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Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Crisis “an African burden”: Southern Africa’s Ecumenical Leaders

Map showing the troubled region of Cabo Delgado in Mozambique.

The leadership of the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa (FOCCISA), an ecumenical organization made up of 12 national Councils in East and Southern Africa, has described Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado crisis as “an African burden” and called for intervention to end the ongoing violence.

“The insurgency in Northern Mozambique is not just a Mozambican problem; it is a Southern African regional emergency, thus an African burden that cannot be globally ignored,” FOCCISA officials say in their Thursday, March 4 statement.

In this context, the officials of the body whose members includes representatives from various Episcopal Conferences in the region add, “we call for the support for the terrified people of Mozambique.”

Located within the jurisdiction of Mozambique’s Catholic Diocese of Pemba, the Northernmost Province of Cabo Delgado has been the scene of armed attacks by insurgents allied to ISIS since October 2017.

The violence started after the Islamist jihadists attacked a military base and police station in the Coastal town of Mocimboa da Praia, where foreign companies are undertaking a US$60 billion gas oil project.

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Last December, the then Local Ordinary of Pemba Diocese, Bishop Luis Fernando Lisboa, said the exploitation of natural resources is the cause of the crisis in Cabo Delgado.

Bishop Lisboa who was transferred to Brazil's Diocese of Cachoeiro de Itapemirim and elevated to to “Archbishop ad personam” on February 11 called on the Portuguese government to table a debate in the European Union (EU) to discuss the exploitation of natural resources in Mozambique.

About 530,000 people have been displaced due to the violence that has spread to the neighboring provinces of Nampula and Niassa, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reported in January.

In the face of this state of things, FOCCISA officials call on local, continental and international entities to intervene in the Cabo Delgado crisis.

“We strongly call upon the Government of Mozambique to take full charge of, and responsibility for the security and safety of its citizens and dwellers of the land,” they say in the statement issued after the virtual meeting of FOCCISA General Secretaries.

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Rather than “downplaying” the crisis to a police matter of criminality, the ecumenical officials appeal to the leadership of the Southern African nation to have the courage to act on the situation with “the requisite level of engagement.”

They call on the Mozambican government to “introspect about the social and economic factors that make Cabo Delgado fertile and ripe for this type of insurrection.” 

Through the process of introspection, FOCCISA officials say that the government and the people of God in the country “can work together in the rebuilding of their society, and to work with affected communities for a clearly improved quality of life.”

Addressing themselves to the leadership of the African Union (AU), the Christian leaders urge them to “get involved and help mobilise resources to support the Government and people of Mozambique to quell this insurgency and ensure that perpetrators are brought to book for the sake of justice and peace.”

Further, the ecumenical leaders appeal to business entities to provide help to this stricken province.

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They urge mobile network operators to “consider offering free calls or even a certain quota of free calls and texts for people to raise the alarm and seek help” and call on motor vehicle companies to the humanitarian aid agencies and churches with off-road vehicles to transport essential supplies to the region.

To those involved in the resource extraction industry, the Church leaders say they “must contribute to the finding of lasting solutions of the Province, and not limit themselves to the safety of their operations. We appeal to every sector to play their role in the hour of want.”

They also call on the member nations of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to individually and collectively “respond urgently” to the insurrection in Mozambique.

According to the Church leaders, if SADC fails to address the insecurity, the crisis will soon involve the entire region and impact physically and economically on the lives and livelihoods of the poor in the region.

SADC is a 16-member regional economic community comprising Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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Besides the Cabo Delgado violence, the ecumenical leaders also call on the leadership of SADC to address the different crises engulfing some of the member States.

They call on the UN to “keep a close eye on these crisis situations besieging our beloved continent before it is too late, when it leads to the dismantling of the Mozambican State due to the greed, driven by the considerable natural resources of Cabo Delgado.”

In their March 4 statement, the church leaders commit to praying with the people of God in Mozambique for an end to the violence. 

“As FOCCISA, we shall work with the Christian Council of Mozambique in declaring a time of simultaneous prayer for the grace of restoration and the peace of God,” the ecumenical leaders say.

Founded in 1980, FOCCISA is a member of the World Council of Churches with membership from the council of Churches in Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania, Angola, Namibia, Zambia, Swaziland, Malawi, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) is a member of the Southern African Council of Churches.