Maputo — Hundreds of families from the interior of Homoine district, in the southern Mozambican province of Inhambane, fled from their homes on Friday, fearing attacks by gunmen from the former rebel movement Renamo, according to reports on the independent television station, STV.
The fleeing families came from the outlying localities of Fanha-Fanha and Pembe, about 60 kilometres west of the district capital Homoine town. They headed for the town and for the city of Maxixe. Many of these frightened people spent Friday night sleeping in the open.
“We didn't sleep at home because we're afraid of attacks”, one woman told STV.
But as far as STV could establish, there were no attacks, and not even any robberies. The same woman said “We saw soldiers who said they were from Renamo. Some were armed and others weren't.
They're not harming or stealing from anyone. When they go to homes, they buy goods with their money. But we're afraid of a repetition of what happened during the war”.
Those who had seen the armed men spoke of small groups, going from house to house asking for food and water.
Others had only heard of the incursion, and put the number in the band at around 50.
They said they had an unspecified job to do in Fanha-Fanha and Pembe for the next three months.
There must be fears that this job is the re-establishment of Renamo military base in the district. During the war of destabilisation, Renamo had a major base at Pembe.
Renamo had a particularly bloody reputation in Homoine. The worst massacre of the war took place in Homoine town on 18 July 1987, when a Renamo unit stormed into the town killing everybody they could find. The final death toll stood at 424.
It is generally assumed that this Renamo group moved south from the Renamo bases in the neighbouring province of Sofala - just like a group of 16 armed men arrested in the Inhambane town of Morrumbene on 23 December.
The Homoine and Morrumbene incidents are the first signs of Renamo armed activity south of the Save river (which marks the boundary between Inhambane and Sofala) since the current unrest began last April.
In Sofala, STV reports that Renamo has been stepping up attacks in parts of Gorongosa district, leading to a further exodus of peasant families, fleeing from their homes in the Gorongosa countryside.