Rwanda said on Friday it has begun deploying a 1,000-strong joint force to Mozambique to help it combat an escalating Islamic State-linked insurgency that threatens stability in the country.
The move follows last month’s decision by the 16-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) to approve the deployment of troops to Mozambique to help it respond to the conflict, which is concentrated in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.
The fighting began in October 2017 and thousands of people, including civilians, soldiers and insurgents, have died.
“The Rwandan contingent will support efforts to restore Mozambican state authority by conducting combats and security operations, as well as stabilization and security-sector reform,” a statement by the Rwandan government said on Friday.
Rwandan troops will fight alongside Mozambican forces and those from SADC, it said.
Rwandan defence forces spokesman Ronald Rwivanga told Reuters the new force will complete its deployment by Saturday.
He said the Rwandan contingent is made up of police and the troops trained “to deal with terrorism and security-related issues in that northern province”.
Almost 800,000 people have been displaced in Cabo Delgado and the fighting has brought a $20 billion natural gas project led by oil giant Total to a grinding halt.
The decision by SADC concluded months of deliberation within the bloc about what was required to stop an insurgency that threatens to open up southern Africa’s first jihadist front.
Mozambique’s population is mostly Christian. Cabo Delgado is one of only a few provinces that have a Muslim majority.