Mozambique: Peacebuilding in Mozambique - When Talking is the Surest Path to Peace [Conversation Transcript]

The United Nations refugee agency is providing training on business and entrepreneurship for students in Cabo Delgado.
26 August 2021


Welcome to AllAfrica's 'Silencing the Guns' series where we focus on peacebuilding on the continent. I'm Juanita Williams for AllAfrica and we're talking about the situation in Mozambique, where terror engulfs t he northern province of Cabo Delgado. Today we'll hear from David Matsinhe, Southern African researcher at Amnesty International and author, historian and peace practitioner Yussuf Adam, who shares his experiences after a field visit in the north. But let's first recap what led Cabo Delgado to become the centre of battles between government troops and fighters led by men the U.S. has now designated as Islamist terrorists.

Amnesty International's David Matsinhe breaks it down...

As you know Mozambique became independent from Portugal 45 years ago, in 1975. During the colonial era, the province of Cabo Delgado was a neglected space. This  continued after independence. The people of Cabo Delgado have been neglected by the current government. There has been little investment in social services such as education and construction of infrastructure such as roads and bridges, so that people can live their lives and trade with each other. There has been little investment in health services or water and sanitation distribution infrastructures.

This means for all these years, people have relied on the land, the natural ecosystem, to provide for themselves, for their livelihoods, for food, for water, for housing, medicinal plants, for fishing and even for their own cultural identity - because land isn't just a commodity. It is also a cultural element that bestows a sense of identity to people. So this is what has been happening in the 45 years after independence.

About 10 years ago or so, large reserves of natural resources were discovered in Cabo Delgado, including gold and rubies [and rare-earth minerals crucial to modern electronics], and there are also large reserves of natural gas. It attracted not only government interest but also multinational corporations hoping to exploit these resources.

The multinational corporations and the government work together to displace people, dislocate them from their land, in order to make room for these business ventures. In one of my trips, in district called Montepue, I spoke with local government authorities who were complaining that the entire district has been licensed to a mining company and other multinational corporations interested in mining rubies there. They said there is no more land left for people to live in, for people to grow food and for people to collect construction material for housing.

This is a serious problem. Local authorities were complaining that there isn't much that they can do about it, because the orders come from the central government to license these acres of land to multinational corporations. In fact, if you look at the map of Cabo Delgado, you will see that the entire province, except the national reserves, has been licensed to mining companies for projects and prospecting. There's absolutely nothing left for people to grow their food, to maintain their livelihoods.

A lack of investment in education for the past 45 years means that the people of Cabo Delgado, especially young people, were left without skills, which means not only are they unemployed but they are also unemployable in the growing mining and gas industry in the province. They are standing aside and looking at outsiders, those who come from elsewhere within and outside of the country, benefiting from the development of these mining and gas projects. That creates huge discontent, especially among young people.

Unfortunately, David says, the violence is spreading to other regions.

Mind you it's not only Cabo Delgado. All those provinces in northern Mozambique, including Nyasa and Nampula, are facing the same issues. The insurgents have been able to recruit young people not only from within Cabo Delgado but also from Nampula and Nyasa and they have joined the ranks and they are part of these insurgents that are creating problems in Northern Mozambique.

If I may quickly add that there has been a tendency by international scholars and within Mozambique to emphasis the external elements of this conflict, arguing that it is external forces from ISIS that are invading and violating Mozambique's sovereignty and creating problems for the country - Islamic insurgents. Well, Islamic insurgents are actually young people that have been recruited due to these local grievances from within these three provinces. They are the overwhelming majority that are part of of the fighters that are creating problems in Cabo Delgado.

David Matsinhe, Southern African researcher for Amnesty International, wants to know why the government is not allowing aid and human rights organisations and journalists free access to survivors of the attacks.

If researchers and human rights monitors and journalists are not allowed, then on what basis then is the Mozambican government making its decisions about Cabo Delgado? On what basis is the government of Mozambique designing policies and implementing them in Cabo Delgado, so that peace and security can be restored? So practically the people of Cabo Delgado, in terms of information about them, are not invisible not only to the outside world but also to the Mozambican government. what are they trying to keep under the rug? Our research has shown that there are serious allegations of human rights violations and war crimes and mass graves. Is this what the government is trying to hide from the international community?

