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Rwandan troops in Cabo Delgado deploy to Macomia district

Up to now, the large and impressive Rwandan force had been confined to liberating and securing the districts of Palma and Mocimboa da Praia, of direct importance to Mozambique's LNG projects

Story updated on 21 April 2022 at 09:20 CAT, adding comment from RDF spokesperson

Rwandan troops have been deployed to the district of Macomia in Cabo Delgado over the past two weeks, according to local sources who say troops of the Rwandan Defence Force (RDF) are based in Macomia town and carrying out daily patrols in surrounding forests.

The RDF arrived in Cabo Delgado in July 2021 and was given responsibility for liberating and securing the districts of Palma and Mocímboa da Praia, home to the Mozambique LNG project on the Afungi peninsula, and the vital airport and port at Mocímboa da Praia.

Their deployment to Macomia, whose security had up to now been the responsibility of the Southern African Development Community’s mission in Mozambique, in cooperation with Mozambique’s own armed forces, marks a further shift in the increasingly fluid division of responsibilities between international forces in Cabo Delgado.

In a message sent on Wednesday evening, RDF spokesman Ronald Rwivanga said the Rwandan presence in Macomia was "simply doing joint ops," and that the RDF had "no intentions of taking on any more sectors."

"We have been conducting joint operations with SAMIM and Mozambique for some time after we held joint meetings in Mocimboa Da Praia," he told Zitamar. So we occasionally move into the SADC/SAMIM sectors to deal with insurgents. This is one of those operations."

The RDF is said to have arrived in force in Macomia shortly after 4 April and immediately began patrolling the woods around Chai, Quiterajo and Mucojo almost every day. According to reports from the local population, the RDF has enforced a nighttime curfew on residents in Macomia, many of whom are struggling to sell their seasonal produce due to a lack of customers passing through the town.

Macomia has been a hotbed of insurgent activity in 2022 so far. Several clashes took place in the district between insurgents and security forces in March and February, including one incident that saw the decapitation of a police officer.

The success of the RDF in Palma and Mocimboa da Praia districts is widely believed to have forced insurgents out into neighbouring districts, especially Nangade and Macomia.

Given that the RDF is the largest international force in Mozambique capable of conducting offensive operations, Rwandan troops have become increasingly proactive in pursuing insurgents beyond their usual area of responsibility. In November, RDF soldiers occupied the village of Quinto Congresso in Macomia in response to an insurgent attack two weeks earlier. In March, Rwandan troops reportedly clashed with insurgents in the district of Mueda. The latest deployment to Macomia represents another significant step away from the previously clearly defined zones of operation.

The deployment also marks a broader shift in the security forces’ strategy towards securing the Cabo Delgado coastline. On Sunday 17 April, the South African National Defence Force confirmed that its frigate SAS Spioenkop was patrolling waters in Cabo Delgado, supported by vessels from the Tanzanian and Mozambican armed forces, and a South African Air Force Oryx helicopter.

The importance of maintaining coastal security was highlighted in March when a group of around 20 insurgents invaded the island of Matemo, looted goods and burnt buildings before clashing with SAMIM and Mozambican forces. The island is still under strict curfew.

This article was produced by Zitamar and Mediafax under the Cabo Ligado project, in collaboration with ACLED. The contents of the article are the sole responsibility of Zitamar News.