The Rwandan army and police in Mozambique: why such a hasty deployment?

By The Rwandan Analyst

 The recent SADC meeting had resolved to act alone or integrate under its command any foreign arm coming from a state nonmember of this organization. The president Nyusi government had resorted to many countries among which Rwanda. Surprisingly, Rwanda is now deploying there 1000 armed forces who occupied the insecure region of Delgado to fight terrorist of Islamic state. What pushed the Mozambican president to prefer Rwandan forces to SADC forces? Isn’t he violating SADC communitarian rules on military cooperation introducing foreign forces who overtly are acting outside the command of the SADC? What are the real interests underlying this emergent deployment while SADC command were still preparing their military forces? The lines below analyze the ins and outs of the geopolitical situation in the Mozambican crisis.

Rwanda deploys 1,000 soldiers to Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado.Rwanda has started deploying 1,000-strong forces to Mozambique to help it combat worsening violence in the gas-rich northern Cabo Delgado province. The announcement came on Friday after the 16-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) approved last month the deployment of joint forces to help Mozambique respond to the nearly four-year-old conflict, which has killed some 3,000 people and displaced almost 800,000, half of whom are children. Soldiers from Rwanda, which is not a member of SADC, would fight alongside Mozambique’s forces and SADC troops, the Rwandan government said in a statement.

“The Rwandan contingent will support efforts to restore Mozambican state authority by conducting combat and security operations, as well as stabilisation and security-sector reform,” it added. Rwandan defence forces spokesman Ronald Rwivanga told Reuters news agency the new forces would have deployed in full by Saturday. He said the Rwandan contingent was made up of members of the police force and troops trained “to deal with terrorism and security-related issues” in Cabo Delgado. Alexandre Raymakers, Africa analyst at the United Kingdom-based global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, said he believes the Rwandan contingent could be used to secure key liquefied natural gas (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.”

Attacks by an armed group known locally as al-Shabab, whose origins, analysts say, are steeped in local political, religious and economic discontent, have steadily increased in the Cabo Delgado province since October 2017.

The sophistication of the attacks has increased, too.

The fighters linked to ISIL (ISIS) have ransacked towns and gained control of key roadways, destroying infrastructure and beheading civilians. In some cases, they have forced locals into their ranks or held them as sex slaves.

Since August 2020, the fighters have been in control of the key port town of Mocimboa da Praia, while in March, they launched a coordinated assault on Palma town, killing dozens and displacing tens of thousands, while also forcing the French energy firm Total to suspend its $20bn LNG project.

The government has deployed thousands of soldiers to Cabo Delgado to combat the fighters, but analysts have long cautioned that Mozambique’s army has historically been weak, poorly trained and underequipped.

The World Food Programme has warned of a growing hunger crisis as nearly one million people need food aid.

Infringement of SADC rules

SADC protocol on the military cooperation encompasses a series of rules that govern the context of their mutual military assistance with some conditions. Indeed, per its Article 9 dealing with Defence Cooperation, in order to realise the objective of this Pact, State Parties shall cooperate in defence matters and facilitate interaction among their armed forces and defence-related industries in the following and any other areas of mutual interest: a) the training of military personnel in any field of military endeavour and, to that end, they may from time to time hold joint military exercises in one another’s territory. b) exchange military intelligence and information in all relevant matters subject to any restrictions or otherwise of national security; and c) joint research, development and production under license or otherwise of military equipment, including weapons and munitions, and to facilitate the supply of, or the procurement of defence equipment and services among defence-related industries, defence research establishments and their respective armed forces.

Article 22 regulates the issue of Breach of the Pact whereby Any State Party may report an alleged breach of this Pact to the Chairperson of the Organ, who shall institute an investigation, compile a report and make recommendations to the Summit.

Article 13 of the same Pact organizes the Settlement of Disputes where any dispute among the State Parties arising from the interpretation or application of this Pact, shall be settled amicably and where there is no resolution, the matter shall be referred to the Tribunal. 

