Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI) facilitated a solidarity visit by the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) to the Diocese of Pemba, Cabo Delgado, over the period 2 to 4 December. The SACBC delegation consisted of Bishop Victor Phalana (Bishop of Klerksdorp and SACBC liaison Bishop for Justice and Peace), Bishop Jose Luis Ponce de Leon (Bishop of Manzini), Sr Tshifhiwa Munenzhe (newly appointed SACBC Secretary General) and Johan Viljoen (DHPI Director). The Mozambican delegation consisted of Bishop Luis Fernando Lisboa (Bishop of Pemba) and Archbishop Inacio Saure (Archbishop of Nampula and Vice President of the Mozambican Bishops’ Conference), Mr Manuel Nota (Director of Diocese of Pemba Caritas) and Ms Bettinha Ribeiro (Caritas Pemba Project Manager). The group visited Good Shepherd Mission (Pemba), Paquitiquete (Pemba), as well as refugee settlements in Ancwabe (about 100 km north of Pemba) and Metuge (about 50 km from Pemba).

The SACBC delegation witnessed a humanitarian disaster of unparalleled proportions. There are now almost 500 000 displaced people in the south of the province, with about 150 000 in the city of Pemba itself, almost doubling the city’s normal population of 200 000. UNHCR provides humanitarian assistance (including food) to less than 10% of the displaced. At the end of November, it announced that humanitarian assistance would be stopped due to a shortage of funds. In Nangume Village, Ancwabe District, the delegation was told by displaced that up to nine people are buried daily, who died from starvation.

The group encountered almost nobody who supported the view that the war in Cabo Delgado is an Islamic insurgency with the aim of establishing an Islamic state. Almost everyone spoken to agrees that the war is about multinational corporations gaining control of the Province’s mineral and gas resources, by depopulating the coastal areas. All land in Mozambique is state-owned – use of the land and permission to occupy is conferred by a document known as a “DUAT”. It was confirmed that displaced arriving in the south of the Province have their DUAT’s cancelled, making it impossible for them to return once the violence ceases. In Ancwabe the delegation was told that displaced are issued with a DUAT for the area and are given a new plot of land to cultivate as they “probably would not return to where they came from”. And according to reports received, the supposedly abandoned town of Mocimboa da Praia is now seeing an influx of developers (many from the United Arab Emirates) who are surveying the town with a view to reconstructing the town and developing the port. There are also reports of petrol and gas companies surveying the coast of Zambezia province, without any consultation with local communities. Local people there are saying that it is only a matter of time before war erupts there, like in Cabo Delgado, to drive them off their land as well.

The crisis is spilling over into other areas. There are already more than 40 000 in Nampula Province (more than 300 km away) with 20 000 in the city of Nampula itself.

Good Shepherd, Pemba

Before the attacks, Muidumbe had a population of 79 000, spread over 26 villages. The entire district has been depopulated. Everyone has fled – more than 300 km on foot, to reach Pemba. The journey took up to two weeks, with those fleeing traversing the bush without food or water. The Catholic Church has arranged for the survivors to meet from Wednesday to Saturday for prayers, and on Sundays for Mass at Good Shepherd Mission. Most stay with friends or relatives in Pemba. Most are survivors of the brutal attacks in Muidumbe (where the entire Catholic Mission, Convent, Priests’ house and community radio station were burned to the ground. The damage is incalculable – more than 100 years old, it is the second oldest Mission in Cabo Delgado.

Photo Below: Mass being celebrated under a cashew tree for the Muidumbe community refugees at Good Shepherd Mission.

Photo Below: Survivors from the massacres at Muidumbe and Xitaxe attending Wednesday afternoon prayers at Good Shepherd Mission.


One of the poorest neighbourhoods in Pemba, and the site where the influx of refugees arrived by boat. Many stayed in the neighbourhood, constructing reed shacks for themselves.


More than 390 households (with 7 to 8 members each)  of displaced have been registered in Nangume village, Ancwabe district, the place visited by the delegation. Local people confirm that up to 9 funerals are conducted daily for people who died of starvation. There is also cholera. Those registered by the local government are provided with a monthly food parcel by Caritas. However, many new displaces arrive daily, who do not receive anything due to insufficient supplies.



There are seven camps for displaced in the Metuge District. As seen in the pictures below, no accommodation is provided. Displaced construct shelters from grass for themselves. Some do not even have this and sleep in the sand under mosquito nets. The delegation spoke to displaced who have been living in these conditions for more than seven months.

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