President Mokgweetsi Masisi has warned against ‘perceptions’ that reported exploits by the Rwandan forces in the fight against Mozambican rebels are a reflection on SADC troops’ failure to have a meaningful impact on the war.
Masisi, under whose watch (as Chairperson the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security) the regional community deployed troops to the troubled Cabo Delgado region of Mozambique earlier this year, said Botswana’s troops were doing a “sterling job” in Mozambique.
“I cannot go into the details of what has happened to protect them in terms of any encounters they may have.”
In relation to Rwandan soldiers exploits, Masisi said one must question who writes about these success stories. “I suspect Rwanda has war correspondents,” he said. “You read about these things because others write about them.”
Questions have been raised about SADC Mission on Mozambique (SAMIM)’s seemingly unwanted presence in Mozambique since regional discussions began on the Islamic insurgency in the Cabo Delgado region in northern Mozambique.
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi was accused by observers of deliberately delaying the deployment of SADC troops to the region while playing a pivotal role in making way for the Rwandan army. Nyusi’s actions, coupled with Rwanda’s secret deployment of troops in July earlier this year raised questions about the latter’s true intensions in the country.
Since their arrival, the Rwandan Army has released a series of media reports sharing details of their successful exploits in the war against insurgents. “The Rwandan military says its forces and Mozambican troops have retaken Mocímboa da Praia, a key port city from Islamist militants in northern Mozambique Mocímboa da Praia located in Cabo Delgado province, was the rebels’ last stronghold and home to one of Africa’s biggest gas fields,” media reports said in August, 2021.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Mozambique’s Nyusi met this week in Mozambique where they held bilateral talks and signed an agreement on trade and investment cooperation.
“Rwandan forces are not in Mozambique by accident, it is by invitation to work with our brothers and sisters in Mozambique to deal with the problem. The problem we are dealing with, with our Mozambican friends, cannot stay forever. What is costly is allowing a situation to continue the way it was without doing anything about it. That is more costly than the operation itself. It costs more lives and a future lost in terms of development.” President Kagame told the media in Mozambique this week.
He said the spirit of solidarity and cooperation between the countries lives on as African countries (including Rwanda) join with Mozambique, to fight what he called a new threat to the security and stability of Cabo Delgado. “Africans are capable, and by working well together, we can find solutions to even our most difficult problems. Nothing should stop us from ensuring the stability, progress, and well-being of the people of Africa.”
Mozambique’s President Nyusi lauded the contribution of the Rwandan troops. “I am grateful to you for giving us soldiers who came to work with other soldiers to protect our country. They are real heroes. Our citizens are forever grateful for the kind of service these soldiers have shown and for liberating them from rebels who had taken over Cabo Delgado. Thank you for the cooperation between our soldiers. The Rwandan soldiers have shown immense respect to our citizens. They are loved and respected.” He said Mozambique soldiers are forever indebted to the Rwandans and that his government looks forward to continuing rebuilding the lives of its citizens for the better.”
Not to be outdone SADC Mission on Mozambique released a statement this week celebrating a small victory in a settlement in the Nangade District, Cabo Delgado Province.
“In support of Forcas Armadas de Defesa de Mozambique (FADM), SAMIM forces launched an offensive operation on 25th September 2021, which led to the destruction of an Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah (ASWJ) terrorists’ base South of Chitama settlement. The base is believed to be led by Sheikh Dr Njile North. During this operation, seventeen (17) terrorists were killed and the base was reduced to rubble by SAMIM forces,” the Mission announced. The operation was not without casualties with the SADC troops suffering a fatality and “three injuries”.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who took over the defense chairmanship from President Masisi, has yet to visit Mozambique since taking over.