Mozambique: Thousands of Displaced Returning Home, but Face Problems, Says OMR

The best current pictures of zones of insecurity, areas of return, and motivation for return is given in a 1 November study by Joao Feijó of the OMR (Rural Observatory), based on extensive October interviews. He finds thousands of displaced people are returning home, “mainly motivated by factors of revulsion to the resettlement sites (related to the deprivation of agricultural land and decreasing food aid), but also by a greater attraction of places of origin, due to the improvement of safety conditions.” He adds: “Reports of diversion of humanitarian aid to community leaders continue to abound, generating tensions and conflicts, sometimes ethnicized”, in camps for displaced people. (“A return to a new future or a return to the past?https://bit.ly/OMR-Return)

Most displaced people return on their own initiative, without access to credit or economic support, to a place where much of the public infrastructure and services are destroyed or under reconstruction. The biggest problem is that the rains start next month, and most returnees do not have seeds, tools and other support to plant crops. “Until the beginning of the next harvests [in April], periods of widespread famine among the population and the insurgents are expected, but also among the armed forces, with impacts on petty crime, armed attacks, prostitution, and collaboration with violent groups,” notes Feijó. And he warns that without political and economic changes, people are “returning to the past” and the problems which caused the war.

In Palma and Mocimboa da Praia there is some support from TotalEnergies, private individuals, the state, and World Food Programme. Feijó points to contradictory messages, The public and media message, aimed at TotalEnergies, is “triumphalist” and saying the return shows security and a base for rapid economic growth. But for displaced people “there is a cautious speech, highlighting the ongoing security work.”

Some roads are open and people in camps are selling their $55 food vouchers to club together to hire open backed small trucks to take them home to Muidumba, Palma and Mocimboa de Praia.

The map below is from the Feijó report, with areas of insecurity and insurgency in red. We have added locations to which people are returning as blue diamonds. The red insecure zones, from north (top) to south, are: Nangade district; north and south of the Messalo river in dense forests in southern Mocimboa da Praia and northern Macomia; western Macomia district and eastern Meluco district; and Meluco and Ancuabe districts. The blue diamonds are return zones, from north to south: Palma, Mocimboa da Praia, Muidumbe high areas, and Quissanga.

Although people are returning, Feijó warns “the return of populations takes place without clear structural reforms, with the aggravation of the destruction and inoperability of public infrastructure and services, in a scenario of lack of means of production and widespread decapitalization. The economic disintegration of populations, difficulties in accessing public services and justice, and the absence of spaces for participation, in a scenario of return of foreign investment and increased social inequalities, could aggravate social tensions, and increase collaboration with violent groups. This reality would imply a return to the political-military situation prevailing between 2017 and 2019”. And he provides a sensible list of what needs to be done to create a new future instead of a return to the past.

“A return to a new future or a return to the past?– the population return to the northeast of Cabo Delgado”, by João Feijó, Observatório do Meio Rural (OMR), Destaque Rural No. 195, 1 November 2022

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