Rwanda sends 1,000 troops to insurgency-hit Mozambique

AFP , Friday 9 Jul 2021

The planned deployment comes on the heels of a similar decision last month by the 16 nations in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc

Rwanda said on Friday it will send 1,000 troops to Mozambique to help the country battle extremist militants wreaking havoc in the north of the gas-rich nation.

The planned deployment comes on the heels of a similar decision last month by the 16 nations in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc.

Analysts warned however that such multiple missions could further militarise the impoverished Cabo Delgado province, which has been terrorised by Islamic State-linked jihadists since late 2017.

"The government of Rwanda, at the request of the government of Mozambique, will today start the deployment of a 1,000-person contingent of the Rwanda Defence Force and the Rwanda National Police to Cabo Delgado Province," Kigali said in a statement.

The forces will "support efforts to restore Mozambican state authority by conducting combat and security operations, as well as stabilisation and security-sector reform", it added.

The Rwandan contingent will work with the Mozambique Armed Defence Forces and those from SADC "in designated sectors of responsibility".

There was no immediate reaction to the announcement from the government in Maputo, whose President Filipe Nyusi vowed last month to root out the militants with the help of regional allies.

- 'Move in wrong direction' -

Attacks have escalated in northern Mozambique over the past year, fuelling fears the violence could spill over into neighbouring countries.

The insurgency has claimed more than 2,900 lives, according to conflict data tracker ACLED, and displaced around 800,000 people, according to the United Nations.

But Adriano Nuvunga, head of Mozambique's Centre for Democracy and Development in Maputo, voiced concern at the Rwandan deployment.

"We see this as a not good move because it will further militarise northern Cabo Delgado and it can lead deep into the conflict moving in the wrong direction."

Rwanda is already a major contributor to the UN's peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic and last year sent hundreds of troops to the unstable country after an attempted coup.

Nyusi, himself a former defence minister, had long shied away from asking for foreign military intervention to fight the jihadists, instead relying on private military companies.

But last month he vowed to crush the militants with the help of SADC and "friendly countries".

Alexandre Raymakers, Africa Analyst at UK-based global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, said he believes the Rwandan contingent could be used to secure key LNG sites in an effort to lure back international investors.

"The Rwandan security forces have developed a reputation for being a highly capable fighting force," he said.

But, he added, "the presence of multiple military missions, in the form of a potential Rwandan contingent and the SADC, will likely lead to conflicting priorities and friction at the military command level, hindering the overall."

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