"Mozambique Hasn't Prepared for the Implications of Mega-Projects" -Alda Salomão

“Moçambique não se Preparou Para as Implicações dos Mega-projectos” -Alda Salomão

Environmental activist Alda Salomão believes that Mozambique has not organized itself properly for the natural gas mega-projectsThis contributed to the atmosphere of "revolt" that was taken advantage of by violent extremism.

"Why didn't the government previously organize itself to, very rigorously and very cautiously, identify the implications that this [natural gas] project would bring, above all, social implications, and to know better the reality of the project's implantation area?" - questioned, in an interview with Lusa, Alda Salomão, founder and legal advisor of the organization Centro Terra Viva (CTV), a Mozambican civil society organization that operates in the environmental area.

Alda Salomão is one of the best known faces in defense of the rights of communities in the district of Palma, province of Cabo Delgado, northern Mozambique, which hosts large natural gas projects, the largest of which was suspended indefinitely following an armed attack on the town by rebels on March 24.

For this environmental activist, before the start of the natural gas projects the Mozambican state should have invested in the technical-vocational training of young people in Cabo Delgado, because the high level of unemployment in the province may be being used to recruit fighters by the armed groups operating in the region.

Palma's project attracted the attention of young people from all the districts of Cabo Delgado, who looked forward

The young population should have received "small technical skills such as masons, carpenters, and electricians that do not require a great deal of schooling," argued Alda Salomão, a doctor in Human Geography and Spatial Planning at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

While professionalizing courses for young people from Cabo Delgado are taking place, training would be held for more qualified areas in gas and oil, also for Mozambicans, so that the natural gas projects would find the country with cadres in the field, he continued.

"At the very end we started to hear about specialized courses, already integrated into universities, for the oil and gas area, but the boat was already sailing," he added.

Alda Salomão said that many young people in Cabo Delgado province live with "revolt and resentment", because they saw their expectations of being prioritized in the recruitment for jobs generated by the natural gas industry dashed.

"The Palma project attracted the attention of young people from all the districts of Cabo Delgado, who nurtured the expectation that they should be the first to be prioritized in the employment opportunities to be created by the project," he said.

There is also a feeling of anger and resentment among the locals against the 'vientes

Alda Salomão also warned about the existence of a "feeling of xenophobia" in the communities of the districts near the gas projects in relation to foreigners and Mozambicans from other provinces who work in those enterprises.

"There is a feeling, also, of revolt and resentment among the locals against the 'vientes', as they call [the non-natives], because there is always this fear, this fear that we are going there to take the job opportunities, the work opportunities," he stressed.

"The first question that is asked [among young people from Cabo Delgado] is, 'why do we have people from Maputo here. What are you coming from Maputo to do here? We can't do the work that you are doing here? Why haven't you prepared us to do the work that you are coming here to do?", Alda Salomão exemplified.

The founder and legal advisor of CTV, a Mozambican civil society organization, considered the recent creation by the government of the Agência de Desenvolvimento Integrado do Norte (ADIN) late, arguing that the entity should have been launched earlier.

"The problems that ADIN is expected to solve on the north side today should have been taken care of at least 10 years ago. We are already way behind schedule," he stressed.

The creation of the body, he continued, responds to a "corrective" and not "preventive" logic of the social and economic problems of the province of Cabo Delgado and of the entire northern region of the country.

"Now that we already have thousands of dead and thousands of displaced [by the insurgents] is that we are going to revitalize the northern part of Cabo Delgado, creating an agency that itself will take time to structure itself, to organize itself and to create the impacts that we need for yesterday."

Another dimension of the "unpreparedness" of the Mozambican state to deal with the effects of the presence of big capital is defense and security, since the experience in Africa shows that the implementation of mega-projects can attract terrorism, criminality, and social conflicts, when not preceded by the creation of adequate conditions.

"When the existence of large quantities of natural gas reserves was discovered, we should have started to prepare the Defense and Security Forces to face the possibility of this situation [of armed violence], but in a preventive perspective, controlling, in a rigorous way, the territory of Cabo Delgado," he declared.

Alda Salomão expressed "perplexity" for the fact that Mozambique has "chosen not to learn from the examples of other countries," in managing the impacts of the implementation of mega-projects.

He considered it "incorrect" to qualify natural resources as a "curse" to explain the situation in Cabo Delgado, noting that with proper preparation, "resources are a blessing."

The country's weaknesses, he continued, extend to the unpreparedness of state officials to analyze the viability and impact of projects in all their dimensions, especially the social one, a gap that left the evaluation of the benefits and disadvantages of the undertakings at the mercy of the multinationals.

The CTV legal advisor pointed out that she doubts that poverty and unemployment in Cabo Delgado are the root cause of armed violence in the province, pointing to "fundamentalism" as the likely cause and that it has found an endogenous socioeconomic environment to flourish.

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