An overview of foreign security involvement in Mozambique


A number of private security companies, foreign governments and militaries have become involved in Mozambique in its fight against the insurgency in Cabo Delgado, but the Mozambican government has so far largely limited external involvement. Nevertheless, there are a number of companies and countries providing security and security assistance to Mozambique.

Private military contractors

Russian security company Wagner Group, which has close ties to Moscow, was hired by the Mozambican government to address the insurgency in Cabo Delgado alongside government forces, but the group struggled to make progress. The estimated 200 Wagner personnel left Mozambique in November 2019, after suffering heavy casualties. Reporting suggests that the group were unable to operate in northern Mozambique’s bush environment, and their relationship with the Mozambican armed forces broke down after botched operations and a friendly fire incident.

They were since replaced by the Dyck Advisory Group [DAG], a “private military company providing aerial support to Mozambique’s armed forces”. DAG’s three month contract with the Mozambican police was extended in July 2020, and was reported to have ended on 6 April 2021. The most recent contract expanded their operation, which began on a shoestring of 30 men, to provide training and aerial support. The company is led by ex-Rhodesian colonel, Lionel Dyck and registered in South Africa.

Dyck has previous experience and connections in Mozambique. After Zimbabwean independence, Dyck remained in the new joint military, and became a commander of forces fighting Renamo, earning him high level contacts both in Frelimo, and with now Zimbabwean premier and previously Minister of State Security, Emerson Mnangagwa. After the civil war ended, he worked on demining and anti-poaching operations in Mozambique and was brought into to fight the insurgency in Cabo Delgado by police Chief Bernardino Rafael.

The company has been accused by Friends of the Earth of causing civilian casualties during the battle to retake Macomia from insurgents. The report by Friends of the Earth also stated that the helicopters used were French licensed.

According to Africa Intelligence, at the end of September 2020, Erik Prince’ company Frontier Services Group (FSG) terminated his joint venture with Mozambique’s national oil company Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos (ENH). Beyond the joint venture with ENH, FSG also registered two other companies according to Bloomberg: Blue-Fin Lda and FSG Mozambique Segurança Lda. The latter, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, was established in July 2019, and is majority owned by Lucílio Matsinha — the son of a former minister of security. FSG Segurança is believed to have taken possession of the fleet of maritime patrol vessels that were at the centre of inflated construction contracts funded by international loans that precipitated Mozambique’s 2017 sovereign default. FSG Mozambique was hiring in March/April 2020 so it appears they are still active.

Paramount was hired by the Mozambican government to strengthen the capacity of the security services. The company delivered at least five Marauder armoured vehicles to Cabo Delgado and has provided military helicopters and pilot training.

Security companies

Total may have contracts with several security companies to protect its multi-billion dollar oil and gas projects in Mozambique. One of these is Arkhe, a local subsidiary of South African company Omega which is domiciled in Mauritius. Arkhe also provides security across Mozambique to embassies and was employed at the Gemfields mine at a time when serious allegations were made about human rights abuses against civilians there. Total has repeatedly stated that its security contractors are unarmed.

There has been quite a tussle for security contracts in Mozambique over the last eighteen months, along with mergers and acquisitions by major players. In May 2019, it was reported that after a failed attempt to acquire Arkhe, Gardaworld was instead trying to acquire the African portfolio of G4S making itself the leading private security contractor in Mozambique with 12 000 employees. Reporting suggests the takeover was rebuffed by G4S who called it “unattractive and opportunistic”.

Blue Mountain Group is a small Welsh company. According to the company’s 2020 accounts, it had on average three employees across the financial year — presumably the company recruits local staff on contracts or retainers.

The company was guarding the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya, when it was attacked in 2012 and was largely unknown to those familiar with US security contracting prior to this. Sources in a Reuters story on this issue suggest that Blue Mountain was given the contract as it was “the path of least resistance” because it was already working in Libya. In this instance, local employees with little to no security experience describe being hired after a casual recruiting process and minimal training and being equipped with torches and batons rather than firearms. The company was registered in the UK in 1999 and was previously known as Pilgrim Elite Limited.

