“Publico” on 28 July reported that the presence of French troops in Mali to fight the Sahel jihadists resulted in a failure that forced President Emannuel Macron to announce the end of Operation Barkhane and the “deep transformation” of the strategy in relation to the fight against Islamist terrorism in that region. This same strategy appears to be already being adopted in Mozambique, to protect the interests of the French multinational Total and its natural gas project in Cabo Delgado. The contingent of Rwandan troops will be financed by France, which has already let Zimbabwe know that it is willing to pay the expenses of its troops as well if it decides to send its forces to Cabo Delgado.

According to “New Zimbabwe” the government of Emerson Mnangagwa wants to send soldiers, who are already ready to leave (the well-known 5th Battalion, known for its elite soldiers trained in North Korea and responsible for the massacres in Matabelaland in the early 1980s), but with the crisis aggravated by covid-19, the state coffers do not have enough funds to support such an expensive operation.

“The Ministry of Finance states that there is currently no money to finance the operation. Soldiers who go there will have to receive supplements that can only be paid by the government and, as we have learned from the experience of the Democratic Republic of Congo, this is an expensive undertaking,” a military source told the newspaper.

This is where France comes in. The Mozambican President was in Harare in June and, according to the Zimbabwe Independent, the aim was to ensure that Zimbabwe, in addition to participating in the contingent of close to 2900 soldiers that SADC is sending to Mozambique, would also send a force under a bilateral agreement.

The French President, visited by Nyusi in Paris in mid-May, was willing to finance the operation (in fact, the money will come from Total, which will be able to account it as implementation expenses, benefiting from tax reduction). Macron is said to have offered to establish the same type of technical-fi nancial assistance agreement with Zimbabwe that he signed with Rwanda.

After Nyusi’s meeting with Macron in Paris in May, Reuters reported that the French Ministry of Armed Forces assured at the time that “there was never a question of involving French forces in Cabo Delgado”. Also because it would be very difficult for the request for such to pass the French National Assembly, noting only that France would be available to “take part in the operations in the maritime part”.

However, the French will not fail to be present on the ground, through the European Union’s Military Training Mission. The mission, which will have an initial mandate of two years, will even be commanded by French Admiral Hervé Bléjean – led by Portuguese brigadier general Nuno Lemos Pires.

According to journalist Philippe Chapleau, a specialist in defense matters for the newspaper West-France, France will send between 200 and 300 men starting in the autumn.

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