The Kigali government has indicated that the deployment at the request of the Mozambican authorities is aimed at restoring state control in the conflict-affected province.
Rwanda has started deploying 1,000-strong forces to Mozambique to help combat escalating violence in the gas-rich northern province of Cabo Delgado.
The announcement came on Friday after the 16 members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) last month approved the deployment of joint forces to help Mozambique respond to an almost four-year-old conflict, which has killed some 3,000 people and displaced nearly 800,000, half of whom are children.
Rwandan soldiers, who are not members of SADC, are reportedly fighting alongside Mozambican forces and SADC troops, the Rwandan government said in a statement.
“The Rwandan contingent will support efforts aimed at restoring the authority of the Mozambican state by carrying out combat and security operations, as well as stabilization and reform of the security sector,” he added.
– Government of Rwanda (@RwandaGov) July 9, 2021
Rwandan Defense Forces spokesman Ronald Rwivanga told Reuters news agency that the new forces would be fully deployed by Saturday.
He said the Rwandan contingent was made up of members of the police force and troops trained “to deal with terrorism and security issues” in Cabo Delgado.
Alexandre Raymakers, Africa analyst at UK-based global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, said he believed the Rwandan contingent could be used to secure major liquefied natural gas (LNG) sites for the purpose of ” attract international investors.
“The Rwandan security forces have gained a reputation as a highly competent fighting force,” he said.
But, he added, “the presence of multiple military missions, in the form of a possible Rwandan contingent and the SADC, will likely lead to conflicting priorities and friction at the military command level, which will hamper the together “.
Attacks by an armed group known locally as al-Shabab, whose origins analysts say are rooted in local political, religious and economic discontent, have steadily increased in Cabo province. Delgado since October 2017.
The sophistication of attacks has also increased.
Fighters linked to ISIL sacked towns and took control of key roads, destroying infrastructure and beheading civilians. In some cases, they forced locals to join their ranks or held them as sex slaves.
Since August 2020, fighters have controlled the key port city of Mocimboa da Praia, while in March they launched a coordinated assault on the city of Palma, killing dozens and displacing tens of thousands, while forcing the energy company French Total to suspend its $ 20 billion LNG project.
The government has deployed thousands of troops to Cabo Delgado to fight the fighters, but analysts have long warned that the Mozambican military is historically weak, poorly trained and under-equipped.
The World Food Program has warned of a growing food crisis as nearly one million people need food assistance.