Foreign troop deployment in Mozambique likely to reduce insurgent capability

On 8 August, the Mozambique government announced that Rwandan troops had retaken control of Mocímboa da Praia, a coastal town with a port and airstrip that the insurgents had been using as a base and probably as a trade and supply route since seizing it on 11 August 2020. In the past month, to counter this insurgency, an estimated total of 3,300 to 4,000 troops have been deployed in the country by Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe, as well as small contingents from Portugal and the United States for training. The South African navy’s SAS Makhanda offshore patrol vessel, docked at Pemba port, is part of a small maritime contingent including ships from Rwanda and Tanzania.

Rwanda has taken a more aggressive stance than other countries, with its forces retaking from insurgents and holding the city of Awasse on 27 July, Mocímboa da Praia on 8 August, and reportedly heading to Macomia, Cabo Delgado. The other countries’ militaries and governments have been in discussions on organizing as a Southern African Development Community standby force (SADC-SF), but the command structure remains undefined.

The Rwandan troops will very likely be able to secure a limited area within Mozambique’s north-eastern Cabo Delgado province. However, it is unlikely that the 1,000 Rwandan soldiers will be able to secure a wider perimeter due to the focused nature of their offensive operations. If the SADC-SF achieves enough coordination to provide support to Rwandan troops, the insurgency is likely to lose its current level of territorial control of the northeast of Mozambique and to be reduced to carrying out hit-and-run attacks. Such support from the SADC-SF would probably include ensuring a month-long presence in key cities, performing regular patrols on the province’s roads, providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and airpower (attack helicopters). The insurgents will very likely fully withdraw from Palma, Mocímboa da Praia, Macomia, and Muidumbe districts in Cabo Delgado province.