COUNTRY UPDATE: 30 August 2023

By Johan Viljoen, Reabetswe Tloubatla

The bishops of Mozambique and the October municipal elections: details of the last Pastoral Letter


The Catholic Bishops of Mozambique note that electoral processes have been a threat to the peace. ′′Our democratic experience confirms it, as we could all see with bitterness in previous electoral processes′′. It is therefore necessary to participate actively and do everything to avoid any disruption in this process, taking into account that the future of our democracy depends to a great extent on the social and economic stability of the country. This declaration appears in the last Pastoral Letter of the Episcopal Conference of Mozambique (CEM), issued last Thursday (24th) in Maputo, on the occasion of the forthcoming Municipal Elections. The Charter is signed by the President of CEM, Dom Inácio Saure. ′′We appeal therefore that, in the Electoral Campaign, candidates and voters do everything in their power so that violence, disturbances, provocations and aggressions that happened in the past do not happen again. For the parties and candidates, our appeal is that the motto of their ethical conduct be: ‘knowing how to win, knowing how to lose’ – say the Catholic Bishops of Mozambique. As for the exercise of active citizenship, the Bishops refer that, as the municipal elections on the 11th of October approach, they feel the obligation to draw the attention of Mozambicans to the duty to vote in a conscious and informed manner. ′′The elections are an important moment of civic intervention, which we cannot miss.

Every conscious and responsible citizen must be an intervening citizen, participating in the decisive moments of democratic life, such as elections. Abstention from participating, at any level, is a resignation from the exercise of citizenship and does not help to improve the situation of our country in general and of our municipalities in particular′′. In a document in which they recall the burning concerns in the country, the Bishops defend an electoral campaign with ethics, which should elucidate the citizen regarding social problems and make known the candidates and proposals of each party. ′′Once the candidates and programs are known, the electoral campaign is an opportunity to reflect on what needs to be chosen and implemented in the Municipality and what should be changed because it is not in line with the common good of citizens, and it is our wish that the electoral campaign that is about to begin will be marked by ethics and the elevation of discourse′′. For the Episcopal Conference of Mozambique, all people are free to support one or another party. ′′Therefore, no one should consider anyone who thinks differently as an enemy. The democratic spirit and human and political maturity must lead us to accept the pluralism of ideas and programs as something natural among people who equally love their homeland and seek the common good. Unity must prevail over conflict. Our civil coexistence must be based primarily on what unites us (common good) and not on what divides us (party ideology)′′. In their Pastoral Letter, the Mozambican Bishops call for an informed vote and for suitable candidates, noting that in municipal elections, as in any part of the world, the choice is more related to people, their competence and their moral and civic values, than about ideologies. ′′It is about choosing the most capable people for the noble mission of guiding our municipalities. Elections are the right moment for that choice. By the logic of proximity and direct knowledge, it is easier to choose the people we consider serious and capable of promoting the common good, which is, by definition, the good of all ′. In this context, say the Bishops, the right choice of suitable candidates to direct the destinies of the municipalities constitutes a vitally important step towards the solution of the problems that affect Mozambican society. The Episcopal Conference of Mozambique observes that the mass participation of all citizens able to vote constitutes the great challenge facing us in the forthcoming Municipal Elections and is essential for us to be able to enjoy the benefits of exercising this important democratic act. ′′Abstention is a negative decision. It would be abdicating an inalienable right. Therefore, we call for the greatest possible influx of voters registered on the electoral roll, especially young people′′. As for the electoral tabulation, the Bishops call for adequate electoral supervision to ensure that both the voting on the 11th of October and the tabulation of the results are transparent, it being necessary that the existing mechanisms act with seriousness and effectiveness in order to allow fair observation and monitoring of voting, tabulation and validation of its results. “In this line of thought, as pastors, we exhort that no one resigns from making their contribution, being leaven in the dough, so that our society is the realization of our dreams of overcoming the challenges that have marked and continue to mark our historical path. ′′As people of faith, we know that our definitive homeland is in the “eternal city”, but we have the duty to take care of the “earthly city”, animated by the Lord Jesus, the Face of the Father’s mercy. We ask God that the next Municipal Elections be a true celebration of the Culture of Democracy and Peace that, stone by stone, vote by vote, contribute to the construction of an ever better future for Mozambique′′. The Bishops appeal to the Security Forces to assume their role of protecting citizens, regardless of their party affiliation, and to ensure the maintenance of law and order, without extremism, not intimidating or favoring anyone.



