Saturday, November 2, 2013

Mozambique: Rio Tinto Coal Evacuates Family Members of Expats As Kidnappings, Violence Rise

According to AFP, Anglo-Australia-based mining giant Rio Tinto said Friday (November 1) that it has asked the families of its expat employees to leave Mozambique amid a spate of kidnappings and the worst violence since the end of the country's civil war.

"Rio Tinto Coal Mozambique can confirm that it is making arrangements for the dependent family members of its foreign employees to return to their home countries temporarily," the firm said in a statement. 

The company added: "The safety of the employees and their families is the number one priority and the business will continue to monitor the situation and respond appropriately," Rio Tinto emphasized. 

Rio Tinto has vast coal concessions in the northwestern section of the country. It began mining operations in 2010.

COMMENT:  According to the US Department of State's 2013 crime report, the criminal threat in Maputo is "Critical," which is the Department's HIGHEST threat level on a scale of "critical, high, medium and low."

A spate of kidnappings of wealthy people have also left locals and expats alike anxious about their safety.

The authorities say at least fourteen people -- most wealthy Mozambicans of Asian origin -- were kidnapped between 2011 and 2012.

Yet, ransom kidnapping escalated in recent months, and have targeted children of wealthy families as well.

Meanwhile dozens of people have died in clashes between the military and the former rebel movement over the past six months.

The violence comes more than two decades after a peace deal ended a war that had killed one million Mozambicans, a country of 24 million that is slightly less than twice the size of the US State of California.
So far the conflict has been limited to central Sofala province. On Friday (November 1), Renamo, which is also the official opposition, accused the army and police of having attacked and occupied its party offices in central city Beira.

The US said it was "deeply concerned by escalating violence between members of the opposition party, Renamo, and the Mozambican armed forces."