Mozambique: Rwandan President Confident in New Frontier Victory in Global War on Terrorism | World news
Years of conflict in Afghanistan and the chaotic withdrawal of US military power do not appear to have had an impact on Rwanda’s longtime autocratic President Paul Kagame.
The seasoned but controversial 63-year-old led his country’s armed forces into northern Mozambique after the host country was overwhelmed by a group of vicious Islamic extremists called Ansar al-Sunna.
Yet President Kagame appeared extremely confident in winning a relatively new frontier in the global war on terror.
He told a press conference in the town of Pemba, in the troubled Cabo Delgado region, that his 1,000-member deployment will help defeat activists and tackle the causes that have fueled their growth.
He said: “I don’t see any insurmountable problems here, whether it’s fighting the insurgents and at the same time dealing with the development issues that are being talked about. I don’t see any insurmountable problems.”
Certainly, the Rwanda Defense Force (RDF) had a dramatic impact on the ground after their arrival in this impoverished region in early July.
The Mozambican army had only succeeded in ceding ground – and vital equipment – to the insurgents as well as losing communities like the port of Mócimboa de Praia that the militants have designated as their “capital”.
More importantly, perhaps, they temporarily lost control of the city of Palma, which provided housing and services to employees of a nearby liquefied natural gas (LNG) project run by the French company Total.
Total declared “force majeure” on the $ 20 billion mega-project in April, effectively withdrawing from its contractual obligations on the grounds that it was too dangerous to continue in Cabo Delgado.
However, the Rwandan army reversed the situation, recapturing much of the territory lost to the insurgents in just six weeks.
Beginning their campaign at the Total Factory on the Alfungi Peninsula – which they now use as their headquarters – Kagame’s forces made their way along the coast and engaged the insurgents further inland. .
Exclusive footage obtained by Sky News from RDF shows mobile units engaged in intense fighting in the forests surrounding Nakitenge, about 7 km from Mócimboa de Praia.
The militants managed to keep Mócimboa for almost a year, but the RDF, together with the Mozambicans, took it over on August 8, which is now described as their “D-Day”.
At the press conference, which was also attended by Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi, the Rwandan leader described their mission as “critical” and “costly” but denied having received any financial support from the French government or Total. .
“(As for) the others who invited us or paid for us, I wish that were the case,” he said with something approaching a half-smile.
Yet many here are worried about what will happen when the Rwandans decide to leave as there is little confidence in Mozambique’s poorly trained and poorly equipped army.
“What’s your exit plan, how long do you plan to be (here) because you can’t stay forever, you said it’s a costly operation?” I asked President Kagame.
“It comes naturally as progress is made, (like) we change the things we do and because of that we are very free and flexible to deal with the issue,” he replied.
The Rwandan leader here, offering an indefinite commitment to the Mozambican people at a time when other nations, like the United States and the United Kingdom, are fleeing these thorny and extraterritorial terrorist threats.
Mr. Kagame is no novice, having a lot of war experience at home and abroad. He is credited with ending the Rwandan genocide as leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front – and accused of fueling conflict and instability in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
But the threat posed by Islamic insurgents is spreading rapidly across Africa and these regional conflicts are exceptionally difficult to quell.
Many wonder if the confidence of the Rwandan leader is not out of place.