Maputo — The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Thursday approved a report from its working commission on constitutional, legal and human rights affairs on the human rights situation in the country's two areas of conflict.
These are the northern province of Cabo Delgado, where the authorities are facing a terrorist organization with ties to the self-styled "Islamic State Central African Province" (ISCAP), and the central provinces of Manica and Sofala, where the dissident "Renamo Military Junta" is continuing to launch lethal ambushes against traffic on the main roads.
The report concentrates on atrocities committed by the jihadists in Cabo Delgado. "People are murdered and hacked to pieces in front of their relatives and neighbours, as a barbaric form of intimidation", said Commission chairperson Antonio Boene, as he presented the report.
The Commission could find no evidence for any similar atrocities committed by the Mozambican defence and security forces, but situations were reported "of abuses of power and authority", by the government forces.
The main recommendation from the report was the need "to strengthen the logistical and material capacity of the defence and security forces, to confront terrorist attacks that use modern and sophisticated resources".
It was also necessary "to boost vigilance so that the people displaced from their homes do not become the victims of terrorists who might infiltrate the accommodation centres and perpetuate fear and terror among the population".
Frelimo deputy Alberto Matukutuku confirmed that, up until Wednesday, there had been 11 terrorist incursions against the Cabo Delgado district of Muidumbe. "There are reports of more than 50 people beheaded ", he said, "and of an unknown number of people kidnapped to join the ranks of the murderers and looters".
Every day, he added, people are fleeing from the area under terrorist attack, seeking safety in other parts of Cabo Delgado, or in other provinces. "When they escape the actions of the terrorists, the victims risk dying of hunger, cholera or shipwreck", said Matukutuku.
Rescuing Cabo Delgado is "a national imperative", he said, and attacked those who are trying to portray the war as an ethnic conflict. "Tribalising" the war, he warned, risked pushing Cabo Delgado towards a genocide similar to that which occurred in Rwanda in 1994.
Elias Impuiri, of the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), said it was now urgent to strengthen the financial capacity of the Montepuez, Chiure and Metuge district administrations. These districts are not under attack, but they need assistance in order to absorb displaced people fleeing from areas further north.
He claimed that international humanitarian organisations are making their assistance for the displaced conditional on the government setting up "internationally accepted infrastructures where those in need can be supported".
As for the victims of the attacks by the Renamo Military Junta in Manica and Sofala, Impuiri said "the people tell us they are fed up with paying an exorbitant bill for bad governance that is generating endless conflicts".
The delegation from the Commission which visited Cabo Delgado, Manica and Sofala consisted only of Frelimo and MDM deputies. The main opposition party, Renamo, boycotted the commission's work and refused to take up its seats on the delegation.
The excuse for this boycott was that Renamo wanted a special commission of inquiry into human rights violations - even though a commission of inquiry would have visited exactly the same places and interviewed exactly the same people as the delegation from the Commission on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.
In the Assembly plenary, on Wednesday, the entire Renamo parliamentary group walked out of the chamber, when Boene began reading the delegation's report. The report was thus approved by Frelimo and MDM votes, with Renamo nowhere to be seen.
Under the rules of the Mozambican parliament, deputies are free to abstain on a vote, but they cannot simply not vote at all. That is equated with absence, and, if the rules are strictly applied, all the Renamo deputies who joined the boycott should lose a day's wages.