Mozambican and Rwandan Forces Recapture Strategic African Port

Mozambique port recaptured
(file photo)

Published Aug 9, 2021 3:18 PM by Brian Gicheru Kinyua

The Rwandan Defense Force on August 8 reported that it has successively regained control of the port city of Mocimboa da Praia. A key port city, it was considered one of the last strongholds of the insurgency and its instability had been disrupting economic operations. In April, Total declared force majeure on its $20 billion offshore-liquefied natural gas project from continued instability in the region.

“The port city of Mocimboa da Praia, a major stronghold of the insurgency for more than two years has been captured by Rwandan and Mozambican security forces,” the Force said in a tweet. The Force spokesman Colonel Ronald Rwivanga later confirmed these reports to the French AFP news, where he was quoted saying, “Mocimboa da Praia has fallen”. 

Since 2017, the port town has become into a de facto headquarters for the Islamic state-linked extremists, locally referred as Ansar- Al- Sunna. Last year, the group seized the town’s heavily guarded port after days of fighting the Mozambican forces. The port was mainly used for cargo deliveries to nearby oil projects, about 37 miles away, which are being developed by oil giant Total. The French energy company had begun to withdraw personnel in the spring due to the violence in the region.

“Mocimboa da Praia was the last stronghold of the insurgents, marking the end of the first phase of counter- insurgency operations which is dislodging insurgents from the stronghold,” Rwivanga further stated in a text message.

Last month, Rwanda resolved to send in 1,000 troops to complement Mozambican military efforts that have been struggling to regain control of the war stricken northern Cabo Delgado province. More foreign troops have also joined after the Southern African regional bloc, SADC, approved a joint military force. The former colonial power Portugal has also been on the ground training Mozambican soldiers.

The Northern Mozambique insurgency has been of great concern to the shipping industry due to the possibility of spilling over to the Mozambique Channel.  Lloyd’s and the International Underwriting Association (IUA) designate the coastline of Cabo Delgado as a “Listed Area”. The listing of the area meant that shipowners would be required to notify their underwriters of voyages in this area. The insurers were seeking to discourage the shipping lines from operating in the area due to the potential dangers and the cost of insurance was expected to rise after the Lloyd's announcement. 

The Defense Force told AFP that it planned to continue operations ni the region with the goal of bringing greater security and stability so that the more than 800,000 people displaced could hopefully return home