13 January 2014

Mozambique: Gorongosa Is in an Uproar

Photo: J. Jackson/VOA
Renamo rebels being re-trained for combat at a remote bush camp near Mozambique's Gorongosa mountains (file photo).

War scenarios, characterized by popular persecution, intimidation, arbitrary detentions and alleged rapid executions of defenseless citizens, especially youth and male adults, caused close to 4,000 residents in the regions of Nhambondo, Tazaronda, Mucodza, Nhataka, Tambarara, Nhankuco, Kanda, Tazonda, Egypt, Barnota, and Vundudzi, in Gorongosa district, Sofala province, to abandon their homes a few days ago.

They are taking refuge in Gorongosa village as a way to escape the atrocities perpetrated by armed Renamo men and government defense and security forces.

According to reports of citizens interviewed by @Verdade, some of whom were forcibly separated from their relatives - and reported as missing by virtue of having been captured by the military - the Renamo guerrillas and government forces have protagonized murders of citizens since last October. However, our correspondent can't say for what reasons the militants are provoking this "carnage" and they do not offer any concrete evidence of people who have been victims of this situation.

Manuel da Costa Simão, Pastor of the Church of the Nazarene in Mozambique, and resident of the administrative post of Vunduzi, told us that living in this region is causes sadness due to the fact that there are people who are being abruptly executed and in addition to suffering various threats from armed Renamo men. Because of these reasons, he took refuge at a relative's home located in the village of Gorongosa.

In another development, the pastor said that Vunduzi is deserted due to the political-military situation that is consuming the area. The "chapas" (local transport buses)that carried people and goods back and forth along the Gorongosa-Vundudzi stretch have suspended activities on account of intimidation from Afonso Dhlakama's guerrillas.

According to our correspondent, government forces have driven some families out of their communities, allegedly because of the difficulty in identifying Renamo militants amidst the residential population. He predicts that in these affected regions might suffer famine as a result of people abandoning their farms which they depend on to survive. It is the peak summer season in Mozambique, a time when food crops need daily attention in order to flourish.

Manuel Simão swore to us that he had witnessed Renamo guerillas carry out two impulsive executions. The victims' names were Zacarias and Mabote. They stole goods from the first victim and the second was chased by the same militants before being killed.

Woman gives birth alone

On Sunday, January 5th, during the residents' flight from Vunduzi to the Town Hall of Gorongosa, with their underage children in hand, Azeria Alficha gave birth without anyone's help. At one point in their journey, she started complaining of birthing pains and, bravely, did nothing except stop walking in order to take over as her own midwife. While in contact with our Newspaper, she confessed that it was difficult and she almost lost her baby, "but because God was with me, nothing bad happened."

People looking for food, risk returning home

Elias Albino, resident of Nhanhadzi also in the area of Vunduzi zone, is another citizen interviewed by our reporters. He said that all of his goods remain in his community beset by political and military tension. He and his relatives are currently being accommodated at Mapombwe Primary School, but they are starving. In some cases, running the risk of being captured by militants andkilled, people are trying to find ways to get to Vunduzi together the food they had left in their pantries. And there are families who opted to rent houses while Gorongosa, but now no longer have any financial conditions to continue doing so.

Eugénio Almeida, community leader in Kanda, reflects that the situation also includes people appropriate the belongings of others who are in the midst of suffering. He himself was a victim, as his goats were stolen by malefactors.

The support is insufficient

The government of Gorongosa District assured us that they offer beans, cooking oil, rice, cabbage and corn flour to the people who abandoned "conflict" zone on a daily basis.However, the refugees feel that the products allocated are not enough since there are numerous families. People also complain about subpar housing conditions. The bedrooms, for example, are shared which prevents any privacy.

Center created for refugees

The government of Sofala province has created an accommodation center for refugee populations who are looking for shelter and safety in the village of Gorongosa. The center accommodates 180 families, which corresponds to 3,845 people, of whom are currently being housed in schools. In the first phase, the individuals will be housed in 100 tents, which are not enough, according to the local government. However, the measure aims to decongest the educational establishments, as classes will start soon.

Gerónimo Langa, spokesman for the district government ofGorongosa, explained that the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC) donated six tons of rice, 14 sacks of corn flour, two tons of sugar, 2,000 liters of oil and two and a half tons of beans to ensure adequate food supplies for 15 days. The products also benefit the families who live in rented houses.

We asked to the spokesman about the anticipated solution for children refugees who are in the village of Gorongosa with their parents. They are at risk of missing out on the school year because of the violent atmosphere overriding their original communities. The answer was that all of the students will be signed up to continue studying in the schools in the main village of Gorongosa.

According to Gerónimo Langa, due to the political-military situation that is in Gorongosa district, the main village's health unit sees between 350 to 500 patients per day. Health posts with first aid provisions have been set up at all refugee sites as a way of decongesting treatment at the health facilities.

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