Rwanda deployed a joint force of army and police to Mozambique’s troubled northern province of Cabo Delgado to help fight Islamic State-linked militants. Not everyone is happy about Kigali’s move.
The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) is concerned about a nonmember country’s deploying soldiers in the region without its approval and ahead of the bloc’s own troops.
According to a statement by Rwanda’s Defense Ministry, the “deployment came at Mozambique’s request and will consist of a 1,000-person contingent to support efforts to restore Mozambican state authority by conducting combat and security operations in Cabo Delgado.”
The statement added that “the Mozambique mission is set to last at least three months, and, after that, an evaluation will determine whether it should be extended or not.”
Mozambique insists that, while it remains committed to working with SADC to pacify the northern region, it can partner with other African states to address its security problems.
Ryan Cummings, a security analyst with Signal Risk in Cape Town, South Africa, told DW that “the deployment of Rwandan troops in Mozambique is part of a memorandum of understanding signed between the two countries in 2018; therefore, it should not come as a surprise to regional countries.”
“President Kagame is admired for contributing peacekeeping missions worldwide, and that’s why his Mozambican counterpart, Filipe Nyusi, reached out to him,” Cummings said.
“Mozambique does not want to lose control over its counterinsurgency efforts to SADC, but rather to coordinate all peace efforts with the EU and SADC,” the analyst said.
At least 2,500 civilians have been killed and more than 800,000 displaced since the start of the insurgency in Cabo Delgado in 2017. The humanitarian situation has quickly deteriorated and there is no end in sight to the attacks.
SADC to deploy troops
Amid calls for more help to quell the violence in Cabo Delgado, SADC announced that it would send in troops on July 15. According to a statement by SADC, the military intervention is part of the regional protocol for defense and security policy and recognized by the United Nations. Political analyst Dercio Alfazema stressed the importance of help from third parties to expel the terrorists from the north of his country.
“The intervention of SADC is strategic. And it is the first group of countries sharing the same interests with Mozambique. They agree that this situation of terrorism has to be solved as soon as possible and it should not expand beyond Cabo Delgado,” Alfazema told DW.
Alfazema said it was important to keep the terrorists from fleeing to neighboring countries, where they could set up new bases.
“Therefore, there is a concerted effort to resolve this situation as soon as possible, and keep it from taking root and expanding throughout the region,” he said.
Cummings said there was a possible threat to harmony, despite the convergence of interests: “The Mozambican government wants to dictate terms of operations of all troops-contributing countries.”
Humanitarian crisis about to get worse
MISEREOR and Bread for the World, two large development organizations, respectively of the German Catholic and Protestant churches, have warned that the situation in northern Mozambique could further escalate and put more civilians in danger.