The rotting fruit is under the massive mango trees of northern Mozambique, an area that’s not inhabited by people who might otherwise pick it.
In Cabo Delgado, numerous villages and towns have been deserted over the years. But in the month that followed, an army of 1000 Rwandan troops pushed back Islamist militants.
Ruined buildings, caved-in roofs, and evidence of blasts or shelling can still be seen. You can see the weeds and crumbling walls in these once human-inhabited dwellings.
One of the journalists with me saw the devastation caused by the most obscure Islamist militants around the globe. They were referred to by locals as al-Shabab, an Arabic term for youth.
They are not connected to Somalia’s more well-known group. The Islamic State is believed to have them.
According to Colonel Ronald Rwivanga, Rwanda’s military spokesperson, “It is more about ideological affiliation.”
Our tour was taken by Rwandan soldiers, who followed the roads that had been travelled over the past few weeks.
One group was moved from Palma to the north. It is the location of a hotel shooting in March. Several victims were left with severed heads and hands. Total, the French energy giant, had to stop its natural gas facility in Paris after this attack.
A second group advanced from the south-west of the province with both Rwandan divisions moving towards the port city of Mocímboa da Praia, which they took on 8 August as Mozambican maritime forces cut off sea access.
The militants ran southward towards Quirimbas National Park, where they encountered skirmishes and ambushes.
He said that about 100 rebels were killed and Rwanda lost four soldiers in the offensive.
Many houses at the Mbau Islamists’ spiritual and military headquarters were seen abandoned.
They claimed to have found bunkers there.
Quitunda is the one place where you can hear the children and the 80-year-old man watching from the log.
I was told by him that we don’t know the goals of rebels. They’ve also attacked our churches and destroyed our mosques.
When he learned that militants were leaving, he moved to this area.
He’d like to go back to his home in the port city of Mocímboa da Praia – but it’s in ruins. There was not a building in the area that had survived years of fighting.
Rwandan soldiers opened their weapons from militants to us at the town’s airport.
Mostly AK-47s. Some of them were painted with the names of fighters that once owned them.
You also had anti-aircraft weapons and rocket-propelled bombs.
Another prisoner-of-war was also held there. An 18-year-old ex-fisherman was also present. He claimed that he was taken by the fighters, and then forced to join them.
Some women who were rescued from slavery were more willing to assist.
We found them in Pemba where they had all fled.
I was told by a mother of six that her children had all been removed from her farm with her.
These people were taught to walk at least for a week with only short breaks.
“They would beat up the children if they complained they were tired,” she stated.
She was kept by the militants as a sexslave for more than a year.
While we were talking, she nursed a baby that she had created and gave birth while being held captive.
I was told by her that she didn’t have enough food, or other supplies.
She was accompanied by others who had managed to escape helicopters that hovered over them during recent weeks. This forced the fighters to flee, even though they were always on guard.
A 24-year-old female former prisoner told me that she witnessed them killing two other women trying to escape.
Fear and distrust were instilled among militants. Some prisoners would exchange information with each other when they learned of plans to flee.
According to her, the militants were present at night and made them sleep in the morning.
They took the women with them to their villages, where they would harvest cassava. It was not enough for the fighters or their prisoners.
She pleaded, “Please rescue all those still held captive.”
But she doesn’t know what to do with her family if she returns home. She will not be the same person again.
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Mozambican forces have been stationed in recent militant-occupied areas. One cannot help but notice the superior equipment and coordination of Rwanda’s army.
Pemba was where I met Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s President, to ask about the costs of his operation. We were told that it was funded by his government.
He said, “It’s a fact it is expensive,” and added, “So we need more support.”
While he’s often criticized for how he treated dissenting voices in Rwanda, he’s become an icon in Mozambique.
The event was organized by the government and locals waved flags, photos of him.
Mozambican authorities are encouraging people to return to home.
Until they can be resettled, Rwandan troops will continue to remain at Cabo Delgado
While the militants might be at the back of the pack, the residents are concerned that they will continue to fight.
Find out more information about Mozambique’s crisis here
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