Actions speak louder than words : Rwanda’s involvement in Cabo del Gado

By Marc Hoogsteyns
On 18 September 2021 at 11:41

Rwanda’s involvement in Cabo del Gado is reaching its critical stage: The RDF, the Rwandan Army, did its job and cleared out a big part of that region of the Muslim jihadi’s who had been terrorizing the region for several years but nothing has been done or nothing has been thought off to sustain this situation into a longer lasting peace and stability.

The international community and the neighbouring countries of Mozambique have been watching this evolution from the sideline: South-Africa only sent a couple of hundred of soldiers that haven’t seen action yet in the fight against the extremists, Botswana sent a couple of soldiers and the European community announced that it will send some instructors at the end of the year to train the Mozambican army and the local police.

Despite the unwillingness of the Mozambican army and the Mozambican political establishment the RDF is trying now to convince the locals that fled their homes several months ago to return. Total, the French oil- and gas giant, that runs a multi billion gas extraction operation in the region announced a couple of weeks ago that they can be fully operational again in 15 months if this positive evolution can be consolidated. But will this be the case?

Instead of receiving applause Rwanda’s involvement in Cabo has become a very hot patato in the international press: the RDF has been accused openly in several foreign media to act as a mercenary force for Total and the French government, Rwanda was accused openly to make use of this situation to deal with several Rwandan opposition members in Mozambique and the South-African government openly admitted that it was not very pleased with Rwanda’s direct approach to clean up the mess in Cabo del Gado without their direct consent and without giving them the chance to take command over this operation.

Very soon the Rwandan government will have to take the decision to stay in Cabo or to leave: they did their job, despite the fact that it was not an easy one. If they would leave the scene now nobody would be able to blame them but all the people who know this region well know that this would put the door open again for the jihadi’s to re-establish themselves.

Last week an Rwandan opposition member was gunned down in Maputu and once again the international media pumped out stories in which the finger was pointed at Rwanda. In those stories nearly nothing was said about the fact that Rwanda’s intervention in Cabo del Gado probably saved hundreds of lives, brought back hope for the local population and offered an ideal platform to the international community to put a new structure that can guarantee safety and peace for the locals in the future.

I’m just an observer and I recently visited Cabo del Gado where I was able to talk with several people, we witnessed the liberation of a couple of towns. I had never been in Mozambique before but I’m already following the RDF for nearly 30 years. In the meanwhile I also read several well documented articles about the situation in Mozambique. I also know that Rwanda might have had its reasons to send its troops to Cabo: they probably wanted to profile themselves as a new dynamic and successful police force on the continent, just like they are already doing in the Central African Republic and in Darfur.

Another reason might have been that the Rwandan government wanted to show its middle finger to the South-African government for sheltering the leaders of the Rwandan opposition and for not taking up its responsibility to solve the problems in Cabo del Gado themselves. But President Paul Kagame kept up his promise to the Mozambican government to send his troops and to deal with the most urgent problem: the fact that the whole province was under the control of Muslim extremist organization that was killing and terrorizing the locals at random.

The RDF also knew in advance that the Mozambican army and the Mozambican police were a very poorly organized and trained outfit that was highly corrupt and actively involved in all kinds of monkey business deals on the spot such as drug trafficking, extortion of locals, etc.

During their first days on the spot in Cabo, the RDF also discovered quickly that the Mozambican army maintained an open line with the jihadi’s to inform them about nearly all the RDF movements and plans. But the RDF learned fast and is now in nearly full control of the region. Despite the knowledge that the jihadi’s started avoiding direct confrontations when they understood that this force was not like the others they dealt with in the past: the Rwandan army cannot be discouraged when it takes losses, it fights back, it cannot be corrupted and it is keeping up its promises.

It was expected that Rwanda would endure a lot of criticism for its actions in Mozambique. The RDF not only put an end to the barbarian practices of the jihadi’s, it also blocked the corrupt and criminal activities of the Mozambican political establishment.

