1. Mozambican Human Rights Activists Reject President Ramaphosa’s Claim That Insurgency Has Been Neutralized

While the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has noted considerable gains in Cabo Delgado, there are genuine fears that insurgents have withdrawn to regroup and are planning rejuvenated attacks.

In an interview with News24 published on 14 January 2022, Professor Adriano Nuvunga – the Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and part of the Steering Committee of the Mozambique Human Rights Defenders Network (RMDDH) – warned the SADC not to relax because insurgents could strike at any time.

Clearly contradicting President Ramaphosa’s claim that the insurgency had been neutralized, he said: “The insurgency is not yet neutralized. The violent extremists are regrouping, launching attacks from several parts of Cabo Delgado and they are also expanding to neighboring province Niassa where they have launched significant attacks”.

Piers Pigou, the Crisis Group’s senior consultant for Southern Africa, warned that the conflict in Cabo Delgado could last for years to come because of an apparent disconnect between the joint SADC forces and Rwandan forces.

“There appears to be a disconnect between the joint forces, there’s no adequate intelligence sharing or strategic coordination. This was evident from the separate meetings, you saw the joint security chiefs meeting of Rwanda and Mozambican security chiefs meeting in Kigali on Sunday and Monday, and then Tuesday, Wednesday there was the SADC meetings. Mozambique is the common denominator and they should be informing each other on these kinds of issues,” he said.

Prof. Nuvunga’s assessment is shared by Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Speaking to the Portuguese news outlet SIC Noticias (https://sicnoticias.pt/mundo/crise-em-cabo-delgadoos-atacantes-mataram-o-meu-marido-e-o-meu-filho/ ) they say:” The crisis in Northern Mozambique is far from over. The context remains very volatile in northern Mozambique, where people most recently displaced and fleeing the attacks come across those trying to return home. Frequent attacks persist at various points, which mean that people continue to have to flee. Far from over, the humanitarian crisis persists in the region and hundreds of thousands of people survive in precarious conditions.”

In the last two weeks, eight villages were attacked in the district of Meluco: Mbada, Nangororo, Muaguide, Muariri, Pitolha, Primeiro de Maio, Sitati and Nawa, the latter already close to Meluco’s headquarters. Government authorities fled. The population took refuge in the woods. There are no reports of deaths, but some women were taken by insurgents. The villages were burned.

Strangers attacked Limwalamwala, a remote village in Nangade district, at 5 pm local time on Sunday 16 January and burned about 200 houses built with traditional material, local sources reported. According to reports, the attack resulted in at least five deaths and the general flight of the population to the forests. Elsewhere in the province, in central Cabo Delgado, at 8:00 am local time on Sunday, armed groups attacked the village of Nkóe, located six kilometers from national road 380. The attackers burned houses, but so far there are no reports of victims. Residents reported the attack and the generalized flight of the population into the woods. Part of the inhabitants head to the nearest district headquarters, Macomia, to head from there to the provincial capital, Pemba. Other families remain hidden in the woods.


2. Prof. Nuvunga Joins Calls For Negotiated Solution

In the same interview with News24, Prof Nuvunga said that a key element missing from SADC’s mission to quell attacks in Cabo Delgado was dialogue.

“One of the missing areas is the issue of dialogue. Dialogue means moving from a solely militaristic approach to a governance-centred complement. It goes beyond development to a more community-centric security strategy, where the local populations move from being victims into actors of development – bottom-up initiatives – having their views, perspectives as to what is happening to lead the policy response,” he said.

The Deutsche Afrika Stiftung (German Africa Foundation) has added its voice, saying that:” Security experts have long called for the start of a dialogue with the insurgents in addition to military intervention.”  They also criticize the lack of coordination between SADC troops and the Rwandan military on the ground, and say:  “ The latter is said to be active in Cabo Delgado in particular to protect French corporate interests, but a joint strategy among the various actors is lacking.” (https://www.deutsche-afrika-stiftung.de/en/press/cw-2-2022-striving-for-stability/ ).


3. Niassa Update: Will Rwandan Troops Be Deployed?

On January 12, the governor of Niassa province, Judite Massengele, visited Mecula. Since November, this district has been a frequent target of armed attacks by insurgents fleeing the offensives of joint forces in Cabo Delgado province. Massengele made it known that after becoming aware of the attacks “the provincial command of the PRM – Niassa, reinforced the positions considered vulnerable. There was also further reinforcement of the Armed Forces for the Defense of Mozambique (FADM) to contain the spread of the phenomenon”.

In a visit that essentially aimed to interact with the population of Mecula, the governor had as one of the main goals to raise awareness to “keep vigilance and encourage the reporting of strange movements”.

However, the population is terrified of the attacks and has sought refuge in the still-safe districts. When asked whether security is guaranteed for the residents of Mecula, Judite Massengele replied: “In general, yes, it is guaranteed by the presence of the Defense and Security Forces (FDS) in many parts of the district, including the attacked places”.

In Niassa, information circulated that civil servants were being forced to return to their jobs, despite fear. Invited to comment on the alleged pressures, the governor said: “We encourage the employees as well as the population of the unaffected places to lead a normal life, given the security guaranteed by the SDF, as is the case of Mecula”.

Residents of Mecula speak of kidnappings, by the security forces, of merchants and religious leaders, allegedly collaborators of the insurgents, but the governor said that “the local authorities are not aware of this phenomenon”. There is also talk in the district of the presence of Rwandan troops, officially deployed to the neighboring province of Cabo Delgado to help Mozambican forces fight the insurgency. When asked about this, Massengele replied, “We have not confirmed it and it does not constitute truth.”

With the insurgency spreading from Cabo Delgado province to Niassa province, the drama of the internally displaced also arises. Because of the December 8 attack, for example, Arlindo Saíde left the village of Lichengue. “It was an attack, I lived up there. We ran away and came back the next day. It started at 6 pm, they killed a woman who was later wrapped in grass and burned”, he explains. According to Saíde, there was no intervention by the security forces on the day of the violence, they only showed up the next day.

Another citizen, Costa Laginha, says that he also fled his village, Macalange, because of the “war” of the insurgents. “They came in at 3 pm and we fled through the bush because we were afraid of them”. When they arrived, “they burned the houses and then the government came to take all the people away and put us here at the headquarters”.

These displaced persons were welcomed by the authorities in Mecula. The administrator of Mecula, António Joaquim Paulo, recalled that the onslaught began specifically in the Buchiuca area, against a patrol car of inspectors from Suez Investment. He also said that on November 27, 29 and 30 and on December 2, 8 and 22 the villages of Naulala I and II, Macalange, Nalamo, Lichengue and Napiqueche were attacked.

 

According to the administrator, five people died in the attacks, two vehicles were destroyed and two health centers were vandalized and medicines were looted. The administrative services of the locality of Naulala were also partially destroyed by arson. In all, 554 houses were burned: “28 in Naulala I, 58 in Naulala II, 122 in Macalange, 283 in Lichengue and 63 in Napiqueche. [There was also] the destruction of the border force tent, the EPC secretariat in Macalange , two EPC classrooms in Napiqueche, a mill, all by fire, in addition to having set fire to six motorcycles and the undetermined looting of tents”. He says  that, from November 25 to January 11, 2022, Mecula received 1192 families, which is equivalent to 3803 displaced people. These people are now safe, but this is not the end of their problems: Costa Laginha talks about food shortages and the lack of conditions in Mecula. “The food is not enough, a person receives 5 kg, they say he must eat for 15 days. There is no curry, there is no salt, there is no sugar. We have a tent where two families sleep. With twenty people in a house, it’s not enough.”

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