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Don’t call it normal

Contrary to the claims of Rwandan forces, the lives of many residents in a conflict-hit part of Cabo Delgado province remain in disarray

In Mocímboa da Praia district, insurgents continue to be sighted and attacks, albeit mostly on the edge of the district, continue. Photo credit: Amâncio Miguel / VOA

Good afternoon. Two years ago, Palma and Mocímboa da Praia districts in Cabo Delgado province were being ravaged by the Islamic State-backed insurgency. The town of Mocímboa was itself occupied by insurgents for 12 months, and when they were finally dislodged in August 2021, they left it in ruins, with no power, water or public services. Attacks on the town of Palma resulted in mass killings of civilians. Today, the districts have returned to normal and life is good there. That, at least, is the impression gained by reading an article published by US state-backed broadcaster VOA and written in the Rwandan language Kinyarwanda. It is also the stated view of Ronald Rwivanga, spokesman for Rwanda’s security forces fighting the insurgency in the province (see below).

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Over the weekend, the Rwandan forces mounted what seems to have been a propaganda exercise to show off their work in pacifying Cabo Delgado and, importantly, to make the case that it was now safe for French energy firm TotalEnergies to restart work on their massive gas project on the Afungi peninsula, part of Palma district. The project has now been suspended for close to three years due to insecurity. Journalists were ferried around the towns of Palma and Mocímboa and shown around, under military escort. Judging by the VOA coverage, the exercise was a great success.

If by “normal”, Rwivanga means that life in both districts is as peaceful as it was before the insurgency began, then he is wrong. Palma and Mocímboa da Praia districts are in quite a different state to each other. In Palma, life has returned to the district town and insurgents have not been sighted in the district for several months. In Mocímboa da Praia district, insurgents continue to be sighted and attacks, albeit mostly on the edge of the district, continue. The town itself is secure; however, insurgents slip in and out to meet with their families in the town. The tarmac road between Palma and Mocímboa has not been attacked recently; on the other hand, insurgents are very mobile and have struck nearby.

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