Arkhe is a South African company, owned by Omega Risk Solutions and registered in Mauritius. Phillip Heymans runs their work in Cabo Delgado and has been there for eight years, so was presumably responsible for overseeing the security at the Gemfields mine. Gemfields settled out of court in January 2019 after UK law firm Leigh Day took a case in the UK courts in April 2018 against the company on behalf of 273 Mozambicans who allege that they were the victims of serious human rights abuses at a ruby mine in Northern Mozambique. Arkhe provided security for the mine in question although we have no evidence of their involvement in any violations. Phillip Heymans CV is incomplete, but it does mention that he worked on a diamond concession in north eastern Angola during the civil war.

G4S is the biggest employer in Mozambique outside the public sector according to the company’s website. Mel Brooks is the regional CEO. He’s been with G4S since 2012, and previously worked for defence contractor QuinetiQ. There’s little information available about their operations in Cabo Delgado.

Gardaworld are a Canadian company, majority owned by private equity company BC Partners. Their operations in Mozambique are run by Michael Gibson, who is ex-British military and previously spent six years in Angola running projects for Aegis Defense Services.

Foreign governments and militaries

So far, Mozambique’s President Nyusi has limited his requests for foreign assistance to logistical support and training.

The United States has stated that it is engaged in patrolling around Cabo Delgado, linking the insurgency to transnational drug trafficking. In July, deputy assistant Secretary of State Heather Merritt made the following statement in a briefing:

“There’s a lot of overlap between the drug traffickers and extremists and the types of conditions that enable them to thrive, and sadly, those conditions are present in Mozambique. So in Mozambique, my part of the State Department, INL [International Narcotics and Law Enforcement], is working closely with the US DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration], and together we’re supporting some of the Mozambiquan government’s counter narcotics efforts. We’re also working through the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, to do some capacity building for the Mozambiquans, the capacity of civilian maritime law enforcement agencies to help them disrupt some of the transnational organized crime at sea through more effective patrolling, and we’re working as well on some of the justice system, the judicial system, to pursue legal due process in maritime cases and trying to increase regional cooperation.”

From mid-March 2021, US Special Operations Forces began a two-month long training programme for Mozambican marines. The Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) programme launched on 15 March will see Mozambican marines benefit from the experience and knowledge of US Special Forces to up their skill levels in support of efforts by South Africa’s eastern neighbour to prevent the spread of terrorism and violent extremism, the US Embassy said.

France is considering a possible maritime cooperation agreement with Mozambique at the request of defence minister Jaime Neto, and the French Armed Forces in the Indian Ocean (FAZSOI) have conducted training with the Mozambique authorities. This discussion was expected to move forward at the Paris Peace Forum due to be held in November. France holds territory in the region — the island of Mayotte between Mozambique and Madagascar — which may act as a driver of greater regional security collaboration, along with the Total LNG project.

The European Union confirmed in October 2020 that they would support Mozambique to re-establish security in Cabo Delgado. The EU will provide training, logistics and medical services to support the Mozambique military, but the EU ambassador to the country, Antonio Sanchez- Benedito Gaspar said explicitly that bringing in EU forces was not on the agenda. The move to offer support was pushed by Portugal, with Portugal’s foreign minister identifying a “terrorist and jihadist insurgency. However, a resolution passed in September also identified corruption and exclusion as major causes of the crisis, saying that reforms should be put in place to provide jobs for people, especially the young, in Cabo Delgado.

In March, Portugal announced it would send 60 soldiers to Mozambique. Portugal has in the past provided security assistance (including equipment such as FTB-337 aircraft) to Mozambique.

South Africa has repeatedly offered assistance to Mozambique but its involvement has so far been largely limited to repatriating South Africans from Palma, and conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Mozambique Channel. In February, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor said South Africa had offered to assist Mozambique fight the insurgency but the Mozambicans have not been very forthcoming. “And we said, we are ready to [assist], but we must know, [play] a key role in what?” she said, repeating an earlier complaint that the Mozambican government had not yet indicated concretely what it needed.

The EU actors will have to coordinate with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), from which Nyusi has already requested assistance. So far, Mozambique has only requested military supplies from SADC and no specific role for SADC has been agreed. This role will be discussed at an extraordinary SADC forum this week.

The UK signed an MoU with Mozambique in May 2019, committing to tackling the insurgency in Cabo Delgado through defence cooperation and “tackling the underlying issues”.