Lastly, Article 14 governs conditions of withdrawal whereby any State Party may withdraw from this Pact upon the expiration of twelve (12) months from the date of giving written notice to that effect to the Chairperson of the Organ and shall cease to enjoy all rights and benefits under this Pact, and shall indefinitely remain bound by the provisions of Article 12.

Flagrant infringement of the Pact of military cooperation 

Overtly, by unilaterally inviting Rwandan defence forces to precede other regional forces and overlooking requirements of SADC to not include Rwanda forces in the struggle and if possible to integrate them under their command, Mozambican government violated regional rules of military cooperation to the extent that firstly it infringed the clause on exchange military intelligence and information exchange military intelligence and information by crashing the drone of South African intelligence service; by refusing the South African coordination while the States members had agreed on this; behaving as if it left the umbrella of the pact without fulfilling the formalities of submitting written notice to that effect to the Chairperson of the SADC, notwithstanding the time frame provided for that step. These illegalities which are characterizing the Mozambican government may disappoint SADC forces which will surely be embarrassed by the presence of an independent army which has already occupied the field. A force they had defeated in the DRC where it was fighting under coverage of M23.

Kagame/Nyusi hidden plot

There is information obtained from reliable sources in Mozambique that President Nyusi has political interests in the destabilization of Cabo Delgado to keep his post in a political climate which does not favor him for the next political term; in this context he has to motivate his contribution to restore security threatened by terrorists and if he succeeds to overcome the insecurity by a blatant victory, the Mozambican people will consider him as a hero and vote for him in majority. Worse, he did not prior submit the project of involving Rwandan forces in the struggle to the parliament members and instead improvised them just informing them that the contingent is already there. Kagame is implementing two informal missions. On one hand, France has economic interests in the rich province where its company Total is carrying out extraction of natural resources and terrorists are impeding the good running of activities; Rwanda will ensure security of activities in favor of the French interests whereby the French company TOTAL resuming petrol and gas extraction in the area  in exchange of the cancellation of all litigations involving Rwandan officials especially the issues of the crash of the Habyarimana airplane in which perished French nationals who were making up the crew of the plane. Furthermore, there is suspected a sort of conspiracy between Rwanda and the ISIS branch operating there given that Mustafa one of the authorities of this organization is a close friend of Kagame. Apart from those scenarios, there are economic interests because Rwanda defence forces estimated at more than 100 thousand of men and women will benefit from huge amounts paid by the Mozambican government and their materials and ammunitions hired by this state. There is also in issue of shipping cocaine drugs belonging to the Mozambican president in complete secrecy to prevent regional forces from noticing. It is obvious that as they are already accustomed with plundering natural resources in the DRC, they will seize occasion to get what is available in this rich province.

Expected reaction from SADC

Rwanda has rattled South Africa and other southern African governments by beating them to the battlefield against Islamist insurgents in Mozambique.

A standby force from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is meant to start deploying in Mozambique’s violent Cabo Delgado province this Thursday, July 15. But as of Friday, 9 July Mozambique had still not given official clearance for the deployment.

While Mozambique stalled in signing the necessary “Status of Forces” agreement with SADC, a contingent of 1,000 Rwandan soldiers and police officers began deploying into Cabo Delgado on Friday.

SADC’s deployment also seems to have been complicated by a dispute within SADC about which country should lead the SADC standby force.  It was originally supposed to be South Africa, but this now seems to be in doubt.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told the SABC on Saturday that it was “unfortunate” that Rwanda had deployed its troops into Mozambique before SADC because it was expected that Rwanda would have gone in under a SADC mandate. She added that SADC did not have any control over the timing of the Rwandan deployment as this had been agreed between Rwanda and Mozambique.

She said that the SADC military experts who planned the Mozambique intervention had originally proposed that a South African major-general should command the SADC standby brigade, with a Botswana colonel as deputy.

However, these operational decisions had now changed, the minister said, without elaborating. Other sources said there was now a dispute about which SADC state should lead the SADC standby brigade. And there are also questions about how the Rwandan, SADC and Mozambican forces will work together.

