On July 9, 2021, at the request of Maputo, Kigali deployed troops to the latter’s northernmost Province of Cabo Delgadoto help fight the Islamic States-linked terrorists, stabilize the area and restore state authority. Rwanda’s move was hailed by the African Union as a strong and concrete act of African solidarity to support a fellow member state fight terrorism and insecurity. Kigali sent its forces there to work closely with Mozambique Armed Defence Forces (FADM) as well as forces from the Southern African Development Community, in the fight against terrorism in Cabo Delgado. In October 2017, armed extremists linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) launched an insurgency in Cabo Delgado. In August 2020 the insurgents seized Mocímboa da Praia, the province’s key port city. More than 50 people were beheaded by the terrorists in the province in April 2020 and a similar number in November 2020. In September 2020, the insurgents captured Vamizi Island in the Indian Ocean. On March 24, last year, they seized Palma, a town on the northeast coast of Cabo Delgado Province, murdering dozens of civilians and displacing more than 35,000 of the towns 75,000 residents. But barely two weeks after landing, Rwandan and Mozambican forces were circling major bases of the terrorists,capturing them, one after a time. On August 8, 2021, they captured Mocimboa da Praia, a port city that had been the headquarters of the Islamic State-linked terrorist group in Cabo Delgado for nearly five years. The capture of the port city dealt a heavy blow to the insurgents who had driven around 826,000 people from their homes and killed more than 2,000 others, in the Province. Mocímboa da Praia connects the Province to other regions of the country and abroad, and was, previously, the terrorists stronghold in the Province. It was an important supply point for the insurgents since it has access to the Indian Ocean. The city also has an airstrip with a two-kilometer runway. Capturing this port city which is home to the Provinces main power substation – distributing electricity to five neighbouring districts – meant that the terrorists were denied access to the sea, the airfield, and support from outside and therefore crushed considerably. Intelligence sharing is critical Talking about the impact of the RSF-FADM cooperation in the past seven months, Defence and Military Spokesperson, Col Ronald Rwivanga, last week told The New Times that it has been “quite significant.” The major positives, so far, he noted, “are: intelligence sharing flexibility and interoperability.” “Intelligence sharing by FADM is critical in enabling our joint security operations to identify the insurgents’ critical capabilities to target and vulnerabilities to exploit,” Col Rwivanga pointed out. “The FADM-RDF relationship is built on mutual trust and respect hence; our ability to operate together with ease and flexibility has led to significant successes.” Last October, Rwandan and Mozambican military commanders as well as those from the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), also met and agreed to, among others, enhance intelligence sharing in the fight against the terrorists. Today, the overall situation in the province has improved significantly. Schools in some areas are re-opening for the first time in years. Reports indicate that more than 4,500 children, in 11 primary schools, in the municipality of Palma returned to school on January 31. The terrorists were dislodged from all their strongholds in areas where Rwandan forces operate. Their few remaining pockets in remote jungle areas are no threat as they are weakened and on the run, with no permanent bases to speak of. In the past few days, successful operations were launched to wipe their remnants out of remote areas of Palma District. The French oil and gas major TotalEnergies is not yet in operation but it is preparing to return to its $20 billion liquefied natural gas project and offer jobs to nearly 15,000 people. Villages along the main roads from Palma to captured Mocímboa da Praia, and Mueda, were liberated, giving room for locals there to return and resume their normal lives. By and large, the Mozambican state regained lost territory and started re-establishing its administration, hence giving hope to the entire population which was living in a despairing situation. The Rwandan forces significantly weaken the insurgency’s radicalism which threatened to spread far into the entire Province and make it a springboard for international terrorism. Unfortunately, wherever the terrorists were hit, besides killing and taking people hostage, they first bombed burnt and destroyed homes, markets, shops, schools, health facilities, and other infrastructure, before taking off. Rwandan forces faced an insurgency almost similar to the one they confronted nearly three years after liberating Rwanda and ending the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. By early August last year, Rwandan and Mozambican forces were in full control of the base of Awasse after repulsing the insurgency. Before Rwandan forces arrived, an increased number of terrorist attacks were reported along the N380 route—which runs from Macomia to Palma, through Mocimboa da Praia—especially around the Awasse junction. Awasse’s substation, a key electricity facility, was destroyed by the terrorists. The main transformer, the reactor, circuit breakers, the control room, and the emergency generator were shattered. In no time, the strategic center of Awasse was liberated giving room for the repair of the electricity power station which feeds six districts – Mocimboa da Praia, Palma, Muidumbe, Mueda, Macomia and Nangade. The capture of Awasse and the terrorists’ bases afar opened up the strategic N380 road which is critical for connecting the northern ports as well as for logistics supply to the liquefied natural gas project in the Afungi peninsula, in Palma district. The joint forces coordinated operations aimed at cleaning the terrorists’ pockets along their axis and were unrelenting in their pursuit. They prepared a final assault on strongholds of the terrorists in areas of Cabo Delgado where Rwandan forces were tasked to operate from. On August 9, 2021, Maj Gen Christovão Artur