Rwanda, Mozambique forces stamp out Islamic State in Cabo Delgado

Joint Task Force Commander Major General Alexis Kagame, Mozambique Defence Force Commander Major General Tiago Alberto Nampele and Rwanda Defence Force spokesperson Brigadier General Ronald Rwivanga. Picture: Kelvin Jakachira

Joint Task Force Commander Major General Alexis Kagame, Mozambique Defence Force Commander Major General Tiago Alberto Nampele and Rwanda Defence Force spokesperson Brigadier General Ronald Rwivanga. Picture: Kelvin Jakachira

Published Dec 21, 2023


By Kelvin Jakachira, reporting from Cabo Delgado, Mozambique

Mozambique Defence Forces Commander Major General Tiago Alberto Nampele has said that the Islamic State-linked insurgency in the northern province of Cabo Delgado has been defeated, as between 90% to 95% of territory that was captured by the militants, has been secured.

The remnants of the insurgents are now consigned to the Catupa forest, north-east of Macomia District, where they are operating in small groups.

The remnants are now believed to be numbering around between 200 and 250.

Maj Gen Nampele told reporters in the port city of Mocimboa da Praia on Tuesday that they would soon launch an offensive to rid the area of any insurgents.

“What we are planning to do is how we can begin an offensive attack and at this time we have elaborated a plan with Rwanda forces,” Maj Gen Nampele said.

“We are actually informed that the enemy is located in the forests of Catupa where they are in small groups. So what we are planning right now, first of all, we are trying to prevent them from getting food stuff.”

He said the insurgents no longer operate from camps or bases.

“Actually there is no base but just a few groups of terrorists moving in small groups. They are in very small groups and they do not constitute themselves in camps. They spread themselves in groups of two,” Maj Gen Nampele said.

He praised the Rwanda Security Forces (RSF) for assisting the Mozambican military to defeat the terrorists.

Mozambique Defence Forces Commander Major General Tiago Alberto Nampele. Picture: Kelvin Jakachira

The RSF comprises the Rwanda Defence Forces and the Rwanda National Police.

“We leant a lot from Rwanda. It was like gas. You can have a stove; you can have food. But if you don’t have gas you cook nothing,” Gen Nampele said.

“So Rwanda became for us as the gas, they gave us force and together, shoulder to shoulder, we did what we have done and we are still doing it together on the ground. So we leant a lot.”

On Saturday Rwanda Defence Forces spokesperson, Brigadier General Ronald Rwivanga said the insurgency no longer has the capacity to capture territory in Mozambique as it has been significantly weakened.

Brig Gen Rwivanga said the terrorists were now carrying out sporadic “nuisance” attacks within communities.

“These are nuisance attacks, not organized attacks. But whenever they come they get a blood beating” he said, adding they have conducted successful operations together with Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Catupa forests where the remnant terrorists are hiding.

Brig Gen Rwivanga said it was important for continued operations in those areas so that the terrorists’ freedom of action is cut.

The Islamic State linked Ansar al Sunnah wal Jama’a terrorists overwhelmed the Mozambican military in March 2021 and occupied territory in Cabo Delgado where they terrorised people, killing 4,000, in some instances through beheading.

The deadly insurgency displaced hundreds of thousands people since 2017.

The Islamic State-linked insurgency disrupted multibillion-dollar investments in Cabo Delgado including the $20 billion LNG project in which TotalEnergies has a 26.5% stake.

In July 2021, Rwanda deployed troops to Cabo Delgado, and immediately undertook a blitz military operation in three districts, Mocimboa da Praia, Palma, and Ancuabe where the terrorists had taken complete charge.

The operation was in conjunction with Mozambican troops and in some instances with SADC forces who are deployed in other parts of Cabo Delgado.

The terrorists were dislodged from their headquarters in Mocimboa da Praia and faced a string of additional battlefield losses which substantially weakened their force.

After the terrorists were routed and ousted from occupied territories, state authority was re-established resulting in thousands of displaced people returning to their homes to begin normal life

So far more than 250,000 internally displaced people have now returned to their homes.

“I am now able to work and move freely here,” said a 26-year-old woman, who works as a human resources manager at a construction company in Mocimboa da Praia.

“I never thought I would return here. We thank Rwanda for what it did to us.”

A Bandladeshi trader came to Palma Town after the jihadisit militants were routed from the district. Picture: Kelvin Jakachira

Hamadi Marquez, a fisherman in Quionga, a town in Palma District, who had fled to neighbouring Tanzania, returned home and carried on with his life.

“Here, our lives depend on two main activities, fishing and farming. Although we haven’t been able to sell more fish like we used to sell before the war, at least we can go fishing without any fear of being attacked by terrorists. We are very thankful to the Rwandan soldiers who restored peace. I wish the peace we have today lasted longer,” Marquez said.

Another Mozambican woman, who was at a fish market in Mocimboa da Praia, said: “We are really grateful to the Rwanda military for coming to our rescue. The situation was very difficult but we are now safe and doing our daily work.”

Part of key infrastructure that has been rehabilitated include the Mocimboa da Praia Airport which was destroyed by the insurgency when it ran over the town.

The airport is receiving 13 flights a week, especially to deliver humanitarian supplies. The Mocimboa da Praia Port is now in operation and cargo is now being delivered through the facility, which is on the shores of the Indian Ocean.

Schools, markets and shops have also reopened. Villagers are now undertaking agricultural activity which had stopped due to the insurgency.

Power supplies which had been disrupted after a power station in Mocimboa da Praia which supplies five districts in Cabo Delgado was repaired.

Kelvin Jakachira in Cabo Delgado. Picture: Supplied

The Awasse Power Station was attacked and destroyed by the insurgents on 5 August 2018.

Albino Passe, a manager at a power station in Awasse, in Mocimboa da Praia, which supplies electricity to five regions, said that thanks to the operations of the Rwandan and Mozambican security forces, they were able to repair equipment which had been destroyed by the terrorists and now it is fully operational.

"We haven't had any incidents since the time they [Rwandan troops] came. Today, this central power supply station serves electricity to all five districts: Mocimboa da Praia, Palma, Nangade, Muidumbe, and Mueda. The power supply is stable and we can satisfy energy demand in all those districts," Passe said.

The Joint Task Force Commander of the RSF, Major General Alexis Kagame told journalists that Rwanda was committed to ensure security in the areas under their area of operation.

“We are committed and well-prepared to ensure security in the areas under our control so that security in Cabo Delgado Province is fully restored,” Maj Gen Alexis Kagame said.

He said the troops conduct operations including long-range patrols, mobile operating bases, confidence building patrols, fighting patrols, ambushes, and joint operations with the Mozambican Armed Defence Forces and troops from the SADC.

“All these operations contributed much to the defeat of the terrorists and, as a result, internally displaced people returned to their homes on the average of 87%,” Maj Gen Kagame said.

Rwandan and Mozambican forces go on joint patrols in the towns where businesses including bars, and barbershops, are open after 9PM.