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Mozambique's northernmost province of Cabo Delgado has since 2017 been home to a festering insurgency, linked to Islamic State. Picture: SUPPLIED
Mozambique's northernmost province of Cabo Delgado has since 2017 been home to a festering insurgency, linked to Islamic State. Picture: SUPPLIED

Rwanda has agreed on "expanding" its security forces’ co-operation with Mozambique against insurgents in the Cabo Delgado province a day before a meeting between Southern African Development Community (Sadc) leaders on the matter.

The agreement was signed in Kigali on Monday between the chief of staff of the Rwanda Defence Force, Gen J Bosco Kazura, and the chief of general staff of the Mozambican Armed Forces, Adm Joaquim Mangrasse.

The meeting took place after a virtual Sadc summit on its deployment was called off last week partly because a number of leaders were not available, according to a government official. Instead, an in-person meeting is taking place on Wednesday in Lilongwe, Malawi.

Rwanda was not discussed at the opening session of the extraordinary troika summit on Tuesday, which was attended by Botswana, Namibia and SA, as well as Mozambique and personnel-contributing countries, an official who was at the summit said.

Sadc moved to intervene in Mozambique after a SA contractor and a number of locals were killed in a terrorist attack on Palma, where a newly established liquefied natural gas project is located.

Some Sadc countries — including SA — were unhappy when Mozambican President Felipe Nyusi allowed Rwanda to deploy 1,000 troops while the regional body was still locked in discussions over the modalities of its intervention.

Rwanda has since doubled its number of troops.

Even if there were political frictions between the countries, according to reports the soldiers from the different deployments co-operate where necessary.

The Sadc mission in Mozambique (Samim) was deployed on July 15 2021, with President Cyril Ramaphosa pledging 1,495 soldiers. Thus far, however, there have only been 300 SA troops in Cabo Delgado at any given moment, Vrye Weekblad reported on Friday, and they have complained about being overstretched and underequipped due to funding shortages.

The original deployment was for three months, but Sadc leaders met at the start of October in Pretoria and agreed to extend the deployment by another three months to January 15.

The summit this week is expected to extend the deployment again and to deliberate on the challenges.

At the opening of the meeting, Ramaphosa, in his capacity as chair of the Sadc organ on politics, defence and security co-operation, acknowledged the challenges. "We are cognizant of the magnitude of ground that still needs to be covered in the work of Samim," he said.

"Therefore, we cannot let our guard down."

He added: "Terrorism cannot be permitted to continue to thrive in any part of our region. Our meeting today must indicate a strengthened commitment to defeat and uproot terrorism from our region."

Already Lesotho, Botswana, Tanzania and SA have reported losses in Mozambique.

SA special forces member Corp Tebogo Radebe died on December 20 at the hands of insurgents. Vrye Weekblad reported that it was the first death in operational circumstances of a special force member since 1989. There has also been a loss of life reported by the Rwandan contingent.

Ramaphosa said significant progress has been made since the deployment and the security situation in Cabo Delgado has improved, "which has allowed for some internally displaced persons to return to their homes and resume their normal lives".

The mission, together with the Mozambican Defence Force, have created a safe passage for humanitarian assistance.

There is some concern, however, that the retreat of the insurgents, apparently to the bushy Niassa province, is temporary.

Willem Els from the Institute for Security Studies said co-operation between the deployed intervention forces is an issue.

"The Mozambican Defence Force is not the most disciplined and best-trained defence force, and there is some suspicion because of the leaking of information that makes effective co-operation difficult," he says.

He added that it appeared Mozambique preferred Rwanda’s intervention and Nyusi delayed inviting the Samim forces until Rwanda’s troops were settled.

"Rwanda has one of the best-trained defence forces in Africa and are very organised and disciplined," Els said. "They are clearly working with a plan and are reaching their goals."

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