Accepted Paper:

Securing the coal trains: expectations, violence and contestation around extractive infrastructure in Mozambique   


Nikkie Wiegink (Utrecht University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on the railroads that facilitate the transportation of coal from the mines to seaports in Mozambique and analyzes how these railroads have become the locus of contestation and (violent) conflict.

Paper long abstract:

This paper analyzes extractive infrastructures and their consequences on local life-worlds by focusing on the railways that facilitate the transportation of coal from the mines in Tete, a province in the interior of central Mozambique, to the coastal ports. These railways entail a promise of "development" and connection, but they have also become the locus of contestation and (violent) conflict. The railway infrastructure is central to success of the coal production in Tete, but it is also its most vulnerable aspect: popular protests against the mining companies have focused on blocking the railroads and armed combatants have attacked several coal trains in 2016 effectively obstructing the transportation. The transportation of coal has thus become at the center of multiple conflicts between the mining companies and dislocated populations, and the Mozambican government and armed opposition groups.

Based on ethnographic research (2016-2017), the paper aims to analyze how the extractive infrastructure in central Mozambique has become the locus of contestation and violence. It considers at least three elements essential for analyzing this particular formation and usage of the railroads: 1) The materiality of coal and of rail-infrastructure, which can relatively easily be disrupted, and its consequences for governance and control (Mitchell 2009). 2) The multiplicity of political and technopolitical actors with often divergent interests, including mining companies, government (transportation) agencies, public and private security actors, travelers, etc. 3) The political and historical context of armed violence, political polarization and exclusion in central Mozambique.

Panel P077
(Infra)structures of Extraction in Africa