Estacio Valoi The official narrative about the Defence and Security Forces (DSF) of Mozambique is that the soldiers and policemen are defending
The official narrative about the Defence and Security Forces (DSF) of Mozambique is that the soldiers and policemen are defending the national sovereignty with courage, patriotism and self-sacrifice against the attacks perpetrated by the Islamic insurgents in Cabo Delgado.
As recently as the last week of October, the General-Commander of the Mozambique Republic Police (PRM), Bernardino Rafael, said that the DSF invaded the “Síria” Base, belonging to the insurgents, in Macomia District, having killed 108 terrorists in a confrontation that lasted 72 hours, adding that in the incident were destroyed also 6 camps, 15 vehicles, 20 motorbikes and 3 tons of various food products.
Bernardino Rafael was talking during the PRM’s XXth Coordinating Council, which carried out in Pemba. If the intention was to appease the Mozambican nation, it failed, because soon after that the Minister of Interior, Amade Miquidade, said in Maputo that the balance of dead insurgents after the attack to the mentioned base was 22.
This scenario of contradiction, confusion and intrigue among the police and military leaders seems to consubstantiate the military sources the Investigative Journalism Centre (IJC) has been in contact with.
For example, in June last the DFS fell on an ambush when trying an assault against the Síria Base, which our sources argued had been well and rigorously planned, but “with the support of our crocodile team-mates that sell tokens (Editor’s Note: the same as giving information to the bandits about our actions, number of soldiers, the armament in our possession.).”
The sources got to that conclusion because, no matter how many elements were in the forces when assaulting terrorist bases, these seemed to have all the information about “how many we were and what equipment we had.”
The terrorists even have the information about who the battalions’ commanders were. They worked out that some had been until recently demobilized militaries that then joined the terrorists. “Many are demobilized. The ones that were demobilized are in the line of fire,” added our sources.
They mention for example an instructor that came from Macanzene, in Gaza Province, named Caixão (meaning Coffin in Portuguese). In an attack in Quissanga, “the Al-Shababs were shouting, looking for him. ‘We want you here, alive’, they were saying. Many of the bandits were trained by Caixão, they know him. If they capture Caixão, they will not kill him, but take him with them so he can give them information and training. If he refuses, he will only leave there dead.”
Apparently the flux of information flows both ways, but for the benefit of the insurgents, who also receive information about strategic positions and movements of the military contingents.
But probably this scenario that scrapes and harms the nation wouldn’t happen if the army didn’t have to operate with a group of ‘chicken thieves’, greedy and thirsting to make money. The narrative that emerges is one of extortion and corruption to the bone!
Our sources tell us that it is known that the insurgents move large sums of money. “We found two youngsters. Each had 100,000 Meticais and were heading to the bank to make a deposit to send to their families,” they said. They didn’t reveal the source of the money. They were detained and taken to the Rapid Intervention Unit (UIR) barracks and the interrogations confirmed that they were insurgents.
Part of their money seems to result from the marketing of mineral resources such as Tourmaline, Gold, among others. The money was confiscated but ended up in the hands of the chiefs. “We got nothing. [The chiefs] divided that money amongst themselves and said nothing,” the sources added.
The insurgents didn’t have the same luck. Apparently the officious rule is not to take them to jail and subsequently to court. If they don’t fall in combat, they are ‘sent to the firewood’ – a euphemism meaning summary execution. These reports confirm that the conflict is dehumanizing the DSF, where a very thin line separates the conduct of the military from the insurgents’.
In the peak of the combats that culminated in the taking of Mocímboa da Praia by the insurgents, the battalion where our sources belong was forced to reinforce their trench comrades, but was also attacked. “One of my colleagues that ended up dying in that mission captured two couples from the ‘Al-Shabab. He told them to undress and forced them to have their last sex before dying,” the source said.
“They did it. Then my colleague that died there in combat, took the bayonet from his gun and put it in the woman’s vagina. He sliced her from bottom to top and did the same with the other one,” he added. After that, the men started running, evading, but one of our colleagues had the gun ready. He shot the head of the insurgent. Immobilized him completely – dead.”
The involvement of women in the conflict seems to be a new element. It is senseless, macabre and barbaric what Mozambicans and the world saw on the video that went viral in the social media about two months ago, showing the moment when our defence forces tortured a naked woman and then without pity or mercy riddling her body with bullets.
