MAPUTO – THE political instability in Mozambique is taking its toll in the Southern African country where the lives of thousands are already at risk following attacks by militants thought to be members of the main opposition party, the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo).
Over the past month, at least two hospitals and two health clinics, have been attacked, medicine and supplies looted and medical equipment destroyed.
In one such attack, the town of Morrumbala, in the central province of Zambezia, four armed men reportedly ran amok at a local hospital, shooting wantonly and looting medicine from the facility’s main pharmacy.
A nurse recounted the trauma.
“I was in the emergency room when they fired gunshots through the windows. We were hiding beneath chairs, beds…anything we could find,” said the nurse.
In another incident, a group of armed men wrecked havoc in the village of Mopeia, also in Zambezia where they raided the house of a local official of the governing Freedom for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) party, who is the chief nurse at the local Centro 8 de Março health clinic.
They vented they anger of failure to find him by devastating on the local clinic where they burned patients’ medical records and stole vaccines, syringes, and medicines.
The clinic stores essential medicines, including antiretroviral medicines for HIV/AIDS patients, for a population of over 8 000 people.
Together, Mopeia district hospital and Mopeia village clinic serve over 100 000 people, local health authorities said.
In both incidents in the Zambezia, the gunmen are said to have identified themselves as Renamo rebels.
In a village clinic in Maiaca, Maúa district, in the northern province of Niassa, gunmen twice made off with HIV tests, four boxes of syringes, and over hundreds of vials of medicines. Gunmen entered the ward where patients were sleeping, threatened patients and medical staff, ordering them to leave the hospital.
The administrator of Maúa, Joao Manguinje, confirmed the incidents.
He added obstetric kits and tetanus vaccines were also stolen.
Renamo gunmen have carried out similar attacks on health clinics over the past month in Manica, Sofala and Tete provinces, in central Mozambique.
Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, pointed out attacks blamed on the Renamo rebels hospitals and health clinics are threatening the health of thousands people in Mozambique.
“Renamo’s leadership needs to call off these attacks on health facilities immediately,” said Bekele.
He said the raids on medical facilities by militia seemed part of a strategy to damage health facilities and loot medicines.
“What they are succeeding in doing is to deny crucial health services to Mozambicans who need them,” Bekele said.
Renamo rebels have been carrying out attacks on public facilities in protest of the 2014 general poll outcome which it claims were rigged.
The party demands it autonomously rules Sofala, Manica, Zambezia and Tete in the centre of the country and Nampula and Niassa in the north it claimed it won out of 11 provinces in the country.
Several districts of Manica, Niassa, Sofala, Tete and Zambezia had recent armed clashes between government forces and Renamo fighters.
Longtime Renamo leader, Alfonso Dhalkama, has told the media the incessant attacks on public facilities as a “military strategy” at dispersing government soldiers who are surrounding “Renamo positions” in the vast Gorongosa bush situated on the country’s main north-south highway. Dhlakama has been reported to be hiding in Gorongosa in fear of
He conceded ordering to attack some areas of Zambezia but not specify the targets or mention medical facilities.
In the tension reminiscent of the civil war that claimed the lives of over 1 million Mozambicans, talks facilitated by international mediators have stalled.
Former Tanzanian president, Jakaya Kikwete, is leading a mediation team that also involves former Italian Mario Raffaelli, former Botswana president Quett Masire as well as Jonathan Powell, a former envoy of ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair Dhlakama has spurned an offer to assume a new role as deputy to President Felipe Nyusi in a proposed coalition with Frelimo.
Renamo has 89 seats in Parliament while Frelimo have 44 in 250-member National Assembly.
Fears of a full-blown crisis are not far fetched.
After the 1992 peace agreement that ended Mozambique’s 16-year civil war, Dhlakama was allowed to keep a 300-man private armed guard.
Successive failures to integrate other Renamo fighters into the national army and civilian life have encouraged former fighters to join the private guards and to camp in old Renamo training grounds.
Over the years, Renamo’s permitted armed force has more than doubled.
Peter Fabricius, a consultant with Institute for Security Studies, said many unresolved issues remain, which date back to the Rome Peace Agreement of 1992.
“If long-term solutions are not found in Mozambique, the mediation process will just be a band-aid,” he said.
– CAJ News / APA