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Despite Wins against Insurgency in Cabo Delgado, Bishops in Mozambique Call for Caution

Members of the Episcopal Conference of Mozambique (CEM). Credit: CEM/Facebook

Catholic Bishops in Mozambique have, in a collective statement, called for caution and a careful assessment of the security situation in the Southern African nation amid reports that the country is registering wins in the fight against insurgency in the country’s Cabo Delgado Province.

In a communiqué issued at the end of their seven-day Ordinary Plenary Assembly, the members of the Episcopal Conference of Mozambique (CEM) say that despite the reported military offensives against militants in Cabo Delgado, the security situation in the Province is still worrying.

“The security situation in Mozambique and especially in Cabo Delgado and the Center of the country is a cause for concern to us your Bishops,” CEM members say in their Sunday, November 14 communiqué.

They add, “The presence of foreign forces from Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) gives hope for an improvement in the security situation. Indeed, there are reports of progress in reclaiming space that was in the hands of the insurgents, which contributes to relative security. Some people are returning to their villages.”

However, the Catholic Bishops note that the armed conflict in Cabo Delgado requires special attention and a cautious assessment despite advances recorded by joint forces fighting rebels in the north of the country.

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Cabo Delgado, the Northernmost Province of Mozambique, has been experiencing instability since 2017 when armed insurgents linked to ISIS reportedly attacked a police station in Mocimboa da Praia District. 

At least 700,000 people have been displaced as a result of the violence whose intensity has been increasing, according to the World Food Program (WFP). 

In August, five SADC nations sent troops to the troubled Cabo Delgado Province.

Last week, SADC leadership announced the destruction of three insurgent bases in Macomia and the rescue of 13 people who had been kidnapped by rebels. 

In their November 14 collective statement, Catholic Bishops in Mozambique say it is "premature" to make a definitive assessment of the reason behind the armed conflict in Cabo Delgado.  

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“It is a reading based many times on military personnel who are operating there,” CEM members say, and add, “It is difficult to make an assessment about human rights in that province.”

For a fair assessment on human rights, CEM members say other stakeholders should be consulted apart from the military personnel.

The Catholic Church leaders renew their solidarity “with the multitude of people who still remain in the resettlement camps.”

“One of the great challenges of the present moment continues to be humanitarian assistance to the people who are victims of violence and displaced,” they further say, and add, “There are many people going hungry, thirsty, without the minimum resources for survival.”

“Another priority is the urgency of organizing and investing in the work of rebuilding decent infrastructure and housing for the populations returning to their own villages,” they add.

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In the ten-point communiqué obtained by ACI Africa, the members of CEM also express concern about young people in the Southern African nation.

“It is of capital importance to be aware that youth constitute the great part of the faithful of our Church and of the Mozambican population,” they say.

Reflecting on the Synod on Synodality, Catholic Bishops in Mozambique further welcomed “with joy” the pastoral initiative of the Holy Father to convoke the whole Church to participate in the Synod on the theme, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.”

“This initiative comes at a time when we are engaged in holding the IV National Pastoral Assembly, and so, in order to walk together with the whole Church”, they say.

The CEM members also reveal their plans to give priority to the work related to the Synod on Synodality from September until the end of the year 2021.

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