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Catholic Charity Reports Widespread Attacks in Mozambique after Military Intervention

Internationally Displaced People from northern Mozambique have found refuge in the Catholic Diocese of Nacala. Credit: Aid to the Church in Need United States

More villages in Northern Mozambique are experiencing insurgency as military intervention intensifies in the region, Catholic Pontifical and charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Portugal, has reported.

In a Monday, December 6 report, ACN Portugal highlights reported attacks outside Mozambique’s embattled Cabo Delgado Province, sending alarm among the population in the North of the country.

The charity foundation made reference to the two attacks, one on Friday, December 3, in the village of Nova Zambézia, district of Macomia, Cabo Delgado; and another one, the weekend before, in the village of Naulala in Niassa Province.

The Catholic charity has further raised concerns that the attacks may spread to Lichinga, the capital city of Niassa Province.

“There is the increasingly insistent fear that the so-called insurgents or ‘al-shabaab’, as the terrorist groups are known locally, already establishing themselves in the province of Niassa and may even be a threat to the city of Lichinga,” ACN Portugal says in the December 6 report.

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Officials of the charity entity add, “The attack in Naulala reinforced fears that the terrorists are now spread over a wide area as a result of the military operation underway in Cabo Delgado and involving not only the Security and Defense Forces of Mozambique, but also of Rwanda and countries of the Southern African Development Community.”

ACN reports that in the most recent incident, at dawn on December 3, about 15 houses were burned, adding that no victims were registered.

And in the previous attack, on the last weekend of November, the terrorists kidnapped about a hundred young people, and some houses were also looted and set on fire.

Manuel Nota, Director of Caritas in Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado, told the ACN that there had already been an attack in Meluco, a District in Cabo Delgado in September, and that the attack was an indicator that the armed groups were still active.

“The terrorists are in a stampede, as they say, and they no longer have a base, but they go through the forests in small groups... There are groups that have already burned (houses) and there have been deaths,” Nota told ACN.

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About that attack in September, the Caritas official could not identify the village targeted by the terrorists but assures that he followed the whole situation.

He told the charity foundation, “They burned a village in the Macomia area, because I passed there when I was going to Meluco and the village was all burned. This attack was on September 24th.”

Mr. Nota spoke to ACN during a visit in November by a delegation of the Pontifical foundation to the Caritas headquarters in the city of Pemba.

It is estimated that more than 3,000 people have lost their lives and more than 800,000 have been displaced in Mozambique as a result of the terrorist attacks which began in October 2017.

In response to the attacks, ACN foundation has sought to assist the Church of Mozambique with actions of solidarity with the populations most affected by the violence, including through psychosocial support to the displaced, which is proving essential for the populations affected by the traumatic experience associated with the attacks.

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In Mozambique's Catholic Diocese of Nacala, ACN has established a feeding and psychosocial program for displaced people from Cabo Delgado.

In a December 1 report, ACN United States reported that nearly 22,000 IDPs, mainly women and children, have sought refuge in Nacala.

“The parish of Itoculo (in Nacala) welcomed more than a hundred people, 117 to be precise, almost half of them children,” ACN reports, and adds, “They are at the center of an initiative backed by Aid to the Church in Need to provide psychosocial support to enable the IDPs to face the challenges they face as victims of war with greater resilience.”

Every day, next to the houses, officials of Caritas Nacala who are managing the ACN project “invent” a classroom and a cafeteria “with heaven as their roof and the ground and grass as their floor” for the IDPs.

ACN reports that for food, the children have gruel, a mixture of corn, milk, eggshell, and anything else they can put together. In Nacala, the charity foundation reports the dire situation of the IDPs saying, “Hunger is a cruel reality.”

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“Unfortunately, this is a time of widespread famine due to low farm output in 2020 and the lack of rainfall in 2021,” Bishop Alberto Vera of Nacala told ACN.

Bishop Vera told the charity foundation that 85 percent of the population has been left “in a situation of extreme vulnerability,” which has increased “social pressure even more.”

The project managed by Caritas Nacala, funded by ACN donors, helps 117 displaced people from Cabo Delgado with seven local partners supported by three missionaries.

Fr. Mário João, a Portuguese Priest on mission in Mozambique who is involved in the project says in the December 1 ACN report that the project is alleviating the suffering of the IDPs.

“In Itoculo, you can now hear the cheerful voices of children, especially at lunchtime. For these displaced people, the present is a time of great uncertainty. Many want to go back to their villages of origin and instead are left waiting. We just have to keep up with the news of what is happening up north. If the attacks end, it will be time to go home, but everything suggests that peace is still far away,” Fr. Mário says.