Can Contractors Break the Stalemate in Mozambique?

Can Contractors Break the Stalemate in Mozambique?

An Islamic insurgency, which began in 2017, continues to threaten development of one of the world’s largest deposits of natural gas.

Ansar al-Sunna (supporters of the tradition), locally known as al-Shabaab (the kids), claims its brand of Islam will end government corruption and empower the masses. “We occupy [the towns] to show that the government of the day is unfair,” a militant remarked in a 2020 video. “It humiliates the poor and gives the profit to the bosses.” Furthermore, al-Sunna has connected with marginalized ethnic groups who feel that Exxon and other foreign corporations are unfairly dominating the government and exploiting Mozambique’s natural resources.

Americans may soon be involved in this fight. In 2021, a dozen Green Berets arrived to train Mozambican Security Forces. The Pentagon foresees an expanded military role in the troubled nation.

Situation in Mozambique

This former Portuguese colony gained its independence in 1975. President Samora Machel quickly established one-party Marxist rule. This move almost immediately led to a protracted civil war. By 1986, almost a million people, mostly civilians, had died.

That year, an airplane carrying President Machel and about thirty other government officials crashed in the remote Lebombo Mountains. United Nations investigators said the crash was accidental. The Soviet Union claimed the South Africans used a false navigational beacon to lead the plane off course.

Largely to stop the civil war’s bloodshed, Joaquim Chissano, Machel’s successor, radically reformed the government. A 1990 constitution included provisions for a market economy, multi-party political system, and free elections. The civil war ended in 1992.

For the rest of the 1990s, Mozambique was on the right track. The country held two relatively uncontroversial presidential elections, Mozambique joined the UK-led Commonwealth of Nations, and millions of war refugees returned home. Then, the bottom fell out. A powerful cyclone drenched the country with heavy rains for over a month. The country simply could not handle a disaster of this magnitude. Dissatisfaction with the government grew, and the aforementioned Islamic insurgency began in 2017.

At first, Ansar al-Sunna concentrated on rural areas in a remote northern province. President Filipe Nyusi said the militants were only bandits and the Mozambican security forces could control the situation. But morale is very poor among underpaid soldiers in the Forças de Defesa e Segurança. 

In 2019, the government turned to the Wagner Group. But their superior Russian military equipment and training did not translate to success in Cabo Delgado. So, in 2020, the government contracted with Dyck Advisory Group, a South African paramilitary organization. At first, it looked like DAG had al-Sunna on the run. But during 2021, these militants stepped up their attacks. Assaults on Palma in March and Niassa in December killed dozens of people and forced almost 40,000 others to flee. As a result, some observers say DAG simply needs more time. Others claim the plan needs revising.

Contractors in Mozambique

Private military contractors are an attractive option for nations like Mozambique. Contractors are flexible, relatively inexpensive, and usually effective.

The government cannot quickly send troops to confront a crisis. That is especially true if that crisis is an insurgency. Instead, they must train for several months. Once they are ready to deploy, they might or might not be needed. Furthermore, once they deploy, many government soldiers are essentially police officers, so they are not too happy.

Contractors are different in both respects. One phone call places fully-trained and ready contractors in the field. Many contractors are former law enforcement officers. So, they know the value of non-violent deterrence. And, they know how to develop relationships in the community and obtain vital intelligence.

The “contractors are cheaper” argument seems like nonsense. Contractors often earn three times what regular servicemembers earn. And, contractors often have fewer responsibilities than the servicemembers they fight beside. American law prohibits contractors from engaging in offensive operations.

Contractors may be more expensive on the front end. But they are much less expensive on the back end. Injured servicemembers are usually entitled to lifelong benefits. Injured contractors usually get nothing. That is, non-American injured contractors usually get nothing. The Defense Base Act changes things dramatically. More on that below.

Finally on this point, contractors are not only fully trained. They are also fully equipped. The government does not need to arm contractors. They show up ready to work. Furthermore, this armament usually includes the latest weapons. Air power, which contractors usually possess, is particularly important. Militants can shield themselves from ground attacks. But they are incredibly vulnerable to drone, helicopter, and other air attacks. 

Injury Compensation Available

Injured American contractors are not entitled to VA disability and other benefits. But they are entitled to insurance company-funded DBA benefits. These benefits include lost wage replacement, as follows:

  • Temporary Total Disability: Most overseas military contractor injuries are TTD injuries. These victims cannot work as they recover from their serious injuries. That time off work could be financially devastating for families who already struggle to make ends meet. So, the DBA usually pays two-thirds of the victim’s wages for the duration of their temporary disabilities.
  • Temporary Partial Disability: Some injured victims are able to work as they recover. However, they must reduce their hours or accept lower-paying light duty assignments. These jobs reduce the financial stress families feel. But they do not eliminate it. So the DBA usually pays two-thirds of the difference between the old and new incomes.
  • Permanent Total Disability: “Disabled” does not mean “bedridden.” Instead, “disabled” basically means unable to work because of an illness or injury. So, the D-word has more than medical implications. It also has vocational, educational, economic, and other aspects. The Defense Base Act usually compensates these victims for their future lost wages. The amount usually depends on the aforementioned factors.
  • Permanent Partial Disability: PPD procedure is a lot like PTD procedure. Frequently, PPD injuries are TTD injuries which never fully heal. For example, if Rachel breaks her knee, she might never recover full range of motion in that joint. Usually, the DBA fills in part of the gap between what these victims would have earned without their injuries and their current earning capacity.

All these payments are based on the victim’s current Average Weekly Wage. The AWW usually includes the last 12 months of wages. But there could be some complications. For example, many people change jobs frequently. There is a big difference in salary between a truck driver in Baghdad and a truck driver in Boston.

Furthermore, the AWW is forward-looking. This calculation must include things like anticipated pay increases and missed overtime opportunities.

Contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A. to learn more about DBA procedure.