The moment Yussuf Abdallah met the Rwandan soldiers he knew the game was up.
The 18-year-old Islamist insurgent in northern Mozambique was part of a group known to local people as Shabaab. It has loose ties with Isis and has over the past four years terrorised the northern province of Cabo Delgado, displacing more than 800,000 and killing more than 3,000.
But then troops from a country barely a fraction of Mozambique’s size showed up and cleaned up most of the area in a matter of weeks.
“We were overwhelmed by their number, they were also extremely fierce,” said Abdallah, now a prisoner of the Mozambican state in the coastal city of Mocímboa de Praia, until August an insurgents’ stronghold. “We couldn’t contain the confrontation, they have better weaponry, we couldn’t do anything.”
Rwanda’s 1,000-strong brigade of soldiers and police achieved in weeks what Mozambican and other forces had been unable to do in years. The turn of events in Cabo Delgado illustrates Kigali’s willingness under president Paul Kagame to reach beyond its borders and act as police officer in regional disputes.
“It’s got a lot to do with African solutions for African problems”, said Col Ronald Rwivanga of Rwanda’s Defence Forces. Gas, jihad, discipline, and projecting power: Rwanda flexes muscles in fight against terror in Mozambique https://t.co/jWCWHjFI62 via @financialtimes
— Andres Schipani (@AndresSchipani) October 3, 2021