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Catholic Charity, Peace Entity Condemns Lengthy Silence on Killings of Mozambique’s Locals

The ship in Palma used by Feench-run TOTAL gas and oil company to evacuate their employees from Palma to Pemba

The ongoing clashes in Mozambique signify what has been going on in various parts of the Southern African nation for years, the leadership of a Catholic charity and peace organization present in the country has told ACI Africa.

Providing an update on the widely condemned fatal clashes that started March 24 with an attack on Palma in Cabo Delgado in North of Mozambique within the Catholic Diocese of Pemba, the Director of Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI), Johan Viljoen, tells ACI Africa, “There are bodies lying everywhere on the streets and on the beaches; countless bodies of innocent civilians.”

Mr. Viljoen shares a video taken in Palma showing bodies lumped in various places from the March 24 beheadings.

Silence also reigns in the video that covers abandoned streets and burnt houses. Locals who survived the attack are currently seeking refuge in neighboring Tanzania. Others have fled through the Indian Ocean to towns South of the country.

A convoy of 17 vehicles carrying local and foreign workers tried to escape Palma for a hotel run by French oil and gas company Total near the scene of the attack. But the convoy reportedly ran into an ambush that had been set by the insurgents.

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Reports indicate that only seven vehicles managed to get to safety. Still, some passengers on the vehicles had been shot.  

Authorities have been unable to ascertain the extent of the devastation that has been claimed by the Islamic State's Central Africa Province (ISCAP).

Since the insurgency started in 2017 in Cabo Delgado Province, the attacks have left at least 2,500 people dead and 700,000 homeless, according to media reports.

The militant group that has claimed responsibility says the latest attack resulted in the deaths of 55 Mozambican forces and Christians including foreign contractors.

“What's happening here is not different from what we used to see in Iraq. That is where we are herded and unfortunately, the world has all this time been silent about it,” Mr. Viljoen tells ACI Africa.

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The head of the peace and charity institute, which is an entity of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) further says that it took the attack on foreigners “for the world to finally realize the full extent of the crisis in Mozambique.”

“Whatever the world is seeing now has been going on in Mozambique for years. We have tried to talk about it but no one cared to listen,” the DHPI official says, and adds, “There is a global uproar now because a handful of foreigners were affected. But this has been going on. More than 3,000 innocent Mozambicans have died in this violence and no one cared.”

Mr. Viljoen says that the world should listen to the cry of Mozambicans who are suffering both at the hands of the insurgents and authorities that, he goes on to say, sometimes wage war against innocent civilians.

“We are equal; foreigners and locals. Every life matters. As a Catholic organization, we believe that we are all created in God’s image,” he says.

Addressing the growing humanitarian Crisis south of Mozambique especially in Pemba where the DHPI have set up a desk to cater for the swelling number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Lelis Quintanilla, the DHPI Mozambique Project Manager said that thousands of families had already arrived in Pemba.

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“There are approximately 4,000 families arriving tonight at Pemba which makes approximately 20,000 persons and they are going to be received with hot tea, cookies and water,” Ms. Quintanilla told ACI Africa during the Monday, March 29 interview.

She added, in reference to the newly displaced persons, “They will then be taken to the transit area and then assigned somewhere for their temporary housing.”

“What we’ve heard is that there’s a lot of people that haven’t gotten any news or heard anything from the rest of their family members, that they haven’t been able to locate them or hear from them,” she said.

The Mexican DHPI official who is overseeing the establishment and strengthening of Caritas desks in the Catholic Archdiocese of Nampula and Pemba Diocese said that some people who had fled the attack in the North had been able to cross to Tanzania and from there they were hoping to get to Pemba.

In the Tuesday, March 30 interview with ACI Africa, Mr. Viljoen said that the peace organization that serves people in conflict situations is examining the factors related to the ongoing violence in Mozambique in order to find out what steers it.

He maintains that the increasing military involvement from the Western countries is only aggravating the situation of Mozambique where a number of Western powers pursuing their respective economic interests.

He says that the attack, which came after the Mozambican government promised to provide security to the French-run Total oil company, is especially very strategic.

In January, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi met a Total official and the two are said to have agreed on strengthening security at the Total camp on the Afungi peninsula, in the Northern province of Cabo Delgado. This is after the oil and gas company evacuated part of the project's workforce from Afungi because of security concerns.

Other multinational companies controlling gas in the mineral rich province are Italian Eni and ExxonMobil of the United States.