The joint military force’s operations against insurgents in Cabo Delgado are giving hope back to citizens who fled the northern province of Mozambique and are now living in the city of Nampula.

Abdul Momade, 33, who fled Mocímboa da Praia last year, praises the work of foreign and national troops who have announced that they have recovered the village. “It’s a good thing these [foreign] troops are coming in, that’s a good thing. The troops must also make efforts to quell the evildoers in Cabo Delgado,” he says. Momade is one of more than 60,000 displaced people from Cabo Delgado living in Nampula province. Since October 2020, he has lived in the district of Namicopo, in the city of Nampula, where he shares a house with 17 people. The desire he has to return to his homeland is very strong. “I want to encourage the Government for the effort and the troops that are coming in, so that it ends this situation so that we can go back to our homes,” he says.

Abu Abacar, another displaced citizen living in Nampula, is scared about the future. What worries him most is that when he returns, he and others may not re-enter the areas where they used to live. “We are appealing [to the Government] to, when the terrorism ends, tell us, to return to our homes.”

Muaziza Yahaya, displaced from Mocímboa da Praia, also sheltered in Nampula, does not share this optimism. “We are afraid of losing our lands. Today they may be saying that they are driving out evildoers, but tomorrow we will lose our lands. We know that our lands have a lot of wealth. So we want the Government to alert us [to the return] after the fight is over,” he says.

JóJó Ernesto, the analyst and general coordinator of Associação Mentes Resilentes, a Mozambican civil society organization, understands the concerns raised by the population. “We are now seeing a rush to resettle [displaced] people as if these people were not going to return to their areas of origin. It is as if they are saying that they will settle here permanently. So, it is a concern, because on the side of the Government not even a voice has come to say that we want to chase away the terrorists to return the region to its owners, who are the local population,” he says. “This concern is legitimate. People should be concerned. All Mozambicans should come together to demand that conditions be created now for people to return to their original areas. Because that is where they are used to having a normal life.”, adds Ernesto.

According to Ernesto, with the entry of foreign troops, there is some distrust in the population regarding possible counterparts. There are those who think that foreign aid may not be the result of just “goodwill”, with interests behind it related to the exploitation of natural resources. JóJó Ernesto, therefore, appeals to the Government to be transparent, in order to avoid speculation and assure the communities of Cabo Delgado that they will also benefit from the natural resources.

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