In September, Rwanda sent troops to Mozambique to assist the government in fighting against a four-year Islamist militant insurgency.
Since 2017, jihadist militias in the northern Mozambique province of Cabo Delgado have mounted an armed insurgency against the Mozambican government. Their stated objective is to instil Sharia law across northern Mozambique.
This is said to be in response to the region’s chronic poverty, unemployment and weak public services under the Frelimo-led government in Maputo. The Mozambican insurgents represent a new armed Islamic front, with entirely local motivations and command structures.
However, their propaganda invokes common tropes of regional and global jihad. The jihadists pose a significant threat to local civilians and foreign economic interests in Cabo Delgado. The four-year low-intensity civil war has killed more than 3,000 civilians, displaced 800,000 and caused widespread food insecurity.
The Rwandan government frames this as a ‘responsibility to protect’ mission. This, it argues, has been inspired by the international community’s failure to protect civilians in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
The Rwandan intervention in Mozambique came shortly after French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Kigali in May 2021. Some commentators have suggested that Rwanda, funded by France, has intervened to shore up France’s interests, principally the gas reserves of French-owned Total.