Mozambique: The Business Side Of Rwandan Military Support

President Felipe Nyusi and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame inspecting troops in Mozambique

Rwanda is increasingly strengthening its business presence in Mozambique amid the narrative of military support in the fight against terrorists in Cabo Delgado without demanding anything in return. Both Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his Mozambican counterpart Filipe Nyusi have publicly stated that the military intervention does not imply any kind of payment, but independent analysts say there are no ‘free lunches’ in international relations, suspecting there is some kind of secret agreement between the statesmen.

By Jorge Joaquim

The results of Rwandan military support are unquestionable. The Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado is today relatively peaceful, thanks to the intervention of Rwandan troops, after a long time during which Mozambique failed in the battle against terrorists. The bloody attacks began in 2017 and both the Mozambican army and various mercenaries, including Wagner Group, failed to destroy the rebels’ network, but the Rwandan troops have changed the situation since the beginning of their intervention in July 2021.

Rwanda and Mozambique say that the intervention is gratuitous and does not foresee any type of compensation, apart from peace in the region, but the truth is that since the military aid began, there has been a parallel business presence from Rwanda, and the most recent business known is taking place in the area where part of the Rwandan troops are deployed.

A Rwandan company has won an $800,000 construction contract in Palma, Cabo Delgado, which will see it provide on-the-job training for Mozambican apprentices while improving the resettlement village for people forced to move by the Mozambique LNG project, according to Zitamar News.

Rwandan construction company Radar Scape signed an agreement with IFPELAC, the Mozambican vocational training institute, in Afungi, in the Palma district of Cabo Delgado, where they will work together to rehabilitate 76 houses in the village of Quitunda, it says.

Government agency IFPELAC is present in Palma monitoring basic courses aimed at young people in the area. Radar Scape is making its first incursion into the Mozambique market, in an area where a 2,500-strong contingent of Rwandan military and police has been present since 2021.

The houses to be rehabilitated were seriously vandalised after the insurgent attack on Palma on 24 March 2021. Quitunda is a new urban village built from scratch to house the displaced population of the area concessioned to the oil and gas companies that are going to exploit Areas 1 and 4 of the Rovuma Basin, on the seafront adjacent to the Afungi Peninsula.

After the 2021 attack, desperate locals from Palma and neighbouring villages headed to Quitunda, occupying all the public spaces and houses under construction destined for the inhabitants of Quitupo, a village within the concessioned area.

According to Zitamar, Radar Scape will do training of trainers and on the job training, bringing IFPELAC trainees to Quitunda. The project is valued at $800,000, and paid for by TotalEnergies, the French company leading the gas project, it adds, saying that the involvement of the Rwandan company followed a tender process, though noted there were not many competitors.

The agreement was signed in Quitunda by the IFPELAC delegate in Pemba, João Massingue and the Director General of Radar Scape, Patrick Nzeyimana.

Running another contract in the conflict zone

NPD, a major civil engineering group in Rwanda owned by the ruling party of President Paul Kagame, had joined Italian, South African and Portuguese contractors in bidding for the contract on the TotalEnergies-led project and was added to the shortlist, Paris-based news site Africa Intelligence reports.

There is some speculation that NPD would get the contract as some kind of quid pro quo for Rwanda’s security investment in Cabo Delgado. The work would involve clearing the site and doing structural work at the project.

TotalEnergies evacuated all employees and declared force majeure on the development, after a major attack in March last year on the town of Palma that’s less than 10 kilometers away. The arrival of troops from Rwanda helped to beat back the insurgency.

Few believe Rwanda has the financial muscle to go this alone, and rumors persist that there is some kind of arrangement involving France and TotalEnergies.

However, last year the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy donated 20 million Euros to support Rwanda’s troops fighting terrorism.

Kagame and Nyusi denies exchange of favours

September last year Rwanda’s president stated that the military support for Mozambique to stabilise Cabo Delgado is fully supported by Rwanda’s own resources, denying having financiers such as France or TotalEnergies.

“Thus far, we have been using our own means. We have decent resources and we are happy to share. There is no one financing us”, said Paul Kagame in an interview with RBA public television station RBA.

The Rwandan head of state was responding to a question about possible financing coming from France or its national oil company TotalEnergies.

“Our mission is not linked to resources or other things, it is just to make the area safe” and thus support Mozambique, because “there is a lot to do, one partner is not enough”, given the degree of destruction in Cabo Delgado.

For the other hand, President Nyusi said that no country, including Rwanda, has asked for a reward for contributing to the fight against terrorism.

Rwanda was the first of several African countries to provide reinforcements to Mozambique’s army, overwhelmed by the worsening conflict in the gas-rich province. A contingent of forces from the regional bloc, the Southern African Development Community, is also patrolling northern Cabo Delgado.

The Rwandan security forces have added Ancuabe district to the sectors which they are responsible for defending against terrorists, in addition to Palma and Mocímboa da Praia, where Mozambican and Rwandan forces notched up a major victory, when they drove the terrorists out of their headquarters. The deployment to the district is made up of troops from the Rwanda Defence Force and the Rwanda National Police.

The reliance of President Nyusi on Rwandan troops to meet the security needs of Mozambique may be coming at a price

New horizons

On the other hand, Rwanda and Mozambique are strengthening relations. RwandAir will soon start direct flights between Maputo and Kigali, a measure that will stimulate an increase in the volume of business between the two countries.

Recently, Mozambique and Rwanda signed a visa exemption agreement for ordinary passport holders from both countries. Under the new agreement, citizens of both countries are entitled to stay in the other without a visa for up to 90 days.

Under existing relations, Mozambique currently exports sugar, ores and other mining products to Rwanda. Mozambican businessmen are scheduled to travel to Kigali in March to take part in a road show aimed at mobilising the Rwandan business community to invest in Mozambique.

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