Photos: Rwandan, SADC Troops Break Through Islamist Rebel Lines in Mozambique, Free Strategic Port
For years, Mozambican President Felipe Nyusi maintained he would not allow foreign troops on Mozambican soil after the country fought an independence war and then a civil war to win and keep its independence. However, things changed in April when rebels stormed the port of Palma, killing 55 people and sending thousands fleeing for safety.
The international force sent to help the Mozambican government crush an Islamist rebellion in its northern Cabo Delgado province scored a major early victory in their campaign over the weekend when they seized the port of Mocímboa da Praia, major stronghold for the Islamist militant group Ansar as-Sunna, and a city of international concern due to its proximity to some of Africa’s largest gas fields.
The Rwandan Defense Force announced on Sunday its soldiers sent to fight in Mozambique had helped recapture the key port city from Ansar as-Sunna, known localled as Al-Shabab but having no relationship to the Somali group of the same name. Their triumph was made possible by the capture of the nearby town of Awasse days earlier by forces from South Africa and Botswana sent to Cabo Delgado as part of a large Southern African Development Community (SADC) deployment.
"It was a critical port for their survival. Losing it is going to be a significant blow to their ability to maintain the insurgency," Rwivanga also told Reuters.
"We will continue with security operations to completely pacify those areas and allow Mozambican and Rwandan forces to conduct stabilisation operations as (the displaced) return home and business continues," he added.
Roughly 1,000 Rwandan forces arrived in Mozambique in early July, just days before the separate 3,500-soldier SADC force began its deployment. Both groups have been invited in by Nyusi, who admitted earlier this year to being unable to tame the growing rebellion in the north after the rebels stormed Palma in April and threatened several massive gas projects, convincing Total to declare force majeure on its investment and subsequently abandon the area.
The gas projects, some of the largest in Africa, are located just miles from the border with Tanzania, but more than 1,100 miles from the capital of Maputo, in the extreme south. As Sputnik has reported, the dramatic expansion of those projects, as well as nearby ruby mining, has pressed hard on the local Muslim community in the country’s poorest region, steadily fanning the insurgency since 2017.
Accordingly, experts have warned that a purely military solution is likely to evade Nyusi’s government, which will have to address the social causes of the rebellion if there is to be peace.
However, that might not totally be possible, due to the limitations placed on Mozambique’s finances as part of the terms of loans taken out from the International Monetary Fund. The pro-free-market restrictions give borrowers little extra cash with which to make the kinds of social investments necessary to overcome Cabo Delgado’s grinding poverty.
Other groups sending troops include the European Union, which has sent instructors to train Mozambican forces, and Portugal, the former colonial power from which Mozambique won independence in 1975 following a nine-year liberation war. The FRELIMO liberation front that led the movement remains in power today.
The insurgency, which has formally declared itself a part of Daesh although without real proof of any endorsement or connection to the group in Syria and Iraq, has killed roughly 3,000 people and displaced more than 800,000, as residents flee the conflict for safety.