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[Photo: Lusa/André Catueira]
Orlando Massianda waves two cucumbers at a column of vehicles passing by at high speed, trying to sell to travellers passing his family’s land in a rural part of central Mozambique that has reverted to being a war zone.
“This has been the situation for several weeks. The cars no longer stop to buy cucumbers, because they are passing by under escort,” Orlando told Lusa, while returning home with his three sieves filled with cucumbers.
“We produce these cucumbers between running away from the shooting. One day weeding and the next, not, because of the attacks,” the 36-year-old farmer adds, ruing the lack of customers.
The defence and security forces reactivated mandatory escorts on the Muda Serração – Muxungue section of the EN1, the main road in Mozambique, almost two months ago, in the face of persistent attacks by armed insurgents.
Buses and cargo vehicles have been ambushed on this section of road since August, police blaming to the self-proclaimed Renamo ‘Military Junta’, an opposition party splinter group with an unknown number of supporters in the area.
“Cars pass by at high speed and nobody wants to risk their lives stopping to buy cucumbers or charcoal, our main source of livelihood,” Adriano Mafuca, a farmer from the village of Chibuto 1, acknowledges as he fills a raffia sack with charcoal.
The roadside bazaars where people set up stalls to selling seasonal produce and traditional local drinks based on palm trees and wild herbs have become “ghost places”, even though
Adriano Mafuca swears there has never been an attack there.
But a stop would run contrary to escort rules, reintroduced also to cut the logistics of the attackers, who are supplied via the main road.
“Business has worsened with the introduction of escorts. All four daily round trips pass by in a flash, then everything falls silent again,” observes Maria Majude from Chipue, a village on the EN1 now almost abandoned by residents and traders alike.
There are at least five police posts, with vehicles and motorcycles, on the Muda Serração – Muxungue section, such as in Chibuto 1 and Mutindiri 2, where, last week, the convoys escorted by police forces were machine-gunned twice.
For Paulo Cristóvão, a truck driver that Lusa found in a queue waiting for a convoy to set off, and who transits the section every Monday and Tuesday, the escorts reduced the lack of safety on the highway, but have still not managed to put an end to the attacks altogether.
“The escorts lowered the danger level a little, but a car in a convoy was attacked just yesterday, although without injuries,” Cristóvão said, grumbling about the delays.
Attacks in the region have claimed 22 lives since they started on August 6, after the announcement of a peace agreement between the government and Renamo contested by some of its guerrilla fighters, who demand better terms for disarmament.
By André CatueiraSource: Lusa
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