The governor of Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province said Thursday that the city of Mocimboa da Praia was safe for people to return. It was retaken from Islamist insurgents by a joint force of Rwandan and government forces on Sunday.
“With this force, which has been done to put them out of this city, so people of course they have to be happy, all of us we are happy because now we know that Mocimboa is in good condition for the people to return and live,” said Valige Tauabo while visiting the city’s airport.
After being overrun in August 2020, the town became the de-facto headquarters of the Islamic State-linked extremists, who are locally referred to as Al-Shabab.
Buoyed by the presence of security forces, a few families have returned to the area.
Southern African countries on Monday inaugurated a regional military mission to help Mozambique take back control of its gas-rich northern province from jihadists that have been rampaging across towns and villages for nearly four years.
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi and Botswanan President Mokgweetsi Masisi launched the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) at an event in Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado province.
“We reaffirm our joint commitment to fight against violent extremism together with the Rwandan forces,” said Nyusi.
He mentioned “news in recent days of the success of Rwanda’s mission and our forces,” referring to the recapture of Awasse and Mocimboa da Praia towns from the insurgents, just weeks after the East African troops arrived.
Mozambican forces, backed by Rwandan troops, on Sunday said they had driven out militants occupying Mocimboa da Praia, a port from where the first Islamist attacks were staged in October 2017.
“The control of Mocimboa da Praia town and the gradual return of movement between Palma and Mocimboa da Praia is the product of the bravery and concerted effort of the forces with the aim of quickly returning stability to the region,” said Nyusi.
In March the militants struck Palma, forcing French energy giant Total to suspend work on a nearby $20-billion gas project.
Rwanda started deploying a 1,000-man force on July 9 to shore up the Mozambican military. Forces from Mozambique’s fellow members of the 16-nation SADC bloc started deploying on July 26, led by Botswana.