Mozambique Regains Control of Islamic State-Afflicted Northern Province With Rwandan Help

Rwandan Patrol Mocimboa

Rwandan Patrol Mocimboa.

“Under the watchful eye of heavily armed Mozambican and Rwandan soldiers who guard the streets, the regular activity in the town center has revived again.”

In March 2023, Portuguese Radio and Television, which produces perspectives from Portugal and the broader Portuguese-speaking world, published the excerpted article noting that Mozambique northern province of Cabo Delgado, which two years ago was under siege by militants affiliated with the Islamic State (IS), is now back under the control of the Mozambican government. The key turning point was the intervention of Rwandan troops to support Mozambican military personnel.[i] Mozambique-Rwanda military forces continue to work together in Cabo Delgado to ensure that IS militants do not return. Although the article states that civilians have expressed their gratitude for the newfound security in Cabo Delgado, civilians also claim that the violence is still close by in towns such as Palma. Roads leading into rural areas remain at risk, and militants still erect flash checkpoints on roadways and abduct, steal from, and even kill civilians. According to the article, while the military’s counterinsurgency strategy has been a success, there has been no economic revival plan for Cabo Delgado, which could impede future progress. While some businesses have benefitted from the renewed security, there are still few jobs and significant unemployment among Cabo Delgado’s working-age population. As the article asserts, if the counterinsurgency strategy does not include or result in an economic revival in Cabo Delgado, jobless disaffected youth may still turn to the militants out of economic desperation.


“Vida regressa a Palma sob patrulha, dois anos após ataque no norte de Moçambique” (Life returns to Palma under patrols two years after the attack in northern Mozambique),” (popular Portuguese-language broadcaster covering Lusaphone affairs), 9 March 2023.

Under the watchful eye of heavily armed Mozambican and Rwandan soldiers who patrol the streets, the regular activity in the town center has revived again. Some contractors already announced their return to Afungi, the site of the energy facilities, in the middle of this year, but decisions from the French oil company TotalEnergies are pending.Meanwhile, the population complains about the lack of opportunities to benefit them from the largest private investment in Africa…. Unemployment and lack of opportunities – namely in emerging investments linked to gas – have been indicated by several observers as some of the reasons why young people are recruited into the ranks of the rebels in northern Mozambique.


[i] The Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) entered Cabo Delgado in northern Mozambique in 2021 to combat the IS-loyal militants in the country. The RDF succeeded in reducing the violence in much of Cabo Delgado and training Mozambican troops in counterinsurgency and, as a result, the RDF deployment period has been extended. For more on Rwanda’s military interventions in the region, see: Brendon J. Cannon & Federico Donelli, “Rwanda’s Military Deployments in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Neoclassical Realist Account,” The International Spectator, 58:1, 109-127, (2023).

Image Information:

Image: Rwandan Patrol Mocimboa.
Attribution: CC x 2.0