Mozambique: President Nyusi And His Praise Singers Attack Pemba Bishop For Defending Rights

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.

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.

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