Land Rights and Justice in Neoliberal Mozambique: The case of the Afungi community resettlement programme

Open lecture with Dr Kate Symons, Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh on how justice in the face of large-scale industrial and extractive development is being framed in Mozambique.

Discussant: Lars Buur, Roskilde University

In the wake of the discovery of the world’s second and third largest offshore natural gas deposits in Rovuma Basin off of the coast of Cabo Delgado Province in Northern Mozambique in 2010, US oil and gas company Anadarko has been granted permission by the Mozambican state to build a 4,371 hectare gas processing plant on the Afungi Peninsula. The proposed plant, which would the largest such facility in Africa, will displace 566 households - around 1,500 people - from their homes, and a further 952 households from agricultural land. For these residents, Anadarko’s proposals are highly contentious, and civil society activists have engaged in a long running campaign of opposition to the plant on behalf of local communities. This talk will trace the evolution of this campaign from the perspective of civil society organisers, and will consider how justice in the face of large-scale industrial and extractive development is being framed in Mozambique. It will argue that the law matters: as Mozambican activists continue to discover, strong land rights can provide leverage in the face of mega-projects by making communities visible and legible to the state and its private partners. However, the talk will also question the nature of the victory in this case. Despite drawing significant concessions, the resettlement plan continues and civil society organisers have ultimately been unable to reshape broader development pathways towards large-scale extractivism and industrial development.

Dr Kate Symons is currently a Fellow in the Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh. Kate has a human geography background, and her research focusses on the political ecologies of marine conservation and extraction in Mozambique, using different empirical cases as lenses onto broader neoliberalising and counter-neoliberalising processes in environmental governance. Kate also researches technological innovations in international development funding and practice, and has a special interest in developing innovative online pedagogies in teaching.

Lars Buur, the discussant, is an Associate Professor at the Department of Social Sciences, Roskilde University. He coordinates the comparative research programme ‘Hierarchies of Rights: Land and Investments in Africa’ (https://ruc.dk/en/forskningsprojekt/hierarchies-rights). He has published widely on South Africa and Mozambique on topics such as ruling elites, natural resources, industrial policy, security and sovereignty.