WHILE Zimbabwe and other Southern African countries have been involved in a limited way in Mozambique, more than 250 000 internally displaced people in the country’s northern province of Cabo Delgado, who were earlier displaced by Islamic State-linked terrorists, have now returned to their homes, following the intervention of the Rwanda Security Services (RSF) in July 2021.
Kelvin Jakachira in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique
RSF comprises the Rwanda Defence Forces and the Rwanda National Police.
Rwanda has played a critical role in Mozambique compared to Zimbabwe and other Sadc countries.
The Islamic State linked Ansar al Sunnah wal Jama’a terrorists overwhelmed the Mozambican military in March 2021 and occupied territory in Cabo Delgado where they terrorised people, killing 4000, in some cases through beheading.
The deadly insurgency had displaced hundreds of thousands people since 2017.
In July 2021, Rwanda deployed troops to Cabo Delgado, at the request of the Mozambican government in three districts, Mocimboa da Praia, Palma, and Ancuabe where they undertook a blitz operation in conjunction with the Mozambican army.
The terrorists were dislodged from their base in Mocimboa da Praia and faced a string of additional battlefield loses which substantially weakened their force.
After the terrorists were routed and ousted from these areas, state authority was re-established resulting in thousands of displaced people are returning to their homes to begin normal life
“I am now able to work and move freely here,” said a 26-year-old woman, who works as a human resources manager at a construction company in Mocimboa da Praia.
“I never thought I would return here. We thank Rwanda for what it did to us.”
Another Mozambican woman, who was at a fish market in the town, said: “WE are really grateful to the Rwanda military for coming to our rescue. The situation was very difficult but we are now safe and doing our daily work.”
Normalcy has returned to Mocimboa da Praia, Palma, and Ancuabe and infrastructure is being rehabilitated.
Part of key infrastructure that has been rehabilitated include the Mocimboa da Praia Airport which was destroyed by the insurgency when it ran over the town.
The airport is receiving 13 flights a week, especially to deliver humanitarian supplies. The Mocimboa da Praia Port is now in operation and cargo is now being delivered through the facility, which is on the shores of the Indian Ocean.
Schools, markets and shops have also reopened. Villagers are now undertaking agricultural activity which had stopped due to the insurgency.
The Joint Task Force Commander of the RSF, Major General Alexis Kagame told journalists embedded with the RSF that Rwanda was committed to ensure security in the areas under their area of operation.
“We are committed and well-prepared to ensure security in the areas under our control so that security in Cabo Delgado Province is fully restored,” Maj Gen Alexis Kagame said.
He said the troops conduct operations including long-range patrols, mobile operating bases, confidence building patrols, fighting patrols, ambushes, and joint operations with the Mozambican Armed Defence Forces (FADM) and troops from the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
“All these operations contributed much to the defeat of the terrorists and, as a result, internally displaced people returned to their homes on the average of 87 per cent,” Maj Gen Kagame said.
Meanwhile, Rwanda has begun training Mozambican army officers in a bid to build a more formidable military force with 150 Mozambican soldiers having just completed advanced training in the east African country.
Briefing journalists, Rwanda Defence Forces spokesperson, Brigadier General Ronald Rwivanga said the Mozambican soldiers underwent a special trainer training programme in Rwanda.
Brig General Rwivanga said those who received the training will now be able to train other members of the Mozambican Armed Forces.
“We will expand it further. We will train trainers so they can be able to train others. That group will be able to transfer knowledge to many to others,” he said.
Brig Gen Rwivanga said the terrorists have now been very weakened to the extent that they no longer have the capacity to capture any territory.
As part of helping assisting communities, the RSF on Saturday jointly conducted community work (known in Rwanda as Umuganda) with residents of Mocimboa da Praia and Mozambican Security Forces.
In addition, the RSF carried out a medical outreach programme during which they treated hundreds of people with different ailments including Malaria which is endemic in the region.
More than 250 patients were treated on Saturday.
Since the RSF were deployed in July 2021 they engaged in humanitarian activities such as providing emergency medical care to civilians, at their field hospital in Afungi, in Palma District, and other far off remote areas. The RSF base camp in Afungi has a Level 2 hospital with all the elements of Level 1 and additional facilities such as an intensive care unit and specialist doctors for gynaecology and paediatric services.
Ansar al-Sunna Wa Jamma first garnered significant international attention in October 2017, when militant fighters attacked and occupied the Mozambican town of Mocímboa da Praia for nearly two days. Between October 2017 and March 2021, the group was involved in over 1,000 violent events – including armed battles and attacks on civilian targets – resulting in up to 4000 deaths.
During this time, the group demonstrated a marked improvement in the sophistication of its military operations. In 2017, most assaults were largely uncoordinated and were conducted with low quality small arms, even machetes.
In early 2020, the group showed a new ability to mount simultaneous operations in different geographic areas on security and state targets. By early 2021, the militants were gathering pre-attack intelligence and executing complex operations with observed coordination across maritime and land-based forces.
The first-order effects of the insurgency during this period were severe. By the end of this period, an estimated 1.3 million people were estimated to be in need of assistance and more than 900,000 faced crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity.
In 2019, Mozambique solicited the support of the Wagner Group, a Kremlin-linked private military company but the Russian mercenaries withdrew after facing significant losses.
Then in 2020 Mozambique contracted the Dyck Advisory Group (DAG), a private military company based in South Africa. However, DAG’s contract ended in April 2021, following a string of accusations of human rights violations perpetrated by group members and their demonstrated failure to match the insurgents in combat.
Eventually, following a bilateral agreement, Rwanda in July 2012 deployed its troops which immediately undertook a blistering operation to dislodge the terrorists.
After some internal gridlock, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) initiated its mission in Mozambique (SAMIM).