More transparency needed from Rwanda, Mozambique on counter-insurgency – Louw-Vaudran


External military forces in the insurgent-torn Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique have done an effective job so far in quelling a brutal Islamist insurgency. Recapturing villages, dislodging insurgents from bases and seizing weapons and warfare material are notable successes by Rwandan and Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) forces.

Senior researcher and project leader for Southern Africa at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Liesl Louw-Vaudran, questions who is funding Rwanda’s intervention in Cabo Delgado and believes violent extremism in Southern Africa does not end in Mozambique. Louw-Vaudran will be speaking at defenceWeb’s Countering the Insurgency in Mozambique virtual event on 16 November.

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The homegrown insurgency by Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah (ASWJ) in Cabo Delgado started in 2017. Citizens, and in particular young men, felt socially estranged from their country and disenfranchised from the political system and foreign direct investment into ruby mining and liquified natural gas (LNG) projects in the northernmost province, prompting them to take up arms. A weak and ill-disciplined response from the Mozambique military (FADM) and private military contractors coupled with the rising global threat of Islamist extremist resulted in the proliferation of ASWJ, leading to around 3 000 people killed and over 850 000 displaced.

In July this year, the SADC agreed to send a force comprising troops from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa and Tanzania to Cabo Delgado with a mandate that included neutralising the terrorist threat and restoring security. Rwanda, in an agreement with Mozambique that had little transparency, sent an initial 1 000-strong force. The lack of transparency from Rwanda and Mozambique continues, as Louw-Vaudran questions the nature of the relationship and where the funding for the Rwandan deployment comes from.

Rwanda’s deployment

Louw-Vaudran said the Mozambican government focus is now on the security situation, managing internally displaced people, to a certain extent, and securing the area for the return of liquified natural gas companies. Total, amongst other foreign companies, have major investments in Cabo Delgado. TotalEnergies, a subsidiary of Total, alone has a roughly R308 billion LNG project investment off the coast of northern Mozambique.

“There are lots of strong rumours that [Mozambican President Felipe Nyusi was pressured by Total into accepting the intervention by Rwandan forces,” said Louw-Vaudran, adding that the French government denies giving any funding to the Rwandan forces. Despite the rumours, France is an advanced democracy and transparency in their parliament and foreign policy would reveal if the rumours were true. Louw-Vaudran mentioned that Rwanda receives a lot of developmental aid from European partners and suggests indirect funding could be taking place.

“We still do not know exactly who is funding this [Rwandan deployment] and what is the payback for Rwanda. We know there are some economic links and agreements that have been signed between Rwanda and Mozambique but this is the big problem, the agreements are not transparent,” said Louw-Vaudran.

What the Mozambican government is doing

The root causes of the insurgency, well documented by defenceWeb, are still not being adequately addressed by the Mozambique government. “The Mozambican government is grappling with a whole range of economic and political issues. The focus in Maputo seems to be on the hidden debt scandal, dynamics within Frelimo and looking towards the next elections,” said Louw-Vaudran.

The ‘hidden debt’ scandal began in 2016 when the government revealed it had taken out loans without going through parliamentary channels or telling its donors. The scandal collapsed its currency, the Metical, putting the country in the worst financial crises since independence in 1975 and led to several other legal proceedings across the globe.

Louw-Vaudran believes the battle against ASWJ is still in the early stages. “SADC was under a lot of pressure and it finally stepped up to the plate. We will have to see, in the coming weeks and months how successful they are and how they coordinate with Mozambique and Rwanda,” said Louw-Vaudran.

South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers and materiel committed to the SADC force in July under Operation Vikela will remain part of the SADC Mission in Mozambique until at least mid-January. There are currently SANDF Special Forces doing reconnaissance operations for SAMIM.

For more information about defenceWeb’s virtual conference on countering Mozambique’s insurgency, please click here.

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