The silence that the Mozambican government imposed on the conflict in Cabo Delgado remains, but, in the face of the attack on the village of Palma, all eyes turned to the conflict. With the mobile network of the village – which will have been destroyed by the insurgents – still below, we still do not know exactly the extent of the carnage, how many troops face the jihadists, what casualties they suffer, what means they have, what they lack. However, the pressure on Maputo increased. And there had to be victims among foreigners – including a Portuguese whose vehicle was ambushed, but managed to rescue 26 people even after being shot – and oil workers for this to happen, laments Pedro Neto, executive director of Amnesty International Portugal, to i.
“It is an analysis that is hard for me to do, and that leaves me with some dismay,” says Neto, whose organization has written several reports on the conflict in recent years, revealing abuses on the part of jihadists, affected by the Islamic State, but also on the part of the mercenaries hired to fight them and the government forces themselves
“What costs me is that when it comes to investments like Total and other multinationals that are exploring the territory – I have nothing against their work itself – there is greater interest. And when human lives are at stake, there is less interest, ”he says. “We have to reverse priorities”.
The Amnesty leader is not the only one to complain about this. “We have been experiencing a situation of terrorism in Cabo de Delgado since 2017”, remembers Ivone Soares, deputy and former parliamentary leader of Renamo, the largest Mozambican opposition party, to i. “And, despite all the efforts of the Government, the feeling is that there is more concern in protecting investments in the Afungi peninsula than in protecting lives”.
However, the tragedy continues. Refugees who sought shelter in the prospects in Afungi, heavily protected by mercenaries, are being evacuated by sea and air to the district capital, Pemba, others flock to neighboring Tanzania, while many others have hidden in the bush – hi spoke to several families in Pemba, who are still unaware of their loved ones who fled during the attack. However, even in Pemba the situation is not easy.
“We ask for your hand, your help,” begged Father Kwiriwi Fonseca, from the diocese of Pemba. “A lot of people are in the woods, a lot of people need food,” he warned, in an audio message heard by the Renaissance. Adding that the Mozambican authorities have banned all attempts to understand the situation around Palma. “Some, very rare, who went there, were unable to get close. Because the Government’s guidance is not to take pictures or make some recordings ”.
“It is a style of governance based on silence, secrecy, which should not surprise us”, says Ivone Santos, stressing that the nature of Frelimo “was always secretive, they are suspicious of everything and everyone. Even from Mozambican citizens themselves ”.
Point of no return It is obvious to everyone that the conflict in Cabo Delgado, initially treated by the authorities as a mere problem of banditry, has entered a new phase. If only because the insurgent group – known to locals as Al-Shabaab, for its resemblance to Somali jihadists – demonstrates increasing sophistication, as seen in the attack on Palma, one of the most protected villages, which has been widely documented by Islamic State’s own official agency, Amaq. A capacity that is reflected in the scale of the suffering of civilians
“For a long time, the population of the villages fled to the forest to go to sleep, at dusk because they knew that, most likely, their villages would be attacked, assaulted and set on fire,” recalls Pedro Neto. “Now we are in a new phase, even more serious, in which these people do not return in the morning, they leave for urban areas, as for Pemba”.
“The Mozambican government has been trying to hide the situation”, he accuses. “We documented the arrest of journalists working on the ground, even the harassment and intimidation of Amnesty International’s own investigators. As well as defamation and death threats against Bishop Dom Luiz Lisboa, of the diocese of Pemba, for having been a strong voice in denouncing everything that is happening ”.
“But it is no longer possible to cover up what is happening. The tragedy is in full view of the world ”, considers the leader of Amnesty. However, the increase in attention has not yet begun to have an effect on aid to the approximately 700,000 displaced by the conflict. In the face of the human tide, the United Nations humanitarian agencies lack basic items such as food and medicines, Lusa said.
The donations still only covered 10% of the appeal to raise 216.31 million euros to support Cabo Delgado, made in December – joining the refugees from Palma, which only covers 30% of the identified needs. Meanwhile, calls for solidarity are emerging, such as that of the secretary general of the Union of Capital Cities of the Portuguese Language (UCCLA), Vítor Ramalho. “By the means at our disposal, let us raise awareness among national and international public authorities so that an urgent and efficient response is obtained,” he appealed in a statement. “We must all feel like citizens of Cabo Delgado”.