Northern Mozambique Experiencing “a new style of warfare” amid Terrorism: Catholic Bishop

Burned church in the Chipene Mission Mozambique. Credit: ACN

The people of God in Cabo Delgado and other Provinces in the North of Mozambique are experiencing “a new style of warfare” amid terrorist attacks, a Catholic Bishop has said.

In an interview with ACI Africa, the Local Ordinary of Mozambique’s Nacala Diocese spoke about the situation in Cabo Delgado Province that is under his Episcopal See and appealed for support for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who are fleeing the violence.

“We are seeing a new style of warfare, a type of guerrilla warfare, not an ordinary war,” Bishop Alberto Vera Aréjula told ACI Africa during the October 6 interview, and explained, “Guerrilla warfare is more difficult to control, because a group of six or eight can do a lot of harm.”

Bishop Aréjula added, “The terrorists are targeting institutional buildings; they have burned and destroyed schools, health centres, police stations, banks, administrative offices; anything that is institutional they burn and destroy.”

The Spanish-born member of the Order of Our Lady of Mercy (Mercedarians) further said the September 6 attack that claimed the lives Sr. Maria De Coppi of the Comboni Missionary Sisters (CMS) and 11 other people left a “trail of destruction, bloodshed and instilled fear”.


“The consequences of these attacks are quite serious; people are traumatized; some have witnessed brutal killings of loved ones, and their homes being burned and destroyed. It has created fear, confusion, and instability,” he lamented.

The 65-year-old Bishop who started his Episcopal Ministry in May 2015 as Auxiliary Bishop of Mozambique’s Xai-Xai Diocese spoke about the identity of those behind the attacks.

He said, “About 20 insurgents made up of mainly young people, youth, probably from Cabo Delgado are responsible for the attacks, and they keep on recruiting young people as they move from one place to another.”

“Mothers and their children have fled to safer areas, whilst the men hide in the bush during the night and during the day; they look after the houses and of what is left,” Bishop Aréjula added during the October 6 interview.

He said that the situation in Nacala Diocese is relatively calm as the “the army has succeeded in building a barrier between Chipene and Memba districts in a bid to stop the insurgents from gaining access to Nacala harbor, the deepest natural port on the East coast of Africa.”

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“It would be painful and a complete failure by the government if the insurgents were to gain access to Nacala port,” the Catholic Bishop warned, adding that the port is “a very valuable asset for all of Northern Mozambique in a commercial and social sense.”

The Local Ordinary of Nacala Diocese who doubles as the Liaison Bishop of Caritas Mozambique reiterated calls by the Bishop of Mozambique’s Pemba Diocese, Bishop António Juliasse Ferreira Sandramo, for humanitarian assistance as “ hunger and malnutrition is escalating.”

“The truth is that right now the number of IDPs has increased. Now we are no longer talking about 900,000 displaced people; it's more than that. It's been almost two years now that the displaced have lived in inhumane conditions; sometimes they go days without food,” Bishop Aréjula said about the situation in the Northern Provinces of Mozambique.

He continued, “The IDPs need housing, a place to work. Living in camps for such prolonged time aggregates social issues, issues of power, abuse, child prostitution in order to feed themselves and other types of problems.”

“The people of Cabo Delgado in particular, are suffering from hunger; they don’t have access to primary necessities like water, or access to health care; they are prone to diseases caused by the lack of hygiene,” Bishop Aréjula who was appointed Local Ordinary of Nacala in April 2018 told ACI Africa.


The Mercedarian Bishop called on world leaders to “remember the suffering” in the Northern Provinces of Mozambique, saying, “The world is impoverished; Europe is at war; the war in Ukraine has shifted attention from other countries in need of humanitarian assistance. The suffering IDPs are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.”

“It’s a call for help; we need to secure a future for our young people in Cabo Delgado, Nampula, and Niassa so that they are not tempted by small amounts of money to join the terrorists,” Bishop Aréjula further appealed during the October 6 interview. 

He added, “The most serious problem is that those behind this cruel terrorism that we are experiencing do not yet have a face.”

Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.