Undoubtedly, Rwanda’s involvement in Mozambique has sealed its reputation as a regional military powerhouse
By Robin Makayi
When then Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe deployed his troops to DRC in the mid 1990s, the Drum Magazine famously nicknamed him ‘Africa’s Rambo’.
Mugabe’s aim was to neutralize the Western-backed rebel forces that had besieged the nation and almost engulfed the capital Kinshasa, the Taliban style, in their attempt to wrestle power from the then newly installed leader Desire Kabila.
A quarter century later, Rwanda, under the leadership of energetic, persuasive and masterfully tactical Paul Kagame saved the gas- rich region of Cabo Delgado from Islamic State rebels who were threatening the peace and security of the region and the country.
The emergency of Rwanda as a helpful military power in the region shall go beyond social, political and economic fronts as Kagame’s recent visit to Mozambique has revealed.
Yet the most daunting question remains: Who is the biggest loser?
The rise of Rwanda
Rwanda is a country that rose from the ashes of 1994 genocide. Rather than remain trapped in the hurt of the past, Rwanda has been on a path of economic growth and prosperity. In the last two decades, the country has regimented a formidable army which has become the 5th largest peacekeeping force in Africa.
The painful memories of the past genocide that killed 800 000 of its citizens, has become a convenient excuse by President Paul Kagame’s administration for intervening in other countries including Sudan, DRC, CAR, Haiti and now Mozambique. As Commander-In-Chief, Paul Kagame has used his extensive military background to create one of the most discipline and efficient armies on the African continent.
Cabo Delgado province is endowed with vast natural resources including natural gas estimated to worth over 2 trillion US dollars by some experts.
The French and American companies had set up extractive operations worth billions of dollars in the province without any considerable benefits to locals.
This created tensions within the largely Islamic indigenous population, opening up opportunistic armed insurgency, locally nicknamed Al Shabaab.
These fighters, with a tenuous Islamic ideology, had committed abhorrent atrocities- detestable acts of terror and obscene massacre of babies among other morally repugnant crimes since 2017. Their fight to create an Islamic caliphate, inspired by Isis, is based on profoundly distorted views.
President Filip Nyusi of Mozambique had failed to quell the rebellion using his own battalions forcing him to seek help first from French, Portuguese, Russian and American mercenaries and later from SADC, the regional power bloc.
The invitation of Rwandan forces was a last ditch attempt to help secure the province as mercenaries were exhibiting palpable shortcomings. Impeccable sources clearly show the involvement of France through Rwanda, as the French military could not be directly seen in combat on Southern Africa soil.
Rwanda is believed to have received as payment – loans, social grants and political concessions including a ‘soft apology’ from France for its involvement in the 1994 genocide.
Anatomy of War
Despite SADC’s pledge to help Mozambique neutralize the insurgency, Rwanda send a 1000 strong battalion, well trained and disciplined regiments who took at least 90 insurgents out of the battle field, pushed the rest further down into Cabo Delgado forests and across Tanzanian border and forcing some of them to fragment and disarm.
Within days the regiments had liberated Port City of Mocimboa da Praia, cementing their reputation as a force to reckon with and indisputably proving their mettle.
This success was roped in by President Kagame as a diplomatic tool and propagated as a huge feat of achievement.
Prior to the deployment of Rwandan troops, insurgents had mercilessly killed over 3000 civilians, violently displacing 800 000 residents in the region.
Legacy of Rwandan Involvement
Undoubtedly, Rwanda’s involvement in Mozambique has sealed its reputation as a trustworthy regional military powerhouse with Paul Kagame as the new ‘Africa’s Rambo’. His army’s reconnaissance mission was considered the most accurate and time-sensitive military report, enabling his battalion forces to timeously identify and neutralize legitimate targets.
The intervention of Rwanda in Mozambique will undoubtedly cement this nation’s standing as a key regional military player and perhaps an emerging powerhouse, ahead of neighboring Kenya, Uganda, DRC and Burundi. Its security service has thus become a major ‘export’.
Having learnt lessons from DRC, where Rwandan military commanders and Mugabe’s henchmen where accused of plundering that nations resources following military intervention, President Paul Kagame has crafted a smart way of “payment and kickbacks” often as loans, grants, investment deals and technology transfers.
Rwanda’s “army for hire” shall be perceived as a convenient tool by many autocratic rulers in Africa, and this has opened a new avenue for coercive diplomacy and a novel brand of politics.
The biggest loser.
Rwanda’s tactical mission in Mozambique has reduced the regional powerhouse, South Africa, to a speculative giant, left SADC scrambling for relevance and questioned Zimbabwe’s historical friendship with its neighbor. SADC member states have lost a foothold in Mozambique.
The loss is not only diplomatic but will limit SADC’s access to a traditional market and natural resources and widely diminish its political, cultural and industrial influence.
Robin Makayi is a current affairs news commentator. He writes in his personal capacity. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for feedback
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