Mozambique: President Nyusi and His Praise Singers Attack Pemba Bishop for Defending Rights

Violence in Cabo Delgado has forced hundreds of people to flee their homes.

President Filipe Nyusi used a speech in Pemba on Friday  (14 Aug) to “lament those Mozambicans who, well protected, take the suffering of those who protect them lightly - including certain foreigners who freely choose to live in Mozambique but who, in the camouflaged name of human rights, don’t respect the sacrifice of those who keep this young homeland standing, and guarantee their stay in Cabo Delgado and Mozambique in general.” (Zitamar 17 Aug)

Nyusi's two main social media praise singers made clear Nyusi was referring to the Brazilian Catholic Bishop of Pemba, Luis Ferbando Lisboa. who has been one of the most consistent voices speaking out on behalf of the people of Cabo Delgado. But Egidio Vaz writes that "He's the one who feeds the insurgents. … He's a criminal" and should be expelled from Mozambique. (16 Aug)

Vaz has been attacking foreigners who report the Cabo Delgado war, saying Tom Bowker of Zitamar "is pro-terrorism. He profits out of our country's misery". (10 Aug)

Gustavo Mavie writes long and vitriolic articles attacking the critics of whomever is currently president, and was recently appointed by Nyusi, over much opposition, to Mozambique’s Central Ethics Committee. The Bishop is in the "vanguard of those who unfairly criticize the Nyusi Government and the Defence and Security Forces (FDS)." He is "noted not for preaching the Gospel of God as one might expect, but rather for his unjust condemnations and criticisms of the government of Nyusi and of his entire government and defence and security machine of the country."

And Mavie pointedly compares the killings by the Islamists to the Inquisition by the Catholic church. (16 Aug)

But the Bishop has not ignored the atrocities committed by the insurgents. Rather he has been arguing the widespread abuses by the FDS are creating recruits for the insurgents and not gaining local support. Luis Bitone, president of the National Human Rights Commission, recently said excess force and brutality are being used by the military. (Moz24h, 13 July)

The Bishop also says that to understand the war more investigation is needed, by journalists and researchers, but this is being blocked. Palma radio journalist Ibraimo Mbaruco has been held incommunicado by the military for more than four months. He was detained on 7 April.

The point was underlined this morning at a Webinar on Violent Extremism in Mozambique hosted by the South African government's Human Sciences Research Council. Piers Pigou of the International Crisis Group said he was concerned about the purely military option. There has been no attempt to address human rights and the government need a proactive strategy to win "hearts and minds" - which is the core of any successful counter-insurgency strategy.

Enio Chingotuane of the Joaquim Chissano University in Maputo (formerly ISRI) said "we do not have a local counter-violence strategy. We need to respond to local issues. The government is losing ground and giving away the population to the insurgents. It needs a plan to win hearts and minds."

But it appears to not be a message the President Nyusi and his social media praise singers want to hear.

Police impose curfew on Mueda town

A curfew from 18h30 to 06h00 has been imposed by the police of Mueda town. No one can be on the street, and there can be no commercial or bank transactions during the period, the 11 August statement says. Mueda is seeing a substantial increase in military forces (partly fleeing Mocimboa da Praia, but also because the town appears to be being developed as the central base for the military and police in the civil war. Macomia town's small airstrip was being upgraded as a forward base for DAG helicopters, but it appears that it is too vulnerable to attack. As Mueda becomes fortified, will insurgents risk an attack, on simply continue to attack the roads and try to isolate the town - the Renamo war strategy?

Clashes between FDS and insurgents continue in and around Mocimboa da Praia, army sources told Lusa today (Monday 17 Aug). “The confrontations continue and the region is practically abandoned. A good part of the small population that was still there has fled,” said a source from the Mozambican army." Intelyse (17 Aug) reports key roads leading to Mocimboa da Praia and further north remain under the control of insurgents.

Refugees are increasing

Since 5 August as fighting intensified north of Macomia, particularly around Chai (leading to the occupation of Mocimboa da Praia), people have been fleeing south. Minibuses are still running from Macomia town to Pemba, but they have doubled their fares. (Carta de Mocambique, 12 Aug) Cholera has also hit Pangane on the coast of Macomia, where many people have fled; at least 28 have died. Cholera has also been reported in Mocimboa da Praia. (Zitamar, 27 July)

Religious leader Sheik Bacar Saide and three others were held for two days for interrogation by the riot police in Pemba. Originally from Mucojo, Macomia, he has been held for a month by the riot police in 2018 and then moved to Pemba. (Carta de Mocambique, 28, 29 July)

Fundamentalist Christian targeting of government receives much less publicity than Islamic fundamentalism, perhaps because Islam is the new global enemy. But research has recently been published in the Brazilian journal Revista de Antropologia on the way the powerful Brazilian Pentecostal church IURD successfully targeted Frelimo and the Mozambican government.

IURD (Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus, Universal Church of the Kingdom of God) has become the largest and most powerful church in southern Mozambique, and it did so by backing Frelimo. Researcher Livia Reis Santos shows how government gave IURD a radio and TV licence (Miramar), which initially functioned from a Frelimo Central Committee building in Sommerschield, Maputo.

Presidents Chissano, Guebuza and Nyusi, as well as various ministers, were prominent at IURD ceremonies. First Lady Maria da Luz Guebuza took a particularly prominent role in IURD activities. On its side, IURD eulogised Frelimo and its presidents, and actively and strongly backed Frelimo in elections.

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