KIGALI — Rwanda will start deploying 1,000 soldiers and police officers to Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province on Friday to help the southeast African nation fight an Islamic State-linked insurgency, Kigali administration has said.
The joint force will work closely with Mozambique’s armed forces and those that the Southern African Development Community regional bloc plans to send, the government of Rwanda said in a statement on its website.
“The Rwandan contingent will support efforts to restore Mozambican state authority by conducting combat and security operations, as well as stabilization and security-sector reform,” according to the statement.
The Rwandan statement also said it would support Mozambique’s efforts to restore the government’s control. It would do this “by conducting combat and security operations, as well as stabilisation and security-sector reform (SSR)”.
In background notes, Rwanda attributed the attacks in Cabo Delgado to extremists linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).
How much foreign support the local Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa (ASWJ) group receive from abroad is unknown. However, there are deep local grievances linked to resource extraction and perceptions that the Maputo government overlooks northern needs.
ASWJ seized the port town of Mocimboa da Praia in August 2020. On March 24 this year, the attacked Palma murdering a number of civilians.
Caught up in the violence were contractors working on Total’s Mozambique LNG plant. The day the attack occurred, Total had just announced the resumption of work. It swiftly shut everything down once more.
The French company has said it would only restart operations when the security situation is much clearer. For now, it remains under force majeure.
One of the most worrying things about the attack on Palma was the length of time it took for security forces to regain control.
International Crisis Group (ICG), in a report from June 11, has warned that if the insurgency is not tackled, it could spread. The ICG report noted that Mozambique was in talks with Rwanda on a military response to the insurgency.
Morale is low in Mozambique’s army and there have been reports of defections to the insurgency. Furthermore, low wages have allegedly driven some soldiers to looting, including in the aftermath of the attack on Palma.