Because if you want to restore peace and security, let the truth come out. Otherwise, there will be no reconciliation. Otherwise, we will continue to have a conflict. When people don't see their pain, their truth recognized and dealt with, then the resentment will continue, the tendency to pick up arms and fight for recognition will always be there. So, these questions are what we are asking ourselves - why are they preventing us from conducting investigations and monitoring human rights and document what is happening? Why are they not allowing investigators, Journalists to speak directly to communities, to speak directly to the country and tell their own stories, tell their own traumas.

It is very important for us to be aware of what is happening in Cabo Delgado, because when you deny the victims of this conflict their rights to be known, by speaking, and the right of the public to know them, then you are actually killing them for the second time. Because death isn't only a physical death, death is also not being known, your story is not known, you can't reach out to others and speak to who might be sympathetic to your plight and provide assistance. The Mozambican government is denying this. We believe that one of the ways in which an effective intervention could be put in place is to allow the people of Cabo Delgado to speak directly to the international community.

You are listening to AllAfrica's Silencing The Guns series on peacebuilding on the continent and if you've just joined us, David Matsinhe from Amnesty International asked some pointed questions about the government's reluctance to give a id and human rights organisations and journalists free access to survivors of the attacks.

What are they hiding? What are they trying to hide under the rug? Our research has shown that there are serious allegations of human rights violations and war crimes and mass graves. Is this what the government is trying to hide from the international community?

Because if you want to restore peace and security, let the truth come out. Otherwise, there will be no reconciliation. Otherwise, we will continue to have a conflict. When people don't see their pain, their truth recognized and dealt with, then the resentment will continue, the tendency to pick up arms and fight for recognition will always be there. So, these questions are what we are asking ourselves - why are they preventing us from conducting investigations and monitoring human rights and document what is happening? What are they trying to hide? These are the questions we are asking ourselves.

Thank you David for sharing your expertise with Silencing The Guns, allAfrica's focus on peacebuilding on the continent.

Described as one of the most respected long-term researchers of Cabo Delgado in Mozambique , retired professor Yussuf A a dam spoke with us from Maputo after seeing the horrific living conditions of Mozambicans displaced by the ongoing fighting . But before sharing those details, he shares what his approach to peacebuilding is ...

I'm a researcher and I used to do a lot of research on the contemporary history of the world, Southern Africa, and Mozambique. And I've been working for many, many years on Cabo Delgado and other places where there is conflict and social transformation going on. That's my book side about the development policies of Mozambique from 1974, up to today. And I also wrote about co-operatives and agricultural development in Mozambique. And then I have written quite extensively now about the war in Cabo Delgado and this conflict, which is going on, but my interest in peace. I'm more a peace scholar than a conflict scholar. I'm working in Cabo Delgado, trying to see how one can stop this war, as soon as we can, because it doesn't take us to any place.

We have spoken with researchers about Cabo Delgado especially spoke of the Palma attack, and he (David Matsinhe from Amnesty) was telling us about trauma and the history behind Cabo Delgado. The reason Cabo Delgado is in the situation that it is that is the history behind it in terms of people being ignored by the government, you know, people not getting services, what is your thinking on that?

My idea about this war is that there are underlying causes that have to be researched in the political economy of the region, and the development policies of the Mozambican state. When this turmoil started in 1995, we already have been working from 1985 to 1995 in the regions in the northern part of Cabo Delgado, then I did some basic working in, woods concessions, working with peasants and their communities and organized community, communal organisations, which had the role of administering forests called the Community Councils for the use of natural resources.
 And I was working with a colleague from the University of Bell colleagues from the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane and others. And at that time, we verified that there was a profound crisis in the villages in the region because exactly the families were not getting the resources they should have been getting from, from the state, 20% of the revenues, which the operators paid to the government had to go back to the peasant families, it went to the communities and the communities use the money without any clear strategy. We also didn't know very well who manage the money was managed, not in the village where we were and where it should be managed but another village. But you couldn't see much use of these public funds. And when in 2017 when this attack in, in the district of Cabo Delgado, we said the omelet is ready because the eggs were already there. And as you said, it has to do with development policies, it also has to do with the way the gas and oil companies, gas and oil companies did their investments, they didn't pay what the peasant fisherfolk because these people on the coast have this their economy in two legs.

