from ARIMANDO DOMINGOS in Maputo, Mozambique
MAPUTO, (CAJ News) – SPORADIC attacks by militants suspected to be Islamists are a double blow for villagers in northern Mozambique still reeling from the devastating cyclone that hit the region earlier this year.
The terror also raises the spectre of droughts in this volatile part of the country as farmers abandon their fields to join other civilians on the trek to bigger towns in search of safety.
Cabo Delgado, the northernmost province, is the epicentre of the armed violence that is forcing scores of people from their homes, destroying villages and health centres, and making it difficult for families to recover from Cyclone Kenneth, which hit the area in April 2019 with ruinous effect. Nyimpino Mocumbi’s travails in recent months is a case of falling from the frying pan to the fire.
“I lost a small house I shared with my husband and son during the cyclone earlier this year,” the 33-year-old said.
The family is among over 30 000 people displaced after Cyclone Kenneth made landfall in northern Mozambique.
“After losing our home and livelihoods, we now live in fear for our lives because the attacks by the unknown men (militants) are regular. I sleep with one eye open under the sound of gunshots,” Mocumbi said at the family’s makeshift home.
Attacks on Mozambicans have been recurrent in Cabo Delgado since 2017.
At least 300 people have died and 60 000 residents have been affected many forced to travel elsewhere for safety, according to the United Nations (UN).
Hundreds of people have been wounded and killed, homes burned down, and property looted.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said safe access to affected communities was a challenge for humanitarian organisations, making the real scale of the needs hard to determine.
“Armed violence prevents us and others from going anywhere, anytime. The true scale of the people that are affected is still unknown,” said Patricia Danzi, ICRC’s regional director for Africa.
She said people had the double impact of the armed violence and the cyclone, which tore through the province at the beginning of the year, destroying many of the assets people had.
“It adds on top of what they have to do. They have to rebuild their lives twice,” Danzi said.
The armed violence is triggering fears of drought as farmers flee their villages to bigger towns like Macomia.
The terror has rendered farming a perilous exercise.
“I fled the village because of the violence that coincided with the beginning of the planting season. The atmosphere was tense and the reports of ambushes by armed men in our area unsettled me a lot. The seeds I had planted and the labour I invested will go to waste,” lamented Lourina Simango.
He is among scored now settling in Macomia.
The flurry of arrivals is putting a strain on already scarce resources.
Most people displaced by armed violence are living with impoverished local families. Others have occupied whatever open spaces they can find, including classrooms.
The Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM) is concerned the armed attacks could spill to other parts of the country.
It has appealed to government to find solutions. CCM is advocating for dialogue.
While the government of President Filipe Nyusi has hinted at dialogue, it has deployed the military in affected areas, a development that analysts believe has agitated the militants further.
“There is a need to stop these small outbreaks of evil, because they could spread throughout the country in the future, as seen in other conflicts the country has endured,” CCM President, Felicidade Chirinda stated.
CCM recently met National Assembly Speaker, Verónica Macamo, in the national capital, Maputo.
Macamo pledged the government’s commitment to eradicate the terror.
“The House of Assembly will do everything to put Mozambicans as far as possible from this evil,” she said in the statement.
– CAJ News