Mozambique: Journalist Missing for 90 Days

Entering Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique.

Maputo — It has now been 90 days since journalist Ibraimo Mbaruco disappeared in his home town of Palma, in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado.

The Mozambican chapter of the regional press freedom body MISA (Media Institute of Southern Africa) has investigated the case, but has been unable to locate the missing journalist.

Mbaruco was last seen on 7 April, when he left his job at the Palma community radio, and drove home on his motor-cycle. At about 18.00 on that day, he sent a mobile phone text message to his colleague on the radio, Juma Saide Alide, saying that he was "surrounded by soldiers".

In mid-June, MISA sent a mission to Palma, which confirmed that all the local authorities had been informed of Mbaruco's disappearance. His family had submitted a formal complaint to the Cabo Delgado provincial attorney's office on 14 April.

MISA found that disinformation had circulated claiming the Mbaruco was drunk at the time of his disappearance. He had supposedly been drinking the local spirit known as Nipa. His family categorically rejects this claim, pointing out that, for religious reasons, Mbaruco never drank alcohol.

Two months after the disappearance, on 8 June, Mbaruco's relatives, in the provincial capital, Pemba, and in Nampula, tried to ring Mbaruco's mobile number. The phone rang - but he did not answer. Thus somebody must have recharged the phone, and was presumably using it.

The family says the phone number has been given to the National Criminal Investigation Service (SERNIC).

MISA said it has gathered other information which it is not yet making public.

A MISA statement issued on Tuesday said the disappearance of Mbaruco "fits into a broader pattern of violations of human rights that have been reported from certain regions of Cabo Delgado affected by the armed conflict" (between the defence and security forces and islamist terrorists).

MISA said there is sufficient evidence to dismiss claims that Mbaruco was drunk or had fallen in love with somebody - instead it was a crime of kidnapping against a journalist. Furthermore the fact that Mbaruco's phone was still active on 8 June should have allowed the authorities to track its whereabouts.

MISA appealed to the authorities "to clear up this case, allowing Mbaruco to return to his family as soon as possible", and to take measures to ensure that such crimes never happen again.

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