The Bishop of Pemba, on Mozambique’s north-eastern coast, has criticised authorities over recent deaths attributed to a Muslim insurgency in the north of the country.
Around 200 people have lost their lives in an obscure wave of killings in and around Cabo Delgado, part of the diocese of which Brazilian-born Luiz Fernando Lisboa is bishop. The state, he says, seems more interested in discouraging discussion than in getting to the bottom of matters.
“Following this long silence of the government, the people, communities and especially journalists feel threatened and bullied into silencing what they see and hear,” says the bishop. “What are the civil and military authorities hoping to gain through this atmosphere of secrecy and silence? What is the secret they do not want revealed?”
Without official answers, many are venturing their own hypotheses, the bishop says. “Is there any relation to organ trafficking? Is it due to money laundering? Are the attacks linked to the gem trade? Has our province become a corridor for traffickers of different goods?” he asks, concluding that “for the sake of truth, and in order to prove the innocence or guilt of those allegedly involved, the facts must be investigated.”
The bishop lambasts officials for putting forward differing and contradictory explanations for the violence. “This is not a guessing game. There are lives at stake,” he wrote in an open letter circulated in the diocese.
Pope Francis will visit Mozambique in September, on a tour which will also take him to Mauritius and Madagascar. The motto for the Mozambique leg of the journey is “Hope, peace and reconciliation”, but the bishop says his flock are unlikely to feel included.
“For a year and a half we’ve been subject to this atmosphere in which it is difficult to speak to the people of ‘hope, peace and reconciliation’, as we prepare to welcome the Holy Father,” he says. “As long as the people are being instrumentalised by hidden powers which aim to impose their own interests, there will be no peace nor reconciliation, let alone hope.”
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