The city of Palma in the Cabo Delgado province is gradually coming back to life over two years after being devastated by the jihadist insurgency of the Ansar Al-Sunna group. As a port city located just a few kilometers from TotalEnergies’ $20 billion gas project, the suspension of the oil company’s activities since the March 24, 2021 attack has impacted numerous businesses, including the Amarula hotel—an essential establishment during the attack where part of the population sought refuge.
On the day of the jihadist attack, Mauricio Luis, a bartender at the Amarula hotel, witnessed nearly 200 people seeking shelter in the establishment, including local officials and Total subcontractors hoping to be rescued by helicopter. “After three days in the hotel, we realized that the helicopter was not coming back, and we feared that the terrorists would attack us, so we decided to leave and fled because the situation became too dangerous,” described one of them.
Many people were killed in the convoy while fleeing. Since the Mozambican and Rwandan troops regained control of the city of Palma, hotel manager Ritah Lucas has been gradually restoring her establishment. Despite the return to calm, customers are scarce. “It’s a remote region. The companies working for Total, the subcontractors who didn’t stay in Total’s camp in Afungi, they were our main customers and stayed at the hotel. We all depended on these Total subcontractors. So for now, there is no one,” observes Ritah.
TotalEnergies’ mega natural gas exploitation project has been halted since the attack. In October, a complaint was filed in France against the company for “involuntary manslaughter and failure to assist a person in danger,” particularly its subcontractors during the assault, accusations rejected by the oil company.