Transit to nowhere

Transit to nowhere

The Cabo Delgado conflict in northern Mozambique has displaced more than 800,000 people. Luis Nhachote speaks to some of them, in Rapale transit c

The Cabo Delgado conflict in northern Mozambique has displaced more than 800,000 people. Luis Nhachote speaks to some of them, in Rapale transit centre, where they are struggling to survive as foreign and local forces fight over their homelands.


Fatima Cruz somehow managed to reach the camp in Rapale, in Mozambique’s province of Nampula, walking 300 kilometres with her blind husband from Mueda in Cabo Delgado. “We are ignored human beings who have suffered every day, for years; poverty, oblivion and violence in Cabo Delgado,” she told The Continent by phone, speaking in Emakhuwa, the main language in northern Mozambique.

The Cabo Delgado conflict, which escalated three years ago, has displaced some 800,000 people and killed at least 3,000. It started as an insurrection by Mozambican militants aggrieved that the state was doing too little to develop the northern region, despite extracting minerals and natural gas from it. They have since been joined by other fighters, who claim affiliation with the global Islamic State and/or al-Shabab terror groups.

A combination of soldiers from the Mozambican army, the Southern Africa Development Community and Rwanda, is fighting the militants. Rwanda’s contingent of 1,000 soldiers is the biggest foreign force fighting the war.

Fatima and her husband are at what the government calls a transit centre. It is at full capacity with 6,000 residents. The more established camp for internally displaced people is 60km further south at Corrane. Not being an ‘official camp”, the location where Fatima is, gets little in the way of resources.

“No NGO works there. Only the Catholic Church. People have nothing. No food. No pots. Nothing to sleep on,” says Joaquim Hernan, the head of the Catholic Church in Rapale.

There is no electricity at the camp, and people are sleeping on the ground. The state’s own National Institute of Disaster Management had yet to arrive in Rapale when The Continent spoke to people there.

Cruz left her home after the latest massacres in Muidumbe, near her home. With her husband, sister and children, she says they too walked more than 500km to Rapale. “Only God knows how we walked and arrived safely.”

Her neighbour, Anastacia Godinho, arrived a few days ago from another refugee camp further north. She shares her hut with her sister and six other relatives. After arriving, they didn’t eat for two days.

Godinho is from the village of Xitaxi, where in April 2020 terrorists called the local men to a meeting and massacred them. The rest of the terrified villagers fled, and the village is now deserted. “The bodies of our relatives were abandoned and some were eaten by dogs,” she tells The Continent. Now she has to restart “with nothing. We left everything behind.”

People ‘can’t complain’

Rapale is located in Nampula province, which is governed by Mety Gondola, a government-appointee. He told The Continent that the provincial government is “concerned” about the situation and has instructed the local leaders to give all displaced people parcels of land.

But, the larger government appears weary of helping. Speaking about similar destitution in the main camp at Corane, Armindo Ngunga, the head of the Northern Integrated Development Agency, a government body set up last year to accelerate development in Mozambique’s northern provinces,  said a week ago, “people cannot spend the rest of their lives receiving food support and complaining that it is insufficient.”

Yet without meaningful action from his agency and others in government, there can be little optimism among those living at the ‘transit camp’, which threatens to remain their home for months if not years to come.

The article was first published at The Continent


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