The entry of rebels in the northern part of Nampula has awakened the ghosts of a past of terror among displaced people from Cabo Delgado who have taken refuge there and are hoping that these attacks will be the last they hear of.
Born in Mocímboa da Praia, Francisco Barnabé has for the last two years been among the 8,000 people who fled the terror and are now trying to rebuild their lives. But the rebel incursions registered recently in the districts of Eráti and Memba have raised new concerns. Although they have occurred more than 100 kilometres from the administrative post where the Corrane resettlement centre is based, they show a movement southwards, closer to the displaced people.
“We are afraid because we hear the stories that other displaced people tell us”, admits young Albertino Malieque to Lusa.
So far, the districts affected by these rebel incursions are on the banks of the Lúrio river, the natural border between Nampula and Cabo Delgado.
Similar to what they did for years in Cabo Delgado, the rebels have destroyed infrastructure, housing and killed a so far unknown number of people, which includes an Italian nun from the Catholic mission in Chipende.
“Some people who are in the relocation centre here in Nampula are already going back to their areas of origin” because “they have been starving, but they are also afraid of the news of the attack on Memba”, João Luís Matias, secretary of one of the three neighbourhoods that make up the community of displaced people in Corrane, explained to Lusa.
At the gates of the centre, there are already people who, taking what they can, are looking for transport to return to Cabo Delgado – where a military intervention is trying to restore hope of stabilisation – but there are also those who prefer to continue living in this new community, far from the place where they witnessed “barbarities”.
“I heard that Nampula is also registering attacks, but I’m not leaving here just because of what I heard. I left Cabo Delgado because I saw the attacks,” Augusto Samuel, 44, a farmer, who left Mocímboa da Praia in 2020, declares to Lusa.
“I’m not going back to Cabo Delgado because Nampula is also Mozambique. I’m not lost here”, explains Safe João, another displaced person from Mocímboa who has been living in Corrane for two years.
According to preliminary data given to Lusa by the Government of Nampula, only in the district of Eráti the new incursions caused nearly ten thousand displaced people.
The province was already receiving people from Cabo Delgado who sought refuge since the beginning of the armed insurgency in Northern Mozambique.
The situation is described as stable in Nampula, with the Defence and Security Forces in “intensive deployment” to stop the rebels, according to provincial secretary of state, Mety Gondola, in an interview with Lusa on Monday.
Cabo Delgado province is rich in natural gas but has been terrorised since 2017 by armed violence, with some attacks claimed by extremist group Islamic State.
The insurgency has led to a military response since a year ago by forces from Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), liberating districts near gas projects.
There are 800,000 internally displaced people due to the conflict, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and around 4,000 deaths, according to the ACLED conflict registration project.