This is a worrying development because any suspicion might result in the death of an innocent woman. And what makes the situation worse, is the fact that the troops seem to be frustrated about their payments. The ones that run the risk of being on the other side of their fury are the defenceless suspects.
The bottom line of the finance situation
The payment to the military situation is a little bit spiky. The government signed a memorandum of understanding with the French multinational Total, with the objective of establishing a joint security force for the natural gas project. The agreement portends that Total is to assist the joint force with logistics.
This memorandum made formalized a non-official arrangement that goes back to the first mandate of President Filipe Nyusi. Already at that time, the DSF were already protecting the multinational’s interests and a bank account was created, to where the moneys were channelled for the payment of the military integrating the protection force. In part, this created a remuneration stratification that, in turn, results in unhappiness amongst the forces.
And if this was not enough, the commanders grab most of the cake provided by the multinationals. “Those military [commanders] there in Quelimane [their barracks] said that everything was for the chiefs. We are unhappy. Those Mazda, Fortuner were escorted by the commands, but the money was going to the chiefs,” added our sources.
“You see these insurgents we capture? If they are found with money, the amount stays with the commanders. The first insurgents that were caught had 700, 800 thousand Meticais with them. That was in 2017, when I was in Nangade. From that money, the soldiers that had detained them would get 1,000 to 2,000 Meticais. Just so the soldiers could drink,” the sources went on.
Sometimes the movement of money among the DSF are a motive for suspicion. “When your own colleague realizes you have money, he looks at you suspiciously. It’s as though he is thinking, ‘this one must be one of the crocodiles,’” the term the military uses to describe an insurgents’ agent.
And there is more. In the communications and information technology era, some soldiers already seem to have the ‘selfies’ fever. They photograph themselves, share photos and videos in the social media, ultimately revealing their position.
That is what happened once when the military were getting ready to attack the Síria Base in July of 2020. All of a sudden images were circulating on Whatsapp social network publicizing that “we are going to invade Síria, going in through ADPP as though you are going to Quissanga, Bilibiza. The insurgents were ready for them, on top of trees, well positioned, waiting for us. There was an information leak. This thing of selling tokens continues.” Well, the insurgents are also on social networks and no one needs Albert Einstein’s intelligence to guess the outcome.
“Last July of 2020 when we went again to attack the ‘Al-Shabab’, we managed to fight and get them out temporarily. Then they restarted the attack. There we killed and beat. Only when we were convinced that all was under control, two days later, it was on fire, the ‘Al-Shabab’ attacked.”
“When the insurgents come to attack, they already know in which positions the military are. Sometimes they catch you unaware. They attack on an L form. You think you are hitting them, but the way they form that L, you end up going in their direction. Many of our people have lost their lives.”
“Sometimes we had to close our eyes with cloths so we don’t retain those chocking images in our minds. There are 14-year-old kids. The insurgents pay them 1,000, 5,000 Meticais. You can end up accepting to get into the scheme [spy].”
The improvised barracks in the Primary School of Quelimane, are about 75km from Palma, 7km from Mocímboa da Praia’s roundabout and 333km from Pemba. Between the 4th and the 8th of August of 2019, one of the command’s battalion suffered an ambush, where about 80 soldiers died. “What happened there was an ambush, very well organized. They had all the information, coordinates.”
The sources accuse the commanders of also not helping. “There is no shooting. The enemy can come, ‘don’t shoot.’ You hear the voice of the battalion’s chief, him commanding his soldiers to not shoot at the terrorists, saying ‘don’t answer.’ If the commander doesn’t allow us to shoot, who are you to shoot?”, questioned the sources.
Still according to them, it was when they disobeyed the chiefs’ orders that the DSF were successful, which in their understanding might suggest that some commanders are in collaborating with the terrorists.
First, because there are moments when an ambush is set against the insurgents, but just after that the commander aborts the attack. “That time we wanted to bombard the Síria Base, those from the government declined. Why did they decline it?”, the sources conjectured.
There was a situation where one of the helicopters lift off for another recognition mission, but a call to the insurgents was intercepted and they had to abort the mission. When they came back, a line-up was carried out and a call made to the intercepted number. “They caught the person. It was a chief, not just any soldier,” decided the sources, adding that there are many infiltrated amongst the DSF. (IJC)