Rwanda is weighing possibilities of deploying its highly experienced and battle hardened elite forces in a new war theatre but this time in the southern part of Africa, a new terrain, weather and accruing challenges.
Rwandan military has previous experience in war theatres in desert, tropical forest, mountains and extreme cold weathers. The Mozambique war brings in a new dimension- the enemy are Jihadists.
The other dimension is that Cabo Delgado, a northern province, is oil rich and predominantly Christian and the extremist Jihad insurgents have killed thousands and displaced some 700,000 since waging their war in this area. Rwandans have to weigh carefully the nature of this enemy.
Cabo Delgado also hosts a US$25 billion light natural gas (LNG) project run by French energy giant Total. In April, LNG formally withdrew all of its employees from the region and indefinitely suspended its operations after the insurgents attacked killing hundreds.
Rwanda now finds itself weighing the option of sending in its boots to protect the interests of France, a very tricky international player whose hand in Rwanda’s recent past history and diplomacy remains skeptical. The other party to protect is Tanzania and DRC. Notably though, this is a potential breeding ground for Rwanda’s enemies with a wide network in the the southern Africa region.
Uganda, on March 30, sent in its troops to Cabo Delgado. It will be very interesting to see how Uganda and Rwanda occupy the same terrain amidst a diplomatic spat between the two. Logically, it would require Uganda and Rwanda militaries forge a joint operation centre since the common enemy is one.
In October 2019, Uganda refused to deploy in DRC in a multinational joint operation requested by President Tshisekedi. In March that year, Rwanda had closed its border with Uganda demanding an end to consistent torture and arbitrary detention of Rwandans.
However, last week before the inauguration of President Museveni, Uganda sent a military delegation to DRC to discuss a comprehensive military strategy aimed at uprooting the notorious Allied Democratic Front rebels.
On the weighing scale, Rwanda and Uganda which have been avoiding each other are faced with a challenge of working together in a new theatre far away from their common boarders.
President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, 62, has been to Kigali and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda has made reciprocal visits to Mozambique. On April 28, Nyusi flew to Kigali for talks with his counterpart- Nyusi considers Rwanda’s experience in combating terrorism and violent extremism vital in fixing the same challenge strangling Cabo Delgado.
“This is a war driven by a lot of efforts and with different interests. We left the message to our brother [President Kagame] that we are open to all support, but we would not like the support to be imposed on Mozambicans,” Nyusi said.
If all goes well and Rwanda finds it ok to deploy in this part of Africa, this will mean that Rwanda will have been sucked into a very old international oil and gas industry war.
Rwanda will strategically want to go through Tanzania and install its elite forces in Cabo Delgado. Rwanda’s Military and Police Chiefs just returned from a weeklong working trip in Tanzania, possibly to work out a cooperation deal ahead of this assignment in Mozambique.
The meeting dubbed Bilateral meeting between Rwanda National police and Tanzania Police force to address common threats posed by transnational organised crimes in part touched on;
“Planning for the best strategies on how to address the security situation in Mozambique, as quickly as possible. Enhancing effective information and intelligence sharing on terrorism and other transnational crimes associated with terrorism,” according to a joint communique on May 10th.
Cabo Delgado has long been home to vast swaths of Mozambique’s natural resource wealth. Illegal logging, often carried out by Chinese companies backed by well-connected Maputo-based elites, has led some forests to be nearly clear-cut, although there have been efforts to crack down in recent years.
The largest known graphite deposits were found in the province in 2014, and nearly half of the world’s rubies lie under its soil.
Artisanal miners who discovered those rubies in 2009 were violently evicted from the region by Mozambican security forces to make way for a joint partnership between a U.K.-based company and one owned by powerful figures with ties to the ruling Frelimo party.