Mozambique: Palma Journalist Still Missing

(File photo).

Palma community radio journalist Ibraimo Mbaruco is still missing after he was kidnapped, apparently by military, on 7 April. The last anyone heard from him was a short text message to colleagues saying he was “surrounded by soldiers”. On 14 April, Cabo Delgado police spokesperson Augusto Guta said the police, secret services SISE, and “all the security and defence forces” had been unable to locate Mbaruco.

Also on 14 April, police in Pemba detained Hizidine Acha, a reporter for O Pais newspaper and the STV television station, forcing him to delete images of police beating and whipping people in the Paquetiquete neighbourhood of the city. Spokesperson Guta told Zitamar that the situation had been a misunderstanding and that the police were not beating or whipping people. (Zitamar 15 Apr)

Other Cabo Delgado news

"Jobs don’t exist”, explained the General Commander of the Mozambican police force, Bernadino Rafael, on STV (14 Apr). Young people being offered jobs "are being tricked so that they enter the labyrinth of crime” by joining the insurgents. He said that most of the insurgents are Tanzanias, but some Mozambicans had joined because of offers of jobs. “There are no zones that can be said to be in the hands of the insurgents”, he insisted. “What does exist are areas that are prone to incursions by the criminals” - where there is an "alteration of public order". (AIM 14 Apr)

The Pope in his Easter message said: "The crisis we are facing should not make us forget the many other crises that bring suffering to so many people. May the Lord of life be close to all those in Asia and Africa who are experiencing grave humanitarian crises, as in the Province of Cabo Delgado in the north of Mozambique."

Is working day and night enough? “I want to assure all Mozambicans that the government will continue to work, night and day, using all that is in its power to defend the population of the Cabo Delgado districts plagued by these violent attacks," said President Filipe Nyusi on 13 April. "We call on the populations not to accept information intended to divide Mozambicans and to create hatred between the people and their Defence and Security Forces."

Map of incidents this year to 12 April, from Jasmine Opperman, shows clearly three concentrations - Mocimboa da Praia, Muidumbe, and Macomia-Bilibiza-Quissanga.

Five people died in the Quirimba attack on 10 April; three drowned as they tried to escape. One of the victims was burnt alive, while the fifth was shot dead. About 60 people were taken hostage, perhaps as a shield against the helicopter attack, but released later. (Carta de Mocambique 13 Apr).

There was no massacre in Xitaxi we now believe. In the series of raids on Muidumbe on 5-7 April (this newsletters 479, 480) Savana (10 Apr) reported a massacre with 50-70 dead. We now believe this was hugely exaggerated in reports by local people. It appears to be correct that liberation war veterans attacked a band of insurgents and killed up to 30, and that the insurgents retaliated with a renewed attack on Xitaxi, which was done with some violence and anger and significant destruction. But we believe the deaths were closer to the 14 reported by Zitamar, and not the very large number reported by Savana.

The historic Nangololo mission was attacked and vandalised and partly burned as part of the 5-7 April raids in Muidumbe. The mission is in Muambula, the former district headquarters before it was moved to Namacande, and insurgents were still occupying the mission on 11 April. All the foreign missionaries there fled to Mueda, then Montepuez, and then Pemba. Southeastern parts of Muidumbe district are low and occupied by a mix of Mwani and Maconde speakers. The attacks started there but then moved up the road onto the Mueda plateau and thus were a direct attack on a Frelimo stronghold. Nangololo produced many Frelimo leaders and thus its occupation for several days was a strong statement by the insurgents.

Creating fear and paranoia is a goal of any insurgent group, and as insurgents move through Bilibiza and Quissanga the wave of fear goes ahead of them.

On Ibo island on the night of 11-12 April rumours spread that insurgents were approaching the island for an attack, causing panic among local residents. Security forces then reportedly stopped a boat believed to be carrying insurgents, but which in reality was carrying local fishermen. Security forces reportedly fired shots during the incident though no injuries were reported. (Intelyse 13 Apr)

In Nacuta, Metuge District, just across the bay from Pemba, two 2 suspected insurgents were attacked by civilians on 5 April; one man was killed, while the other was badly injured. This links to rumours and fears in Pemba of an attack. (Intelyse 13 Apr)

Eric Prince never goes away, but never does anything. Prince has tried to sell military and mercenary capabilities around the world. After the Russian government-linked Wagner group failed in Cabo Delgado, "Prince sent a proposal to the Russian firm offering to supply a ground force as well as aviation-based surveillance", according to The Intercept, the investigative journalism group founded by Glenn Greenwald.

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