The Rwandan army is the French proxy on African soil
On July 9, 2021, the government of Rwanda noted that he had deployed 1,000 troops in Mozambique to fight al-Shabaab fighters, who had captured the northern province of Cabo Delgado. One month later, on August 8, Rwandan troops capture the port city of Mocímboa da Praia, where just off the coast is a huge natural gas concession held by French energy company TotalEnergies SE and US energy company ExxonMobil.
These new developments in the region have led the President of the African Development Bank, Mr. Akinwumi Adesina announce on August 27 that TotalEnergies SE will restart the Cabo Delgado liquefied natural gas project by the end of 2022.
Al-Shabaab activists (or ISIS-Mozambique, such as the US State Department favorite to call him) did not fight until the last man; they disappeared across the border into Tanzania or in their villages in the hinterland. Energy companies, meanwhile, will soon begin to recoup their investments and reap big profits, in large part thanks to Rwandan military intervention.
Why did Rwanda intervene in Mozambique in July 2021 to defend, essentially, two large energy companies? The answer lies in a series of very specific events that took place in the months leading up to the departure of troops from Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.
Billions stuck underwater
Al-Shabaab fighters first made their appearance in Cabo Delgado in October 2017. For three years, the group played cat and mouse with the Mozambican army before socket control of Mocímboa da Praia in August 2020. At no time did it seem possible for the Mozambican army to thwart al-Shabaab and allow TotalEnergies SE and ExxonMobil to restart operations in the Rovuma basin, off the coast of coasts of northern Mozambique, where a huge natural gas deposit the field was discovered in February 2010.
The Mozambican Interior Ministry had hiring a range of mercenaries such as Dyck Advisory Group (South Africa), Border Services Group(Hong Kong) and Wagner Group (Russia). At the end of August 2020, TotalEnergies SE and the government of Mozambique signed a agreement create a common security force to defend the company’s investments against al-Shabaab. None of these armed groups succeeded. Investments have been stuck under water.
At this point, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has indicated, as a source in Maputo told me, that TotalEnergies SE could ask the French government to send a detachment to help secure the area. This discussion continued in 2021.
On January 18, 2021, French Defense Minister Florence Parly and her Portuguese counterpart, João Gomes Cravinho, spoke on the phone, during which — this is suggested in Maputo, they discussed the possibility of Western intervention in Cabo Delgado.
That day, Patrick Pouyanné, CEO of TotalEnergies SE, met President Nyusi and his defense (Jaime Bessa Neto) and interior (Amade Miquidade) ministers to to discuss the “joint action plan to strengthen the security of the area”. Nothing came of it. The French government was not interested in direct intervention.
A senior official in Maputo told me he has a firm belief in Mozambique that French President Emmanuel Macron has suggested that Rwandan force, rather than French forces, be deployed to secure Cabo Delgado. Indeed, the Rwandan armies, highly trained, well armed by Western countries and enjoying impunity to act outside the limits of international law, have proven their worth in the interventions carried out in South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
What Kagame got for the procedure
Paul Kagame has ruled Rwanda since 1994, first as Vice President and Minister of Defense, then since 2000 as President. Under Kagame, democratic standards were violated in Rwanda, while Rwandan troops operated mercilessly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A 2010 report from the United Nations Mapping Project on Serious Human Rights Violations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo show that Rwandan troops killed “hundreds of thousands if not millions” of Congolese civilians and Rwandan refugees between 1993 and 2003.
Kagame rejected the UN report, to suggest that this “double genocide” theory denied the Rwandan genocide of 1994. He wanted the French to accept responsibility for the genocide of 1994 and hoped that the international community will ignore the massacres in eastern Congo.
On March 26, 2021, historian Vincent Duclert submitted a 992-page document report on the role of France in the Rwandan genocide. The report clearly indicates that France must accept – as Médecins Sans Frontières says – “the crushing responsibility” of the genocide.
But the report does not say that the French state was complicit in the violence. Duclert traveled to Kigali on April 9 to deliver the report in person to Kagame, who noted that the publication of the report “marks an important step towards a common understanding of what happened”.
On April 19, the Rwandan government issued a report that he had commissioned from the American law firm Levy Firestone Muse. The title of this report says it all: “A predictable genocide: the role of the French government in the context of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda”.
The French have not denied the strong words of this document, which maintains that France has armed the genocidists then hastened to protect them from international scrutiny. Macron, who was loath to I accept France’s brutality in the Algerian liberation war did not challenge Kagame’s version of the story. It was a price he was prepared to pay.
What France wants
On April 28, 2021, Mozambican President Nyusi visited Kagame in Rwanda. Nyusi Recount to journalists from Mozambique that he had come to learn about Rwanda’s interventions in the Central African Republic and to ascertain Rwanda’s willingness to help Mozambique in Cabo Delgado.
On May 18, Macron hosted a summit in Paris, “aimed at increasing funding in Africa in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic”, attended by several heads of government, including:
- Kagame and Nyusi, the president of the African Union (Moussa Faki Mahamat)
- the President of the African Development Bank (Akinwumi Adesina)
- the President of the West African Development Bank (Serge Ekué)
- the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (Kristalina Georgieva)
The exit from “financial asphyxiation” was at the height of the agenda, although in private meetings there were discussions about the Rwandan intervention in Mozambique.
A week later, Macron leaves for a visit in Rwanda and South Africa, spending two days (May 26 and 27) in Kigali. He repeated the main conclusions of the Duclert report, bring along 100,000 COVID-19 vaccines in Rwanda (where only about 4% of the population had received the first dose at the time of their visit), and spent time in private talking to Kagame.
On May 28, alongside South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Macron talked about Mozambique, saying France was ready to “take part in operations on the maritime side” but would otherwise defer to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other regional powers.
He did not specifically mention Rwanda.
Rwanda entered Mozambique in July, regular by SADC forces, which included South African troops. France got what it wanted: its energy giant can now recover its investment.
Independent Media Institute