Crisis unfolds as tens of thousands flee jihadist attacks in Mozambique

The Mozambican government acknowledged on Tuesday that over 67,000 people, equivalent to 14,270 families, have been forcibly displaced from their homes in the Cabo Delgado province due to a surge in jihadist attacks. The haunting accounts of violence include gruesome scenes of beheadings and terror, forcing families to escape with whatever little they possess.

Government spokesman Filimao Suaze, in a press conference in Maputo, revealed the alarming figures, stating that the affected population has sought refuge in various places, including the Nampula province. Despite the severity of the situation, Suaze rejected calls for declaring a state of emergency in Cabo Delgado, asserting that the conditions for such a measure have not yet materialized.

Fresh unrest erupted in northern Mozambique two weeks ago, with gunshots echoing through the affected regions. Disturbing testimonies, such as Josefina Gabriele’s account of witnessing machete attacks and fleeing for safety, shed light on the brutality faced by the displaced. Many, like Gabriele, sought shelter in Namapa town in the Nampula province, facing the harsh elements and relying on aid from organizations like the UN’s World Food Programme.

According to the UN migration agency IOM, the numbers of displaced individuals have surged to 71,681 between December 22 and February 25, highlighting the urgency of the crisis. Over 30,000 people arrived in Namapa town just between last Wednesday and Thursday alone, with Mendes Luciano describing the dire conditions, revealing that they had “not eaten almost anything” since their escape.

The insurgency, linked to the Islamic State group since October 2017, has led to a significant loss of life, with nearly 5,000 casualties, and forced nearly a million people to flee their homes. International efforts, including the deployment of troops from Rwanda and the SADC regional bloc, have been underway since July 2021 to assist the Mozambican military in regaining control of Cabo Delgado. However, concerns arise as the SADC mission is slated to conclude by mid-July.

President Filipe Nyusi acknowledged the recent population movements but downplayed the threat, asserting that security forces have the situation under control. Despite reassurances from the government, the crisis continues to escalate, with displaced individuals facing not only the immediate threat of violence but also pressing needs for food, shelter, and healthcare.

As Mozambique grapples with this humanitarian crisis, questions linger about the long-term stability of the region and the ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, leaving the international community watching with deep concern.

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