The Rwandan government is open to expanding combat operations against rebel groups in Cabo Delgado, at a time when the SADC mission’s forces are preparing to leave the country, the Ministry of Defence said.
“In the same way that we agreed to go to Ancuabe, which is another district, when the request was made to us, I believe that if this request [to expand operations] is made to our administration, we can consider it,” said Ronald Riwanga, spokesman for the Rwandan Ministry of Defence, quoted today by Televisão de Moçambique.
At issue is the departure, as of this month, of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission in Mozambique, a force that, like Rwanda, has been supporting operations and fighting rebel groups in Cabo Delgado.
Apart from Ancuabe, the Rwandan forces are now mainly operating in Mocímboa da Praia and Palma, but the Mozambican forces’ attention is now on the banks of the Messalo River, between Muidumbe and Macomia, further north in the province.
“The most important thing is that we work together with the Mozambican forces to pacify Cabo Delgado province,” emphasised Ronald Riwanga.
With Rwanda, which arrived in July 2021, and SADC, which arrived in the province in August of the same year, Maputo’s military offensive has enabled a climate of greater security in the region that hadn’t been felt for years, recovering locations that were controlled by the rebels, such as the town of Mocímboa da Praia, which had been occupied since 2020.
The Mozambican army believes that security has been re-established in around 90 per cent of Cabo Delgado province, arguing that the conditions are in place for the return of private companies, including the French oil company Total, which leads the Area 1 consortium, an investment of around 20 billion euros for gas exploration in Afungi.
The work was suspended indefinitely after an armed attack on Palma in March 2021, when the French energy company declared that it would only resume work when the area was safe.
The province of Cabo Delgado has been facing an armed insurgency for six years, with attacks claimed by the extremist group Islamic State and its affiliates.
The conflict has already displaced one million people, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and caused around 4,000 deaths, according to the ACLED conflict registration project.