Mozambique: People released by rebels speak of hunger within the insurgency

3:22 CAT | 12 May 20220 CommentsPrintShare

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FILE – For illustration purposes only. [File photo: Lusa]

Five people say they were freed by an armed group that kidnapped them in Cabo Delgado, northern Mozambique, and described the inner workings of the insurgency that is ravaging the region, residents who received them told Lusa on Tuesday.

“Five people arrived here at the main village of Nangade,” with signs of malnutrition, said one of the inhabitants of this Tanzania-adjacent district, bounded to the north by the Rovuma River, which has been hit by attacks since the beginning of the year.

“They arrived on Saturday: they had gone missing, and after so long without us knowing about them, they are here. They said they were in the woods with terrorists and that they decided to free them,” but without any more detailed an explanation.

The five people had been seized in September, 2020, while fishing in Nangadinji Lagoon, three kilometres from Nagade district headquarters village. Now they have arrived on their own two feet, three men and two women, one of whom was reunited with her youngest daughter, who was only six months old when she left, a relative says.

Asked about the insurgents’ decision to release them, they suspect that the armed group wants to regroup, leaving behind those who are not part of the core. “They say that they are afraid of those who run away, that they might denounce them and, therefore, they prefer to be alone with themselves,” the same source added.

The victims passed through four rebel bases in the districts of Nangade, Macomia, Muidumbe and Palma, travelling on foot with the insurgents under duress, and with almost none of the essentials for survival.

“They were on foot, and closely controlled,” the source said, adding that the victims’ behaviour showed signs of trauma and the need for psychological support.

According to reports, during the first year they fed on food stolen from abandoned houses after attacks in the region, but when the military forces “tightened the siege”, cassava and corn from the fields became their main source of food.

“But the corn was only used for chewing or roasting, as they had no way to grind it,” contributing to their emaciated appearance upon arrival in Nangade.

Another source told Lusa that, according to the reports, the three men “carried war material from the terrorists”, while “the two women were subjected to rape”. The only reason they didn’t get pregnant was because “they had used a contraceptive method”.

Another resident said that the main headquarters village continues to receive people fleeing villages in Nangade district for fear of attacks and kidnappings. “The situation remains bad and the village continues to receive people fleeing because terrorists are out there,” he said.

In February, a team of Mozambican military personnel and African partners was deployed to Muia, while the village of Nangade served as a transit point for displaced persons trying to reach other parts of the province.

The district has been the target of several rebel attacks since the beginning of the year. Nangade is between two distinct parts of Cabo Delgado: the east borders Palma and Mocímboa da Praia, the scene of the main clashes, while to the west the district borders Mueda, which has served as a refuge for thousands of displaced people.Image: Google Maps

As the offensive supported by Rwandan and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) troops has progressed since July 2021, it is suspected that the rebels are also fleeing to neighbouring districts and provinces.

Cabo Delgado is rich in natural gas, but has been terrorized since 2017 by armed rebels, with some attacks claimed by the Islamic State extremist group.

There are 784,000 people internally displaced by the conflict, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), and about 4,000 have died, according to the ACLED conflict registry project.

Source: Lusa

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