Top brass politicians in Maputo were making millions of dollars with the heroine trade and the illegal trade in gems. The Rwandan action also accentuated the inability of other countries such as South-Africa to provide assistance.

Mix all this with the already ongoing anti-Rwanda narrative that has become the main stream approach of several foreign media and the international public opinion and the content and the taste of this soup could have been predicted well in advance.

The fact that Rwanda was openly accused of the murder of a Rwandan opposition figure in Maputu illustrates this well. I really do not know who killed that guy but I think it is very unlikely that the NISS (Rwandan intelligence) or the RDF were behind this. They would have had other means to neutralize him, without killing him. A police investigation will have to tell us who really killed him but he was known by the Rwandan intelligence services for supporting armed opposition groups in Congo and in Burundi that he was quarreling with a couple of other Rwandan refugees over the leadership of a church that he was running.

And being a pastor or an apostle in Africa can be a very lucrative job. Knowing the reputation of the Mozambican police, it will be very unlikely that a well organized investigation will ever be put in motion. For the already known anti-Rwanda lobby in Europe, in Uganda and in South-Africa the presence of the RDF became a new stick to beat with. On Monday, Paul Rusesabagina will be sentenced in Kigali and in the DRC the anti-Rwanda drums are also in full swing. So in a couple of days the social media and the international press will be full of stories about how rude and cruel the current regime in Kigali is. I personally cannot share that view for the simple reason that it is not a balanced one!

How can we take articles of other colleagues serious if they forget to mention that a guy like Rusesebagina was the leader of a group of infiltrators that killed several innocent people in Rwanda? How can they publish accounts of people that claim that Rwanda is randomly killing and kidnapping opponents abroad as well as in Rwanda itself without mentioning that its army is restoring peace and stability in countries such as Mozambique and in the Central African Republic.

The RDF saved hundreds (if not thousands) of lives by doing this and it put the international community before its own responsibilities in those countries. A lot of other countries that would be in Rwanda’s position would already have left these regions knowing that they would be thanked for their service with so much bollox and so much criticism.

Countries such as South-Africa and Uganda would be happy to see Rwanda leave Mozambique. But would this benefit the population of Cabo del Gado that will fall prey again in a couple of weeks to the jihadi’s? Would they be willing to take over the job that the RDF has been doing until now? Would the UN or the European Union be willing to send troops to defend those people and would they be willing to take casualties for that?

If the international community continues to spank or to bite a hand that is helping to clean up a lot of problems on this continent, it should not be surprised that the person or the country this hand belongs to decides to withdraw it. European countries very often make the crucial mistake to judge events in Africa out of their own perspective. To do this, they use terms such as ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’. But they are forgetting often that the African countries who are able to cover themselves with these values and who are more appreciated than ‘that stuborn regime in Kigali’ are being ruled in a semi-colonial way that fits its former rulers. With a lot of corruption and hypocrisy.

If Rwanda pulls out its troops from Mozambique, no one would be able to blame them for not having done its job. But the result would be a big drama for the local population that has learned to appreciate the presence of the RDF and the Rwandan police. If the international community does not have the balls to support the Rwandan effort or to admit openly that the country is doing its best to prevent other ‘genocides’ or wars that it has known well in its own past, its biased opinions are not credible.

Billions of dollars have been wasted already on UN missions in other problem countries such as the DRC and the same UN already made its unwillingness to intervene in Mozambique already public several times. So did the French government and the South-Africans already made it clear that their presence in that region would only be a symbolical one.

Actions speaks louder than words! In Rwanda people understand this very well: the international community allowed a genocide to take place in their country and did nothing to prevent it. And nowadays the narrative of the criminals who organized this has been taken over by several human rights groups and politicians in Europe and in the US.

I hear that there is a big event planned in Pemba, in Cabo del Gado, next week.

Pemba is situated in the southern part of Cabo and lodges the few South-African troops that are present in the region. I really hope that we’ll get wiser there!

Rwandan soldiers with armoured vehicles used to fight insurgents in Mozambique.