By James Tasamba
KIGALI, Rwanda (AA) - President Paul Kagame assured Mozambicans on Friday that Rwanda will not abandon them in the face of terrorism.
Kagame arrived in Pemba, the capital of Mozambique’s gas-rich northern province of Cabo Delgado for a two-day visit, two months after Rwanda deployed 1,000 army and police forces to the restive province to help combat terrorism.
Allied Mozambique-Rwandan troops recaptured parts of northern Mozambique, including the port city of Mocimboa da Praia in Cabo Delgado from the extremist militants.
“The rebels better know that we won’t sit back and let them return and threaten the lives of the people in Cabo Delgado,” Kagame told a joint assembly of troops, standing alongside his Mozambican counterpart, Filipe Nyusi.
“The work done hasn’t been easy. The work done so far cannot stop here. We now have another task which is to continue rebuilding and protecting this country.”
Kagame said the president and people of Mozambique are at the forefront of the mission and “will inform us how long our mandate here should be.”
In an interview earlier this month with state television, Kagame said “no one is sponsoring” his country’s military support to Mozambique, in apparent response to reports questioning Rwanda’s motivation for the deployment and whether it is being financed by a third party.
Nyusi said: “Our citizens are forever grateful for the kind of service these soldiers have shown and for liberating them from rebels who had taken over Cabo Delgado.”
The Mozambique Defense Ministry said following joint operations, the terrorists have been losing ground.
The government said northern Mozambique is now safe and civilians previously displaced are being encouraged to return to their homes.
About 25,000 people have reportedly been brought back home in areas controlled by joint troops.
But two months after the start of joint military offensives, the troops have yet to capture the leaders of the militant group wreaking havoc in Cabo Delgado province.
Reports indicate that the spiritual and military leaders, Sheik Hassan and Bonamade Omar, respectively, are still at large after escaping a recent "assault" on the town of Mbau believed to be the group's bastion.
Maj. Steven Kuraba, Commander of the Rwandan Special Force deployed to Mbau, told reporters on Thursday that the two leaders managed to escape and are now suspected to be hiding on the banks of the Messalo River.
Besides the Rwandans, a contingent of forces from the regional bloc, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is also deployed in northern Cabo Delgado.
An armed insurgency with its origin in the wider socio-economic and political disparity has kept Mozambique smoldering since 2017.
Peace has remained elusive in the southern African country with vast natural resources even after the end of a 15-year civil war in 1992.