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Long-distance truck drivers and other N7 users have reported the upsurge of military abuses, with extortion, robbery and physical aggression on the road formerly subject to mandatory army escorts between Vanduzi (Manica) and Changara (Tete) in central Mozambique.
The reports come days after the Renamo leader extended the peace truce between the party and the government for another 60 days.
In the Pungue-Catandica river section of the N7, one of the main economic routes in Mozambique and for its neighbours and a section patrolled by the Defence and Security Forces, users have reported thefts of cargo, cell phones and moneys, and physical assaults when resisting extorsion.
“There is some trouble in the forests between the Pungue river and Catandica,” a Tanzanian truck driver Almuade Ali says, highlighting to areas where the most significant ambushes in the conflict between Renamo’s armed wing and government forces were reported.
Ali said he was stopped by a group of three armed men wearing a mixture of military uniform and civilian clothing as he returned from the Indian Ocean port of Beira. The men searched his vehicle cabin and stole his cell phone and money.
Another trucker told VOA that a week and a half ago, his cell phone was taken from him in Chiuala, a Defence and Security Forces barracks village, as punishment for refusing to breach the cargo he was taking to Malawi.
“The young men wore green t-shirts and some brown. Everyone was armed, but some had boots and others slippers only. On the same day that I was attacked, another driver was assaulted at the first entrance point to Catandica, also during this alleged truce,” he said.
“The situation is not good. And we fear that this could jeopardize the peace we so long for,” Rafael Bindula, another long-haul truck driver, told VOA, adding that truck drivers stopped were stopping travelling on that stretch of road in the afternoon and early evening.
Police in Manica, who have had several reports of robberies and physical assaults along the stretch of road, are mounting a thorough investigation.
“Robberies and assaults are occurring along the N7, more often at night time, and a lot of research is under way. For the time being, we can not say who is involved – whether military or civilian,” Manica Police Command spokeswoman Elsidia Filipe said.
Truck drivers want to see the withdrawal of military positions from roads, with the country now enjoying, until May, another extension of the 60-day truce declared by Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama.Source: Voa Portugues