Rwandan soldiers patrol in Mocimboa da Praia, northern Mozambique, on August 12, 2021. (Photo by Emidio JOZINE / AFP)
Rwandan soldiers patrol in Mocimboa da Praia, northern Mozambique, on August 12, 2021. (Photo by Emidio JOZINE / AFP)

Connecting the state mercenary dots in Mozambique

By Opinion Time of article published Aug 22, 2021

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OPINION: Foreign assistance to African conflict resolution must always be scrutinised and questioned to the greater benefit of Africa. The Rwandan military intervention in Mozambique must be questioned, writes Charles Matseke and Koffi Kouakou.

While the eyes of the world are turned towards the Taliban’s swift capture of Kabul and Afghanistan, the crisis in Mozambique remains relevant.

However, the relevance of the insurgency crisis in Cabo Delgado is displaying peculiar signs of a new geopolitical and mercenary intricacy. Seemingly Rwanda, Mozambique, France and the French multinational Total are the connecting dots of a peculiar partnership.

A few weeks ago, in this newspaper, we extolled the swift and successful deployment of Rwandan troops to quell the insurgency in Mozambique. The connecting dots lead to the Afungi peninsula and surroundings, where the $20 billion (about R300bn) oil and gas investments of Total reside.

To be specific, while Rwanda, Mozambique and their coalition partners have dealt a blow to the insurgency, they have also rapidly secured the assets of Total on the peninsula. Therefore, the primary reason for such a decisive Rwandan and Mozambican action explains the “connection of the dots” towards France’s vested economic interests in Mozambique, currently under 24-hour guard by Rwandan troops in a mercenary way.

What we know for sure is that before the arrival of Rwandan troops in Cabo Delgado, France announced its readiness to support bilateral and multilateral forces in the fight against terrorism in Mozambique, while keeping hidden the concerns about the disruptions of Total’s oil and gas operations by the insurgency. The renewed relationship between France and Rwanda, and the promise of support by France to President Felipe Nyusi of Mozambique, could explain the Gordian knot that connects the dots to the military intervention in Cabo Delgado.

Rwandan troops camp, patrol and control Total’s facilities in the Afungi peninsula. Is Rwanda playing a state mercenary role for France and Total to secure the multibillion-dollar oil and gas project in Mozambique? Cui bono? There are plenty of questions to answer.

What are the medium- and long-term goals of the military expedition with French economic interests in Mozambique for Rwanda? How do Africans come to make sense of the brazen military prowess of a small country roughly 7 000km² bigger than the Kruger National Park in South Africa? Why is President Paul Kagame of Rwanda so driven and willing to go to such lengths to advance the foreign policy and geo-economics interests of France in the Cabo Delgado region, while posturing to Mozambique as a fellow compatriot taking brotherly responsibility for a country in disarray?

Who is financing Kagame’s fighting machinery in Mozambique and why? Especially given that Rwandan forces are not operating under a UN mandate or the Southern African Development Community’s standby force.

Perhaps the dots connect within recent history. On April 28 this year, Mozambican President Felipe Nyusi visited President Paul Kagame in Rwanda, and shortly thereafter, on May 18, both presidents attended a summit on the Financing of African Economies in France, where they met with President Emmanuel Macron to discuss economic development partnerships for Africa.

Ever since, the Rwandan fighting machine of 1 000 troops have made their way into Mozambique and successfully secured the French energy giant Total’s liquefied natural gas facilities in the Afungi peninsula.

While the success against the insurgency is a temporary lull for the Mozambican armed forces which have been struggling to regain control of the Cabo Delgado province, and have been reluctant to seek foreign military help, it is a great relief for the Southern Africa region. The Southern African Development Community is sending hundreds of troops to help Mozambique, whose former colonial power Portugal is also on the ground instructing soldiers. Last week, Portuguese forces claimed their first collaborative success with the Mozambique army, and regained control of Awasse – a small but strategic settlement near the Mocimboa da Praia area.

African agency in conflict resolutions is imperative. However, it must be done in ways that Africa remains mostly in charge of its own agency and not always commissioned in a mercenary fashion.

Foreign assistance to African conflict resolution must always be scrutinised and questioned to the greater benefit of Africa.

The Rwandan military intervention in Mozambique must be questioned, and the notion of African solutions for African problems should be revisited if the triangular connecting dots between Rwanda, France and Mozambique is conspicuous as a neo-colonial project.

Many questions remain to be answered about the military intervention of Rwanda in Mozambique. What’s in it for Rwanda? What does Rwanda get from France and French multinational Total for being such a great protector of their economic interests? Finally, what is the end game for Rwanda in this state mercenary expedition in Mozambique?

* Charles Matseke is a PhD Candidate in international relations and researcher at the Centre for Africa-China Studies, University of Johannesburg.

** Koffi M Kouakou is an Africa analyst and senior research fellow at The Centre of Africa China, University of Johannesburg.

*** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.

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