“What we will not do on Mozambique LNG is remobilize to demobilize,” said Patrick Pouyanne, CEO of TotalEnergies.
Despite recent military successes by local forces – working with counterparts from Rwanda and southern Africa – against Islamist insurgents in Cabo Delgado province, TotalEnergies will not make a hasty decision to revive its stalled $20 billion Mozambique LNG project.
Last year, after Islamist militants attacked Palma and threatened to overrun the nearby LNG construction site at Afungi, the French giant declared force majeure on the project, bringing an under-reported insurgency into the global spotlight.
TotalEnergies’ decision forced President Filipe Nyusi to pull out the stops to tackle the insurgency, with 1000 Rwandan troops hitting the ground in July, quickly recapturing the strategic port of Mocimboa da Praia.
These troops were augmented last month by forces from South Africa, Botswana, Angola, Lesotho and Tanzania – who, like Mozambique, are members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) – which have also had successes against the insurgents.
Patrick Pouyanne, chief executive of TotalEnergies, told analysts on Tuesday that the company wants definitive assurance that the region is stable before sending employees and contractors back to Cabo Delgado because it does not want to have to pull them out again if Afungi comes under threat again.
Commenting on the recent military successes, he said: “There are some positive evolutions on the ground, but it has to be consolidated – there is a war. What we will not do on Mozambique LNG is remobilise to demobilise.”
Pouyanne, who was speaking during his company strategy presentation through to 2026, suggested the first production from Mozambique LNG could start in 2026 if work at Afungi is revived next year.
“If we are not able to remobilise at the beginning of next year, then the project start-up could be delayed to 2027,” he added.
Pouyanne’s comments came on the same day Mozambique’s Finance Minister Adriano Maleiane told an African Development Bank that: “The outlook is good because peace is holding, displaced people are returning to their homes and we are now in the process of creating conditions for them to voluntarily come home.”
Reports, meanwhile, suggested that Rwandan troops are present in Palma after driving insurgents into the bush.
Pouyanne and Maleiane were speaking just days after Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi hosted Rwandan President Paul Kagame in Pemba, Cabo Delgado’s capital, this weekend.
Kagame said during his visit that while these military operations are expensive, but stressed that “allowing a situation to continue the way it was without doing anything about it is even more costly (due to) lives lost, money lost and a whole future lost in terms of development.”
One Mozambique watcher suggested the priority for Maputo is to work with Rwanda, which is on the offensive, with SADC forces backing up the military gains, to create the conditions to ensure TotalEnergies will return to Afungi.