“Extreme brutality”: Catholic Peace Entity on Burning of Bodies in Mozambique

Screengrab from the offending social media video. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The Catholic humanitarian foundation, Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI), has described a video that depicts soldiers burning bodies in Mozambique as an extreme level of brutality.

In the widely circulated video, soldiers suspected to be from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) can be seen throwing bodies into a burning pile of rubbish in Mozambique.

Two of the soldiers have the South African flag on their shoulders. The matter is still under investigation to find out whether they are SANDF. Some of the bodies being burnt are in civilian clothes.

“This is a video of extreme brutality which at the very least shows contraventions of the Geneva convention. It says that every dead person should be accorded a dignified burial,” DHPI Director, Johan Viljoen, says in an interview with the Africa Service of Vatican Radio

According to the DHPI official, soldiers’ brutality vindicates the Church which he says is constantly speaking against a military solution to the Cabo Delgado crisis in northern Mozambique. 


“The Church has suggested looking at negotiations and dialogue and other peaceful interventions because the Bible says violence begets violence,” Mr. Viljoen says in the interview that was published on Monday, January 16.

The latest incident, he says, also serves to vindicate the position of the Mozambicans who he says have always been opposed to activities of the forces fighting suspected Al-Shabaab militias in Cabo Delgado.

DHPI, which has been researching the evolution of the six-year conflict in Mozambique, has always heard two distinct narratives in its reports, Mr. Viljoen says.

On the one hand, is how the Mozambicans see the violence themselves, and on the other hand, is what the rest of the world has to say about it, he says.

“Local people have consistently said that the violence is an attempt to move them out of their land while the rest of the society says that it is Islamic jihad,” he says, adding that Mozambicans have also found soldiers to fuel violence in the embattled province.

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The DHPI Director says that the foundation traveled extensively throughout Mozambique last November and got first-hand accounts of locals who expressed their disgruntlement about the military operations in the country.

Locals told the peace entity of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) that SANDF soldiers are committing untold atrocities, including sexually abusing war victims.

“People in Mozambique are not too impressed by forces,” he says, adding, “South African troops are involved in soliciting for sex from teenage girls, they smuggle precious stones from the area and most of them are drunk most of the time.”

Mr. Viljoen says that the forces have been seen sitting on the beach drinking beer and not doing much.

He notes that while the military has consistently issued press statements indicating their victories and the gains they have made against the militants, locals have a different narrative.


The Church, on the other hand, has maintained that it is not yet safe to go back to Cabo Delgado, he says, and explains, “Two months ago, I traveled around Mozambique extensively and I saw it. I was in Pemba, in Nampula, and Cabo Delgado, and I heard a different narrative from what the forces are trying to propagate.”

According to Mr. Viljoen, South Africa is wasting money on the military intervention in Cabo Delgado, which he says is “at best ineffective”.

“South African taxpayers' money is being wasted on the so-called military intervention in Mozambique. Taxpayers are spending money on a military intervention that is at best ineffective and at worst, clearly promoting violence and further insecurity. It is a cause for concern,” the DHPI Director says.

He adds in the interview with the Africa Service of Vatican Radio, “The more the area is militarized, the more the soldiers that will go there, the more the violence escalates. DHPI is once more joining the Mozambique Episcopal Conference in saying that a military solution is no solution.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.