It would seem that they will be assigned to different sectors of Cabo Delgado, which might help to mitigate any turf wars or disputes about who commands whom.

The sources said that South Africa did not have faith in the ability of Mozambican generals to lead SADC into battle, because of their poor history in fighting the so-called al-Shabaab insurgency that erupted in October 2017 and has grown rapidly ever since. The insurgents now control the port town of Mocimboa da Praia and exert influence over a much wider territory in Cabo Delgado from there. In March they launched a major attack on the northern coastal town of Palma, which forced the French energy giant Total to suspend its liquid natural gas project at nearby Afungi.

But Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi seems determined that Mozambique should retain command of the military operations. He insisted in a speech on Friday at Mueda, the base of the Mozambican military in Cabo Delgado, that the SADC forces were “going to work with us, they’re not the bosses”.

“They will organise and work with these commanders,” he said, pointing to the Mozambique defence force commanders. “The fight against rebel groups will be organised by the Mozambican leaders,” local media reported him as saying.

Reports also said that Nyusi had announced that the SADC forces would start arriving on 15 July and that SADC had already written to the United Nations to inform them of this.

Nyusi said that SADC leaders had authorised him to request help from Rwanda. A South African official said SADC was not happy about Rwanda’s involvement, but had no choice in the decision, which had been made by Nyusi.

Mapisa-Nqakula said in her interview with the SABC that SADC’s “Rapid Deployment Force” composed of soldiers from several member states would go into Cabo Delgado on 15 July, and this advance force would determine how the full SADC standby brigade was deployed.

The Mozambican defence force said on Saturday that the Rwandan force “will work closely with Mozambique Armed Defence Forces (FADM) and forces from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in designated sectors of responsibility. The Rwandan contingent will support efforts to restore Mozambican state authority by conducting combat and security operations, as well as stabilisation and security-sector reform (SSR).”

The Rwanda National Congress (RNC), an exiled opposition party, is also not happy about Rwandan security forces deploying in Mozambique, especially ahead of  SADC. It noted in a statement that Rwanda was not a member state of SADC and suggested that Rwanda’s deployment might be aimed at Rwandan political dissidents in southern Africa more than at Mozambique insurgents.

It noted that many refugees from Rwanda had been granted asylum in southern African countries, including Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique and Malawi.

“Rwanda has invested a disproportionate amount of geopolitical effort to ensure that it reaches out and disturbs all Rwandan refugees who are hosted by these states,” RNC spokesperson Etienne Mutabazi said.

One of the founding RNC members, former Rwandan intelligence chief Patrick Karegeya, was murdered, allegedly by Rwandan government assassins, in Johannesburg in 2013.

Another RNC founder, former Rwandan military chief of staff Kayumba Nyamwasa, has survived three or four assassination attempts in South Africa. After an attempt in March 2014, South Africa expelled three Rwandan and one Burundian diplomat for alleged complicity in the attempt.

Many Rwandans in southern African states had been “unapologetically killed, abducted, kidnapped or forcefully disappeared in operations that involved current Rwandan officials, including diplomatic personnel,” the RNC’s Mutabazi said.

“We call upon the Mozambican authorities to disclose to the public the motives behind its overstepping of SADC arrangements to contain the insurgency in Cabo Delgado by allowing Rwandan defence forces and police ahead of SADC’s own deployment,” he added.

The hurried deployment of Rwandan forces in Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado is not purely intending military cooperation to secure the area; instead, there are geostrategic, political and economic interests involved and the SADC forces risk being disturbed in the discharge of the mission. Rwanda is maliciously disorganizing regional communities; the recent case occurred recently when it invited Angola, DRC and Congo to mediate its dispute with Uganda, the EAC state leaders being ignored while according to the EAC treaty and its protocols the aim of such subregional community is to insure good neighborhood between members and the close neighbors know more the reasons of the conflict than the remote friends.