Catholic Peace Entity Says Displaced Mozambicans Have Nothing to Go Back To

Refugees who fled from violence in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province. Credit: Denis Hurley Peace Institute

Displaced people in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Province have little to celebrate even as the country continues to recapture villages from insurgents who continue to wreak havoc in the Northern part of the country.

According to Catholic charity and peace foundation, Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI), victims of the violence who are currently seeking refuge outside the province have nothing to return home to.

Those who fear going home the most, according to DHPI Director, Johan Viljoen, are those who fled further away from the embattled province and have had their property seized by the Mozambican authorities.

“After recapturing various towns and villages, the Rwandan military have published photos of people returning to their villages and life returning to normal. Those returning are the displaced that fled into the surrounding bush. Those who fled further afield, for instance to Pemba or Nampula, are fearful of going back,” Mr. Viljoen told members of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) on Wednesday, September 1.

He added, “There is nothing to go back to. Almost everything has been destroyed.”


The DHPI official said that many of those who fled do not know if they can go back to their home villages because they had their “right to occupy” the land cancelled when they registered at the IDP reception centers in Pemba.

The requirement, Mr. Viljoen notes, fueled speculation that the main reason for the war was to drive the people off their land and to give the land to investors and mining companies.

In his update on the military intervention in Cabo Delgado, the DHPI official said that the mission of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has been slow in materializing.

Rwanda has already sent 1,000 soldiers who have been involved in military operations that recaptured key towns occupied by the insurgents in Cabo Delgado.

Mr. Viljoen said, in reference to the soldiers in Cabo Delgado, “At the moment they appear to be firmly in control, and in command.”

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“There is appreciation at the local level for the fact that they (soldiers) have driven the insurgents away. But there is increasing unease about how it will end, looking at the role played by the Rwandan army in the Eastern DRC. Rwandan soldiers have been there for many years,” Mr. Viljoen said.

Under the watch of Rwandan soldiers, he went on to say, mineral resources have been extracted from the DRC and exported globally through Rwanda, “accounting for much of the country’s new found prosperity.”

“Will the same happen in Mozambique?” the official of the peace entity of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) posed.

He called on the European lawmakers to ensure that the financial aid given to Mozambican authorities to support the military action in the country is monitored to ensure that it is being put to its intended use.

The role of Rwanda will also have to be carefully monitored, the official said, and added, “This will not be easy. The EU Mission will be based in Chimoio (more than 1,000 km from the operational area) and in Catembe (near Maputo, almost 3, 000 km from the operational area), effectively being side-lined, with no access to the conflict zone.”


Meanwhile, the DHPI official has expressed concern that until now the military option is the only option that has been pursued by the Mozambican government.

The government, the official notes, has often claimed that negotiations are not possible, as they are dealing here with a “faceless enemy”.

This is despite the US government identifying the leader of the insurgency, Mr. Viljoen says, and adds, “Two Mozambican NGO’s, OMR   and the Centre for Investigative Journalism, have identified a further six leaders. All are local people from Cabo Delgado, well known in the communities where they grew up.”

“The argument of a ‘faceless enemy’ no longer holds water,” Mr. Viljoen says, and adds, “The enemy has a face. Former President Joaquim Chissano has generated a polemic within the country after his unequivocal call to abandon a military solution and negotiate peace. Instead of focusing on a military solution, the EU should put its full weight behind the call for negotiations.”

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.