Appeal of the former Bishop of Pemba in the face
of the suffering of the population due to the conflict
and the worsening of the refugee situation in Cabo Delgado
Pemba (Agenzia Fides) - "The Province of Capo Delgado has been suffering from a terrorist war for three years and four months, which has caused the flight of over 600 thousand people and the death of more than two thousand. The city of Pemba, its capital, has welcomed over 150,000 refugees since the beginning of the conflict and each of the other cities in the south or central area, are in similar situations, namely with thousands of refugees whose situation is heavily aggravated by the passages of the cyclones which have hit these areas in recent months". This is what Msgr. Luiz Fernando Lisboa, currently bishop of Pemba, who is preparing to leave the province, as he has just been appointed by Pope Francis as Archbishop (with an ad personam title) of the Diocese of Cachoeiro de Itapemirim, in Brazil.
The Province of Capo Delgado has been the scene of violent clashes since 2017. The Bishop notes the serious moment that certain areas of Mozambique are currently going through, putting a strain on the path of rebirth undertaken by the entire country since the end of the bloody conflict in 1992.
"Overcrowding and the enormous concentration of people in certain areas - he explains to Fides - have encouraged the further displacement of thousands of people in the direction of three provinces of Nampula, Niasa and Zambezia, widening the critical area. In the meantime, the attacks continue and, although they are less numerous, we find it difficult to foresee the end of the conflict". The Bishop continues: "Last year, in addition to the attacks, we unfortunately also had to face two cyclones in Mozambique, one of which, Ida, hit the center of the country while the other, Kenneth, hit the province of Cabo Delgado. Both left a trail of destruction and loss of human life. At the end of last year and at the beginning of this year, the central region of the country was hit by two new cyclones. The Capo Delgado region is in the midst of the rainy season and the situation will surely worsen the conditions of the many people who live in tents, camps or makeshift accommodation. The whole Province of Capo Delgado is a war zone and about 2 million 340 thousand people live there. Those who did not evacuate are struck by the serious situation just like those who chose to leave the area".
The attempts to open negotiations all come up against the impossibility of finding interlocutors among the terrorists and official representatives of their bodies. "There is no one with whom to negotiate - notes the Bishop - because terrorists do not have a face, have not expressed the name of a representative. The President of the Republic has already offered protection to young people who will leave armed groups but so far his appeal has gone unanswered. We hope that with the help of the European Union, the African Union, the SADC (Southern African Development Community), we will be able to get out of this situation".
The Church, notoriously considered as a mediation body and a support body for populations affected by conflicts or disasters, plays a leading role in this complicated moment.
"Currently - concludes the Bishop - it is not possible to start mediation because we would not know with whom to negotiate. The Church has always been an will always be at the complete disposal of dialogue and offers herself permanently as a reliable mediator. We have fulfilled our duty to speak out, to denounce the war right from the beginning, a position that did not please many people, including government representatives. The church has activated the distribution of humanitarian aid through Caritas. Recently the Church has set up a team of about 70 people who will provide a psycho-social support service by meeting people and allowing them to tell their story, their traumas, their tragedies and to manage, with their help, to raise their heads and start over".