime aspects

The French Navy patrol vessel Champlain (Photo: French Navy)

Conflicts within nations that have a coastline almost invariably acquire a maritime aspect. The Islamic insurgency in Mozambique is no exception.

Recent weeks have seen a number of African states, namely, Angola, Botswana, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Lesotho, send military forces to assist Mozambique in its struggle against the insurgents.

Instability in Mozambique poses a threat to vessels in the Mozambique Channel, a sea area already prone to maritime crime, and through which about 30 per cent of the world’s seaborne trade passes.

South Africa and Rwanda have both sent maritime units to assist the Mozambique Navy in deterring attacks on merchant vessels, and disrupting the supply of arms to insurgents.

Mozambique has, what is on the face of it, a fairly well-equipped coastal and middle water naval force, but funding and maintenance problems mean it is virtually moribund. Pretoria has confirmed that the offshore patrol vessel (former missile-armed strike craft) Makhanda has been deployed, while some regional sources suggest that a second as-yet unidentified South African vessel is also operating off the country’s coast.

Local media reports, meanwhile, have given a rare glimpse of the usually-landlocked Rwanda Defence Force Special Forces’ fast combat craft, which are currently active in Mozambique’s waters. Rwanda’s military forces are among Africa’s most efficient, and these craft reportedly played a lead role in the recent defeat of insurgents who had occupied the port of Cabo Delgado.

Some analysts assess that these craft, which are fitted with Chinese-made heavy machine guns, are based on a Fabio Buzzi design.

Furthermore, the French Navy’s multi-mission ship Champlain (pictured) based at the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion has reportedly been patrolling offshore, as Paris, which has extensive energy interests in the region, lobbies for other European navies to become involved.

Trevor Hollingsbee

Maritime security expert and columnist, Trevor Hollingsbee was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Senior Superintendent with the Hong Kong Marine Police, Assistant Secretary for Security in the British Hong Kong Government Security Branch, and Intelligence Analyst in the UK Ministry of Defence. As an independent defence and security analyst he has had some 1,500 articles on maritime security, and geopolitical topics, published in a range of international journals and newspapers. He is an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute, and a past Vice-Chairman of the Institute’s Hong Kong branch.