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Maputo, June.21,2021 (Lusa) - Displaced people from the war in northern Mozambique arriving in Pemba report a scene of terror, in an alert accompanied by the United Nations, while the government says the situation is under control.

"Palma is not calm. There is still violence," says Mussa Amade, 56, who arrived in Pemba on Friday in a boat loaded with 106 people - 46 of them children - fleeing Quitunda, where gas projects were underway until the 24 March attack.

Almost three months later, although the authorities announced in April that it was safe to return to the town of Palma, the district headquarters, "the shooting continues" and "there have been deaths", in a scenario where fear prevails.

"Anyone who didn't flee Palma was being chased," describes Mussa, about the scene in recent weeks, giving an account of nights when strangers entered houses to kill, kidnap and loot whatever they could.

"Many people were harvesting rice, and they took advantage of it," he relates.

One morning, this person's sister was caught by armed insurgents when she left Quitunda, "hungry" to pick cassava and beans in a 'machamba' (vegetable garden) and was forced to carry rice for the insurgents all day.

They "cut off the head" of a man who was in the same group as her, threatened the women, but at the end of the day, let the displaced people return to Quitunda: "They will say we are here," was the message they gave them, says Mussa, reconstructing her sister's account.

Other people disappear, raising fears of recruitment among the civilian population on which the authorities are focusing their attention - in an area to which public services have not returned since the March attack and the mass flight that followed.

The soldiers are on the ground, he said, adding that they have seized goods and arrests, but not always understood by the population - as in the case of one man, whom he accompanied until he was arrested: "The family, when they tried [to find out his whereabouts], went to ask and were told: 'He's there, arrested. Where and why it is still not known.

Mozambique's defence minister, Jaime Neto, said there is an additional effort underway and that the authorities are monitoring the situation in statements made to journalists in Maputo on Thursday.

"Naturally, when there is an attack, there is [...] displacement of populations from one point to another, but in general, the situation is under control," he said.

"We are inflicting heavy blows on the enemy, so you are seeing relative calm because hard work is being done," he stressed.

In an update released on Sunday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said, "the coastal districts of Mocímboa da Praia, Quissanga and Palma, as well as the districts of Meluco and Muidumbe, are considered difficult to access due to the presence of non-state armed groups, insecurity and logistical and transport difficulties."

Essential aid has not yet been able to get in, at a time when "it is essential to reach the populations in these areas," the organisation stressed, noting that "the displaced and host communities urgently need humanitarian assistance" because they have no food, health services or shelter.

The boat in which Amade travelled arrived in Pemba after three days on the run, sometimes under sail (when the wind was right), sometimes with a motor.

It carried people from Quitunda who "were going to the airport [of Afungi, the gas project], but after a month without being able to take a flight", they risked their luck at sea, as others have done: "they hear that there is a boat, they put their name on its list [of the boat's owner] and pay 4,000 meticais", equivalent to €54 - something impossible for most locals.

Despite the scenario, Mussa Amade is among those who intend to return to Palma because he still has relatives there - and above all, he asks the authorities to succeed in putting an end to the conflict: "the great support is to end the war".

Armed groups have terrorised Cabo Delgado since 2017, with some attacks claimed by the 'jihadist' group Islamic State, in a wave of violence that has already caused more than 2,800 deaths, according to the ACLED conflict registration project, and 732,000 displaced people, according to the UN.

Also, according to the UN, more than 900,000 people are under severe food insecurity in Cabo Delgado, and host communities are also in urgent need of shelter, protection and other services.

LFO/ADB // ADB.

Lusa




Agency : LUSA

Date : 2021-06-22 10:14:00







 

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