So these people were not very happy with what the guests and especially Anadarko, Exxon Mobil, etc offered to pay them, there is a study done in the first years of this project when some sociologist was speaking to the peasants and they showed their daily accounts and they said, we make much more money with our agriculture and fishing, that the money the petrol company is going to give us so it means that there was no just payment to the people who were being taken out of these areas. And you know, these areas also have a problem. You have a youth bulge,  if you look at the demographics of the area, you'll see that the age pyramid has a huge bulge.

You said you just come back from the field. And I mean, I'd like to get into the into sort of the practicalities of being a peace practitioner, we spend so much time talking about what the problem is and where the problem came from. But it would be good if we could speak about some of the possible solutions? What are some of the what's a possible pathways where we could find that area in a situation where the ease of peace or peace is being built in some way?

I don't think this war has a military solution. Yes, if the MaShabaab (allAfrica editor's note: Not affiliated with Al-Shabaab in Somalia) is using arm component so that means that we have to the state has to reply using force but the solution at this is some kind of negotiation with everyone but based in communities and community institutions you know, I'm speaking about the heads of the local leaders, the heads of the local chiefdoms the (unclear) where women who are very important run small chiefdom because these (unclear) are the ones who will give power to the chief when the chief dies, the new one comes is the (unclear) who has this right and power to give to make him a chief.

So, and also working with mosques with Christian Catholic groups, Christian denominations, working with everyone to create dialogue. And I think that is possible. But what is important at this moment is that this violence is stopped as soon as possible. Because if we don't stop this violence will continue to have this huge amount of Internal Displaced People (IDPs). We have about 800,000 IDPs. We have about 2000/ 3000 people dead, of the IDPs, we have about 800,000 Kids. There are a lot of women who have been abducted by the maShabaab (allAfrica editor's note: Not affiliated with Al-Shabaab in Somalia). But there is also a lot of women who have been molested by any armed men in the conflict. So, it is a very difficult situation.

And now with the South African battalion and the SADC group, the Rwandans, etc. It is going to be more intense and more difficult. The Portuguese army is going to train Mozambican soldiers, but I don't think that will be important because the Mozambican army has been disinvested, do you say that in English? When the war with Renamo ended in the agreement it was written that the Mozambican army couldn't have more than 30,000 men. But this 30,000 man target was never filled then there was no investment in equipment in resources, etc, there were a lot of promises, but they were not fulfilled. So, you have an army that lacks equipment, training, logistics, etc.

That's that seems like a perfect storm of conditions to create something that's going to be challenging to bring to an end. I mean, as you said earlier, the mid-90s when the situation started, it's been left to fester for quite a while.

The thing is that you know, one way or another, the situation was there and the people who revolted they are mainly from the region. They are not people who probably could have some international liaisons in the U.S. and the others are trying to brand them as some kind of IS affiliated organisation, but in the field, we haven't seen it. Now, what is very clear is that they have a people's popular support. But in the end, those who suffer is the people because they must run from one side to another and the situation of the IDPs is terrible. If you go to a town like the provincial capital, Pemba where they have an emergency tent and visiting that like going to hell.

You know, you find babies, two years old or three years old with a gunshot, an old man with a gunshot in his leg, he should be in hospital, you know, they get some food, but there are no proper conditions and the state has no capacity to give aid. And generally, there are most of the people I interviewed, they said, you know, international NGOs, bonafide organisations, like MSF, etc, various others, they are not allowed to intervene in certain areas, speak to people, etc, because, there is some kind of the government officials look at it as some interference in the internal affairs of the country,  so for example, if you want to help the IDPs come from Palma is a tattered history because study because when they arrive in Pemba, they are not first taken care by Red Cross, international organisations who have this role, they first are vetted by the police, because they think that, in the middle of this group, there are infiltrators, and, you know, when you have this theory of infiltration, your communication with the people who are running from, from hell, in fact, in what happened in Palma, etc, is terrible.

