Mozambique: The Next Theater in the War on Terror?

Mozambique: The Next Theater in the War on Terror?

Escalating violence has claimed the lives of seven Russian mercenaries. It may be only a matter of time before America’s war against ISIS, which began in Iraq, spreads to southeast Africa.

Some Wagner fighters were reportedly beheaded after an ambush killed two Russians in the northern Cabo Delgado state. Earlier, five Russians were killed after ISIS-affiliated militants set up a roadblock and fired on a convoy. Some of these men were also reportedly beheaded as well. Both times, Mozambican security forces accompanied the Wagner mercenaries, but their casualty figures were unavailable.

Moscow denies that it has any troops on the ground in Mozambique.

What is Going on in Mozambique?

This former Portugese colony seems to be an unlikely place for an Islamic insurgency. Mozambique is a predominantly Christian country in Southeast Africa. Both ideologically and geographically, it is a long way from places like Nigeria, Sudan, and the Horn of Africa, where Islamic militants are rather active.

But Mozambique does have a history of instability. Vasco de Gama arrived in what later became Mozambique in 1498. The Portugese overwhelmed the indiginous Bantu people who lived along the Swahili coast, thriving on gold and ivory trading.

The Portugese remained until 1975. Mozambique was one of the last European colonies in Africa to gain its independence. The Portugese did not leave willingly. Rather, a 10-year rebellion eventually wore them down. A government change in Lisbon contributed to the exodus.

Multi-party democracy did not last very long in Mozambique. In 1977, Marxist strongman Samora Machel seized control of the country. With backing from Cuba and the Soviet Union, Machel ushered in one-party rule and cracked down on political opposition. In response, anti-communist guerillas picked up where the 1960s revolutionaries left off. Soon, Machel controlled most of the urban areas and RENAMO (Mozambican National Resistance) controlled the rural areas. Both sides committed atrocities. RENAMO fighters targeted civilians in acts of terror, and Machel sent dissidents to concentration camps.

In 1986, Machel and 33 others died in a plane crash. The Soviets claimed South African intelligence agents sabotaged the aircraft. His successor, Joaquim Chissano, basically did a 180. A new constitution, which guaranteed free markets, political pluralism, and free elections, took effect in 1990. Simultaneously, Chissano began peace negotiations with RENAMO.

Sporadic political violence continued even after the civil war technically ended in 1992. The ongoing ISIS insurgency, however, is a more pressing matter.

Thus far, Ansar al-Sunna, a group with some ISIS connections, has operated only in the country’s north. The movement is essentially anti-everything. Ansar al-Sunna claims that the Islam practiced in Mozambique is not consistent with the Prophet Muhammed’s teachings. The group is also anti-Western and ant-Christian. Observers believe that economic factors, mostly high unemployment, drive al-Sunna, and the movement is not a religious thing.

Moscow and Maputo signed a mutual assistance treaty in January 2017. Soon afterward, roughly 200 Wagner Group mercenaries arrived to bolster government forces and their Tanzanian and Ugandan allies.

Russia’s interests are probably not altruistic. Mozambique, like many other central African nations, has rich deposits of natural resources, such as gold and other precious metals.

Contractors and Anti-Insurgency Campaigns

Mozambique does not just have natural resources. It also has a strategic location close to the Horn of Africa. Should the United States decide to assert itself in this vital area, private military contractors may do most or all of the heavy lifting.

Mozambique still has close ties to Portugal. Most people in Mozambique speak Portugese. Portugal also has close ties to the United States, mostly through NATO. So, Maputo is essentially Washington’s brother-in-law.

Because of the American military presence, albeit a rather small one, contractors who are injured in Mozambique may apply for Defense Base Act compensation. Maputo’s status as a friendly foreign government might be an independent basis for compensation. More on that below.

Contractors are well-suited to deal with insurgency campaigns. Many contractors are former law enforcement officers. These individuals know how to work in a community and gather intelligence. They also know how to fight tenaciously, if the need arises.

Furthermore, contractors know how to help Mozambican Security Forces help themselves. Contractors provide training and logistical support. As a bonus, contractors often have a background that military service academy graduates lack. Contractors can overcome both the language and culture barriers. Contractors are also more able to employ locals as translators or in other capacities.

Finally, contractors know how to keep a low profile. Wagner Group mercenaries often look like Russian soldiers. They use Russian weapons and tactics. Everyone knows why they are there. But American private military contractors blend in. Their role is primarily logistic and defense, so they do not make much of a splash. As a result, many locals would rather deal with American contractors as opposed to violent Russian mercenaries.

Compensation Available

Frequently, overseas contractors provide a family’s primary or only source of income. So, the Defense Base Act compensates injury and illness victims for their lost wages. This compensation usually breaks down as follows:

  • Temporary Total Disability: TTD victims are unable to work until they recover from their injuries and complete physical therapy. So, in most of these cases, the Defense Base Act pays two-thirds of the victim’s average weekly wage for the duration of the disability.
  • Temporary Partial Disability: These victims can work while they recover, but they cannot work at full speed. Instead, they must reduce their hours or transfer to light duty. Therefore, available benefits usually include two-thirds of the difference between the old and new income level.
  • Permanent Total Disability: In severe cases, victims may not be able to work again, or at least not work as contractors again. The DBA usually pays a lump sum based on the nature and extent of disability.
  • Permanent Partial Disability: Basically the same rules apply in PPD cases. Bear in mind that “disability” is not just a medical term. It also has educational, vocational, and other aspects.

To obtain these benefits, as well as medical bill payment, injured victims must simply establish a nexus between their deployment and their injury. If a contractor is in a market when a terrorist bomb explodes, the DBA applies even though the victim was not technically on the clock at the time.

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