Chume, then the commander of FADM in the joint operation, described securing Mocimboa da Praia as the first stage, saying the next stage would be moving forward and securing all the other remaining pockets of the insurgents until the Province is fully under government control. Chume became Mozambique’s Defence Minister, last November. Having worked closely with them, he appreciates the work done by Rwandan forces and often visits. An organized army The Governor of Cabo Delgado, Valige Tauabo, on August 12, 2021, noted that the Rwandan troops collaboration with his countrys military gave his people hope that long lasting peace and stability can prevail. The governor had flown in with some regional officials to tour Mocímboa da Praia, a city then in ruins. That day, Faruk Jamal, a businessman whose properties were destroyed by the terrorists, showed The New Times a string of his razed buildings. He noted that he was losing $2.5 million in profits every year all because of the insurgency, since 2017. When things got so bad, Jamal fled to the provincial capital, Pemba. All I can say now is, thank you to the Rwandan government, and the troops who are here, for all their help. I am ready to come back and build from scratch now, Jamal said, at the time. Recently, Jamal sounded more hopeful. Jamal visited Mocimboa da Praia, again, early last week and is now looking forward to recovering and refurbishing his property. He said: “I was in Mocimboa da Praia. The situation is under control.” Before month end, last August, the joint forces hemmed in the terrorist groups last major areas of operation, Siri I and Siri II, and Mbau, located in vast thick forests. Later, on August 28, last year, the joint forces started helping hundreds of people displaced by the terrorists in Cabo Delgado return to their homes. The first, 684 people helped to evacuate a vast camp of internally displaced people (IDP) in Quitunda village, near Afungi port, headed to their homes in Palma district. President Paul Kagame on September 24, last year, arrived in Pemba, for a two-day working visit. The next day, his host, President Filipe Nyusi, thanked the people of Rwanda, and Kagame, for having quickly understood his country’s need for help and acted accordingly to help thwart a threat posed by terrorists. Nyusi said: “President Kagame has soon understood the suffering of the Mozambican people, particularly the people of Cabo Delgado and decided to give the best of his people to help Mozambique.” By end of September last year, Palma, a strategic town on the northeast coast of the province, was bustling with activityas life steadily returned to normal. In the coastal town and its environs, Rwandan forces were not only focused on fighting the terrorists but also catered for the sick and hungry. On Tuesday, February 15, Egídio Vaz, a Mozambican communication strategist and defense and security insider, told The New Times that he appreciates the Rwandan security forces’ efforts in his country. Vaz said: “The impact of the Rwandan security forces is very positive. Quoting from President (Filipe) Nyusis statistics back in November (2021), incidents of terrorist attacks dropped from more than 150 in 2020 to only 51 in 2021. “Key strongholds of the terrorists were captured by the Rwandan forces in collaboration with their Mozambican counterparts and we need to start from there to appreciate the Rwandan security forces for their efforts.” As if to put things into better perspective, Vaz was quick to point out that Rwandan security forces are in a larger number – around 2, 000 troops so far – compared to the combined SADC force of “less than 1,000 strong”. “The SADC comprises 16 countries yet a tiny country like Rwanda provided 2,000 troops. This contribution from Rwanda is really remarkable.” Vaz also noted that Rwandan forces are in Cabo Delgado “not only on the battlefields harassing terrorists, but are also engaged in the reorganization” of the Mozambican defence and security sector – helping enhance the country’s police and millitary structures. “They are helping in the adoption of new management strategies for our own army and so on. Rwandans are well-behaved and disciplined troops. We heard stories of other foreign troops, in other places, committing crimes like rape but no such thing is heard here about the Rwandans,” he said. “From the behavioral perspective, Mozambican forces are also learning from the Rwandan forces,” Vaz added. On September 27, the RDF field hospital in Afungi received a pregnant young woman and helped deliver her baby.Soldiers in several villages attended to children with ghastly wild dog bites. Everywhere, women, children and the elderly bore brunt of the terrorists’ savagery. Girls aged between 10 and 14 were taken and forced to be the terrorist wives. Boys between 12 and 18 were preferred for forced recruitment. Captured terrorist fighters revealed that they forcefully conscripted teenagers. Those who refuse to join are killed leaving others with no other choice but to join them. The joint forces carried on, liberating civilian captives from remnants of the on-the-run insurgents. While in Pemba, last September, Col Rwivanga said the joint forces “take the protection of civilians especially women and children caught up in conflict very seriously.” “We have repatriated thousands of women and children from conflict zones back to their homes and offer them assurance of protection against rape and other crimes committed against them.” Cabo Delgado has 16 districts. But the ones most affected by terrorism were Palma, Mocimboa da Praia, Mueda, Mocamia, Muidumbe and Nangade. Rwandan forces only operate north of the Messalo River in the districts of Palma, Mocimboa da Praia, and Mueda. “The Rwandan troops are an organized army,” Jamal said. Joint offensive operations conducted by Rwandan and Mozambican security forces have been able to flush out remnants of terrorist insurgents in areas of Cabo Delgado where Rwandan forces operate. The Task Force Battle Group Commander, Brig Gen Pascal Muhizi briefing the joint forces in Palma District last week The Task Force Battle Group Commander, Brig Gen Pascal Muhizi listens to the Rwanda Security Forces Joint Task Force Commander Maj Gen Innocent Kabandana.