Mozambique: return to normal in Cabo Delgado, and Rwanda has largely contributed

Rwanda deploys troops to Mozambique. Photo by James Trigg

The rebels who attacked the city of Palma in March 2021 are now on the run after the offensive led by contingents from Rwanda and  the Southern African Development Community.

Calm and stability have returned to at least three areas of Cabo Delgado, said SAMIM, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) military contingent sent there. In the districts of Mueda, Macomia and Nangade, these forces are seeing a resumption of economic activity, a direct consequence, according to SAMIM, of its action.

The insurgents had notably blocked the roads to isolate and then capture the towns which could no longer obtain external aid. The population that could have fled and now they are returning home. We also note the reappearance of villagers who report having been detained by the jihadists. The latter having left their base in the face of the advance of government forces released the detained civilians.

The exploitation of gas in objective

“SAMIM forces have opened roads from Pemba to Macomia, Awasse, Mueda and Nangade, restoring public confidence that the risk of attack is low due to constant patrols by SAMIM forces and the Forcas Armadas de Defesa de Mocambique (FADM), “ said Patrick Mfadali, spokesperson for the joint force. Electricity has also been restored to Mueda, where it was cut off a year ago during a terrorist attack on a substation. This has made it possible in particular to revive banking services.

This slow return to normalcy allows the authorities to consider the takeover by Total of the liquefied natural gas project in the district of Palma. The African Development Bank is advancing 12-18 months if normalization continues. Mozambique’s Minister of Energy, Max Tonela, however, did not give a timetable and the operator himself did not show any of his intentions.

Rwanda determining

“They are impressive, the Prussians of modern Africa,” said a South African military analyst of the Rwandan army . At the end of a lightning operation, the Rwandan contingent of a thousand men, the first to come to help the army of Mozambique, took control of the port city of Mocimboa da Praia in early August . Target of the first jihadist attack in 2017, the city had been in the hands of the insurgents for a year and had become, in fact, their headquarters.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame recently reviewed his country’s military involvement in the Cabo Delgado crisis. In particular, he wanted to cut short the rumor that France, or even the oil group Total, would have financed the intervention. “Nobody is sponsoring” the military support that Rwanda provides, insisted President Kagame.

He also recalled that his army is present at the request of the Mozambicans and was surprised that some criticize the arrival of Rwandan soldiers before those of the SADC. “If someone has their house on fire and asks for help, I’ve never heard of whoever came first is asked why he was so quick to come and fight the fire!”

Withdrawal of the jihadists in Niassa?

But for Paul Kagame, the job is far from over. The neighboring province of Niassa is according to the Rwandan president the next target of al-Shabab rebels after Cabo Delgado. Moreover, Rwandan soldiers and SAMIM were seen in the town of Lichinga, capital of the province, but so far no combat has been reported.

These forces anticipate a withdrawal of al-Shabab rebels from Cabo Delgado, in search of places far from government troops. Niassa is also potentially a fertile area for recruiting jihadists. Nicknamed “the end of the world” by Mozambicans, it is the least populated region of the country. There is the same poverty and extreme inequality in the population, as in Cabo Delgado.

Isolated, difficult to access, very poor, all the ingredients are there to make the province of Niassa the new landmark for terrorists.

By Jacques Deveaux





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