Without a prediction of when they will be able to return home to villages in northern Mozambique, the target of attacks by armed groups and jihadists at the end of March, thousands of displaced people are attacked by humanitarian organizations and religious missions such as that of the Congregation Nossa Senhora de Salette, of which the Brazilian priest Edegard Silva Filho belongs.
Currently, the missionary works in the service of 300 families installed in a sports hall in Pemba, the capital of the province of Cabo Delgado, where the inhabitants of the villages attacked by armed groups have fled. According to the UN, around 600,000 people are currently displaced as a result of the recent wave of violence promoted by jihadists and armed groups.
The reports that are made of this period of escape and clandestinity are dramatic and sad, according to Brazilian clerics. “When an attack occurs, the population flees into the bush, and the inhabitants take nothing because they are taken by surprise. Some families even planned how the escape would be and where to go. They stay in the bush in precarious conditions, until I can get to town, ”he said.
“When they arrive, the physiognomy says it all: a disfigured face, with thirst and hunger. Many arrive sick because on the way, in the bush, they drink water, which they find. always clean water, sometimes it harms health, ”he told the religious.
“And there is hardly anything to eat. They survive on the leaves and what they find in the bush. They arrive anemic and weak. Humanitarian action, including our mission, intervenes at this time.” , he said in reference to the work of the various missionaries with Caritas of the diocese of Pemba.
Father Edegard arrived in Mozambique about three years ago to work in the northern region of the country, in the province of Cabo Delgado. Since then, he has witnessed and denounced the wave of violence, which he prefers to call “war”.
“We have been following this war for three years,” he said. The religious were working in Muidumbe, a district where about 79,000 inhabitants lived.
With the attack, the clergy interrupted preparations to commemorate the centenary of the presence of the mission, scheduled for 2024. “We no longer have any prospect of knowing if this will be possible,” he laments.
According to Father Edegard, out of a group of 26 villages in the northern region of Cabo Delgado province, 18 of them have been attacked in recent years. The first attack against the community of Creation, he recalls precisely, took place on November 7, 2019. “Since then, we have never had peace since, they are successive attacks,” he said. he declares. “There were deaths and kidnappings,” he recalls. “In the village of Chitache, 52 young people were murdered. We are waiting for the end of this situation so that there is a detailed investigation, ”he said.
“In our mission, which is in the village of Muambula, which had a good infrastructure, with a school for three thousand students, a community radio, a crèche and an outpatient clinic, everything was destroyed”, he laments. . “There is a government effort to control, but we are always surprised by new attacks. Even after the attack on Palma, the district headquarters, other villagers were attacked. The only district that has not been attacked is Mueda, where the army has barracks and there is a military apparatus, ”he said.
End of a simple and peaceful life
According to Father Edegard, his diocese has long denounced the situation of violence, whether through the official voice of the Church, pastors or missionaries. “During our celebrations, we have always alerted and also raised denunciations on social networks. We have seen an increase in violence, even in the resources used in the attacks. They have been changed. A kind of machete used by farmers. Today, they are heavy. The last attack in Palma, they say, was with heavy and sophisticated weapons, ”he says, referring to the March offensives.
According to the religious, since the discovery of gas fields and the installation of companies, like the French multinational Total, the lives of the inhabitants have changed. “In the villages, the population lives on family farming, in particular corn, a staple ingredient in the local diet. This simple life was interrupted on October 5, 2017, with the first attack in the district of Mocimboa da Praia. We never had peace in We all had to change the hours of mass, the hours of school, which had to interrupt the evening classes. After 5 p.m., there was no one left. The rhythm of this peaceful, simple and peaceful life which took place in the villages has totally changed, “he says.
He also underlines the importance of the presence of humanitarian organizations in the area to help the inhabitants and the displaced persons. But he warns that the demands are far more important than the possibilities of organizations, both material and personal, to provide services to the population.
“We need financial support and to publicize this situation. We ask God to end this war and create channels for negotiation. Who is suffering the most from this war, it is the poorest people. and the most innocent one that has nothing to do with the motivations that led to this war. We have heard that there are several factors, not only from the Islamic State (of the Group), to rule fundamentalism, but there were also economic and political problems in this war, ”he concludes.