And what, what we need is to give aid not only to the IDPs, internally displaced people but also to the people who live in the communities where they arrive because now I have a lot of people telling me, someone was telling me, "it is good to be IDP because you get rice, you get food, you get support. And we don't get anything". It was a person who was speaking one of them, I could say he is a politician, he has agricultural production, I saw he had a crop in his yard ready to sesame seed crop, which was very good, etc, but he was complaining about that the IDPs were getting more attention and more resources than the local communities. So this means that urgency in the international community has to look at the population of Cabo Delgado as a whole.

And I think that the ones who are there have the same difficulties as the people they receive.

The other idea because to be a challenge is the idea that you know, it's all brotherly, "come to my house, I will help you", there are families, which have 30/40 people, which came from different districts, living with them in Pemba but the relationships between these family members, between those who receive and those who come sometimes is very difficult because they are used as cheap labour, there is a lot of sexual exploitation. I saw in some places, someone had given his land, he had one or two hectors of land, we could see the people coming from the Sangha. And we could see in the face of the girls that they were traumatized, and someone showed me a small hut, the owner of the land has put that had there for the girl he chose as his preferred so he comes regularly to visit her.

And in other areas, for example, in the district of Mecufi, I saw that in the places where the IDPs had to be it's very near Pemba, had to be installed, they left and locals would say "but you know they like to live near the sea or they like to do they don't like to do agriculture" etc which is not true. What is the main problem in this community? Well, I should have found 100 or 200 IDPs, I only found three people with whom I spoke and they told me "we are working here, it is a very good farming area in Cabo Delgado, this black land, which is always humid", it's called here in the south, we call it mashongu , that in the north, this land is very fertile. So the owners are not going to give you access to the land if they don't get any benefit. And there are definite rules like in that type of land, if you plant something, you have to divide it with the owner of the land, you can't plant perennial trees, you can't plant bananas, etc.

So there are some of these people who had to leave the land either in serious trouble. Now, it seems that the government policies or at least the discourse has changed. Before they used to say that they were going to build permanent villages, like a town for them to stay. But the people want to go back to the original places. And now it seems to be acceptable in the official discourse that, you know, as soon as your areas from where you came from are stabilized, in military terms, security is guaranteed you can go back home.

You said you spent for 20 days in different areas?

Yeah, I was researching with colleagues from Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Pretoria and colleagues from the center for the judicial studies here in Maputo, and also with some colleagues from Police Science Academy (ACIPOL), which is the police academy. The idea was to understand the situation to find out what are the ways to achieve peace and understand what is going on. So that was also a training exercise for us because generally, there are problems, when, for example, when you speak with the army about the war, they say, "we capture the terrorists, we send them to the courts and the courts just liberate them, then we when we are in combat, we kill some of them. And they have the document which says that they have been considered not guilty in the court". Now, I think this is a bit tough for me because no one has given us a document showing that, you know, some of these people went back to fight. It is a very difficult situation in terms of human rights, and also the soldiers who are part of the Mozambican army, at this moment, have difficulties with food, logistics, etc.

And we have a problem because there are about 1000 to 1200 men working for the Mozambique army and they have far better conditions in terms of logistics food, etc. Then the other most normal Mozambican soldiers in any other place in the province. And we all know that when soldiers have difficulties in getting food, they're getting the conditions they just steal and from who they steal from the population. So, you know, this saying that an army marches in its belly. It's quite correct. So today with the arrival of all these forces, let's see how it's going to go because they don't speak the local language. Probably the ones from Rwanda speak Swahili. If they could communicate, I'm not sure. But also the Rwandis are the ones who have acted as mercenaries in the Congo

So that danger that it would escalate the situation is there, the possibility.