Ongoing Violence Prevents Displaced People From Returning Home


Recent events have the potential to disrupt the return of displaced people from Macomia district, and the southern area of Mocímboa da Praia. Well orchestrated attacks on FADM troops in Macomia district demonstrated the power the insurgency holds in the area, while its attacks on civilians in Mocímboa da Praia are a reminder of its ruthlessness. Security forces were also accused of incidents against civilians. On 24 July, a member of the Mozambican forces allegedly raped a girl who was returning home in Nangade district. On July 15, South African troops fired on a citizen in Ingoane, Macomia district, according to sources, an incident strongly denied by SAMIM. These incidents have implications for the return of displaced persons on two levels. First, in the coastal area of Macomia, people who returned to their villages had to leave their homes again in search of safer places. Second, some displaced people still living outside conflict zones will not return to their areas of origin, while incidents such as those in July continue to be reported. Meanwhile, those who live in relatively quiet areas pray not to relive past hurts. “People had started to return to their homes, but they left because they saw that things were not going well. They began to return, one by one, to the main town [of Macomia]. Some are already making little houses here”, told us a resident of the Anga A neighborhood, in the village of Macomia. He was even more concerned about reports of casualties in the SDF. “If our forces are suffering, sooner or later we will also suffer”, he warned. Even though he resides in the main village, where, in recent months, there have been no records of attacks, he expressed concern about the recent wave of attacks. “The situation on the coast is frightening, but we can’t do anything”, he said, speaking of people who, even in the face of insecurity, try to fish to guarantee their survival. He also highlighted the ease with which the insurgents circulated along the coast, to the point of buying products from the population. “That’s not good because if we let them buy things, we’re creating them. When we sell food, we are giving it more strength. For this reason, the FDS must do everything to ensure that the insurgents do not reach society, because when the people are in danger, they welcome anyone,” he said. Another resident of the Anga B neighborhood, in the village of Macomia, also spoke of displaced people who have returned, after having once again abandoned their homes on the coast. “When these attacks took place, they would flee from there to here,” he explained. He said that the villages between Mucojo, Pequeue and Quiterajo are practically empty, except for the soldiers and “those thieves”, as he called the insurgents. Some people have already started to return to the coast, he said, not so much because they feel safe, but because of the difficulties of living far from their areas of origin. “Some started to go back to look for food,” he said. Even though he lived in the headquarters village, he expressed fear. “Of course, these attacks are scary, but what can you do?” The news about the July attacks in Cabo Delgado also complicated the calculations of those who thought one day to return home from their refuges outside the conflict zone. A former trader from the village of Mocímboa da Praia, now residing in the city of Nampula, confirmed that these incidents killed many people’s desire to return home. “My family and I, for example, are trying to forget and see if we can settle down here,” he explained. But why forget a land that is your home, we ask you. “The situation there is still not good and, for those who have felt it firsthand, like me, I can’t guarantee that I will be back in the next three or five years,” he said. Another former resident of the town of Mocímboa da Praia, now also a resident of the city of Nampula, expressed discomfort with the actions of the Mozambican troops. “Unlike the Rwandans, our military does not treat us well. Even in the meetings, the population says that the day the Rwandans leave, we will also leave because our forces have no love for the population. The population is afraid”, he said, in a complaint that has become recurrent among the population of Cabo Delgado.



UNHCR classifies Mozambique as “one of the most affected countries in the world


“Mozambique hosts approximately 30,000 refugees and asylum seekers, while around 900,000 people remain internally displaced due to violence perpetrated by non-state armed groups and the devastating impact of the climate crisis — with Mozambique being one of the most affected countries in the world”, reads in the end-July operational report released today by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The document – in which the UNHCR also estimates the financing needs for assistance operations to the country in 2023 at 47.5 million dollars (43.9 million euros) – adds that the double passage of tropical cyclone Freddy, in February and March 2023, “one year after the devastating tropical cyclone Gombe”, affected “more than one million people, destroyed infrastructure and displaced around 184,000 people”.


Military successes against insurgents


A notorious insurgent leader has been killed in Mozambique. Bonomade Machude Omar, aka Ibn Omar, was one of Mozambiques most wanted insurgents, who had been actively involved in the ongoing violence in the country since 2017. His killing was confirmed by a statement from the General Staff of Mozambiques Armed Forces, after his killing on 22 August. The General Staff released a picture of a person they say is Bonomade Omar. They were apparently others killed with him but heir identities have not been verified as yet. This latest offensive comes after at least another two insurgents, also high-ranking members of the groups plaguing the north of the country, were killed the week before. President Filipe Nyusi told journalist that although Ibn Omar has been killed, “we’ve said what needs to be said, that sometimes needs to be understood, that terrorism does not end. We can’t even say that it’s over.” Although the picture evidence of the death is not fully corroborated yet, if confirmed, it would represent a significant blow to the insurgents, and signify a significant victory for Mozambican and SAMIM forces in the Cabo Delgado. Ibn Omar had led an ambush on a military convoy that was transporting the Chief of General Staff, Joaquim Mangrasse, which unfortunately led to the death of 9 soldiers.

General Commander of Police, Bernadino Rafael, has confirmed that in the last few days, due to various joint efforts, at least 30 insurgents have been killed. The FADM, SAMIM and Rwandan Forces are still very active in the north of the country and have helped in the struggle to liberate the areas from insurgent control of those killed, 16 were Mozambican, named: Bonomade Muedede Machude, Abdulai, Abu Kital, Jabir Awade, Sumail and Hamza (father and son), Issa Wachio, Abudo, Abubacar, Nvita Ya Namalala, Abdulai Naenda, Saide Bongue, Abdureheman Bacar and Zubar (who is blamed for the murder of Sr Maria De Coppi in 2022). There were also at least 10 Tanzanians- Farage Nancarava, Selemane Ntoto, Rajabo Figuir, Abu Fadhila, Mohamudo, Mustafa, Abu Salman, Sudesse Nanjuma, Abu Hadira and Hadji Ulatule. There were also at least 4 individuals of unknown origin who were killed.

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