Militarily engaged against jihadists in Mozambique, Rwanda expands its area of ​​influence

By Laure Broulard

Posted today at 1:00 p.m., updated at 4:07 p.m.

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In front of the entrance to the Amarula hotel, a piece of shoe protrudes under a layer of sand and mango leaves. It was there that a dozen beheaded people were hastily buried, including expatriates, caught by the jihadists as they tried to flee the attack on the city of Palma, in northern Mozambique, in March. One example among many of the atrocities perpetrated by insurgents in the province of Cabo Delgado, who left behind a completely devastated region.

The murderous capture of Palma on March 24 threw the spotlight around the world on the insurgency of the Islamists of Ansar al-Sunnah, known locally as “Chabab”, who went into armed struggle in 2017. One month later, the French energy giant Total evoked a case of “Force majeure” to interrupt its gas megaproject valued at several billion euros and located just 10 km from Palma, on the Afungi peninsula.

Read also Mozambique: humanitarian aid reaches Palma, six months after city attack

Today, the area is crisscrossed by Mozambican and Rwandan forces. In July, Kigali indeed sent a thousand soldiers and police to help Maputo fight against the jihadist group affiliated with the Islamic State (IS). They are deployed in the districts of Palma and Mocimboa da Praia, where they recently claimed responsibility for recapturing several strongholds from the insurgents.

A Rwandan army truck drives through houses in Quitunda, northern Mozambique, on September 22, 2021. Nearly 400 houses were built by the French company Total for local people when the company started its megaproject gas.

“This shows what we are able to do with limited resources”, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said on Saturday September 25 in Cabo Delgado in front of several media – including The World Africa – invited to visit the reconquered towns and villages. His Mozambican counterpart, Filipe Nyusi, remained cautious: “Today we are not celebrating a victory. We are entering a phase of consolidation ”, he said at a press conference.

In Palma, six months after the attack, life is gradually resuming among the rubble. A small market has reopened amid destroyed gas stations, ransacked banks and crumbling buildings. “We try to find products and sell them in order to survive. But the prices have gone up a lot. Peace returns, but not the money ”, Amhadi breathes in front of his small stand, deploring the loss of many members of his family, killed or gone to take refuge elsewhere.

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