Yes, is there. And I don't think it's going to be solved by military means. It means that everyone you know, I like to compare all these men people discuss wars. I like to compare it to a war, which no one speaks very much these days, is the Vietnam War. You saw what happened with the war in Vietnam. The same thing happens now with the war in the Taliban in the Middle East. It's quite complicated. After 20 years, the U.S. is leaving and the problem is not solved.

I think that also the, you know, the outside influences that people speak of, I think in South Africa, with the recent unrest, there has been talking of a third force, you know, and outside people wanting to create chaos. I think a lot of people have referenced the fact that Cabo Delgado itself is rich in natural resources. And even though it doesn't have the infrastructure, then that might be behind some of the violence and the conflict. Your opinion on that?

Look, I think that, yes, you can, you can say that there is a problem with the natural resources. But the problem is more with respect of the rights of the people who live there, they lost their land, they were not paid a sufficient amount of money for what they lost. You're speaking about fish fishermen, Fisherfolk, and agriculturalists, they do the two things. Generally, in these villages, they say, when it rains, we are happy people we live in paradise because we have good production on the farm and we have good production in the sea. Because generally, the fishing peak is in the period of the rains December, November from 20, December up to first of May. And these families at this moment, some of them can't go fishing, because the traditional areas of fishing have been cut off by the petrol companies. They're going to give them both, they're going to train them to use boats and go far in their industry to fish. But that is something that is more a promise than a reality.

David was of the same mind as you with Amnesty International, he said that he believes that violence begets violence. And so it will be a cycle, some of the fighters have the support of the people in their community.

The question is that the MaShabaab (allAfrica editor's note: Not affiliated with Al-Shabaab in Somalia) they started as a rebellion I would even call them people to rebellion they've been organising themselves because they saw that the rights were not respected, they wanted to be part of the division of the resources, gas and oil minerals, etc. and fine they use Islam as a covered up for that ideology but basically what they want is they wanted the resources which exist in their areas are benefit them, okay. Then you have all these discourses of anti-Islamic or Islamic terror, etc.

Look at what happened in Afghanistan. After all these years, the U.S. left. 20 years where are we? We are in the same position we were before. And they were Mozambicans who left Mozambique to fight in Afghanistan, they were part of the U.S.-supported groups, which fought the Soviets.

Probably some of them also went to Somalia and other places where they joined these extreme violent groups. And there are conditions, Cabo Delgado has natural conditions for this type of life. To take it off, we need to work with it, we have to create conditions for the people to live in peace. And the only thing at this moment that matters is peace, not war. And that has to be done by creating conditions for people to produce the international, multinationals have to take care in a way that they are just with the population. But that hasn't been the track record of oil and gas companies is not so good.

You've been listening to Silencing The Guns – AllAfrica's focus on peacebuilding on the continent. Today we were discussing the ongoing conflict in northern Mozambique. At the time of my discussion with historian Yussuf Aadam, the Rwandan troops had not yet arrived in Mozambique. Since their landing in the North in mid-August , civil society observer group Cabo Ligado is attributing the success of the Rwandan troops in early battles to their capacity to fight back in ambushes. The Rwandans are also being seen favourably by civilians, says Cabo Ligado.

Joseph Hanlon reported that it appears the Rwandans will create a security zone to protect the interests of the French oil company, Total - which was earlier forced by insurgents to pull back from its project to exploit gas reserves. The insurgency has damaged the prospects of developing gas fields off the Mozambican coast, which have the potential to turn around the country's economy. The latest report from Rwanda's The New Times says the joint taskforce of Rwandan and Mozambican forces have surrounded the insurgents' last major areas of operation.

To follow developments in Mozambique, go to allAfrica dot com forward slash mozambique.

Thank you once again to historian, author and peace scholar Yussuf Adam and David Matsinhe, Southern African researcher for Amnesty International, for sharing their expertise with us - and thanks to the Mother of Community Radio in Africa Bush Radio 89.5FM for the partnership.

AllAfrica's reporting on peacebuilding in Africa is supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, "investing in knowledge that inspires informed action in democracy, education and international peace".


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