Alleged sexual abuse of displaced women in Cabo Delgado, in the north of the country, was reported in exchange for humanitarian aid. The complaint was filed by the Center for Public Integrity (CIP), a Mozambican NGO.
“In all the houses we entered, dozens and dozens, in many neighborhoods, this problem has always been confirmed: in all, people knew about these types of cases”, investigator Borges Nhamire, one of the co-authors of a report on displaced from the Cabo Delgado conflict, released today.
The alleged abuses “are perpetrated by local authorities, who have the power to draw up lists of displaced people who must receive aid”, reads the document, according to which, “in exchange for inclusion in the lists, local leaders ask for favors from women and vulnerable girls “.
The situation was found mainly in the districts of Pemba, the provincial capital, and less frequently in the province of Nampula and in most of the more organized camps for displaced persons.
According to Borges Nhamire, the complaints lodged by the displaced had no consequence in punishing the perpetrators.
On the other hand, the CIP claims that government organizations and UN agencies have made the topic “a taboo”, instead of exposing it in the open so that everyone is aware of “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse. .
“The issue has been treated as a major taboo by government authorities and United Nations agencies that coordinate assistance to displaced people in Cabo Delgado. The abuse of women has never been reported in the reports of the United Nations agency ”, reads the CIP publication.
Borges Nhamire told Lusa that the question was put to three UN organizations, the World Food Program (WFP), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). ) “and replied”, neither on this topic nor on others, “and it is not in the nature of these organizations not to respond”.
“The three opted for silence: we sent ’emails’, letters, made phone calls and we never agreed to answer. The issue is treated as a taboo, ”he detailed.
If the topic is not addressed openly, the authors “will think they can abuse women in the dark and that there are no risks”, he warned, stressing that the local context is of people “who do not know international law, nor the limits what they can and cannot do “.
Nhamire acknowledged that the context is not easy.
The authorities “allow NGOs to work as long as they do not contradict the good image of the state or government institutions” and “raising this issue would question the good image. So many people don’t talk about it ”.
However, “silence is never the best option, because the cost to people’s lives is very high”, especially for those who are already victims of armed conflict and who “shouldn’t be twice”.
Borges Nhamire considered it important for the government to do “the basic work”, stating that in Cabo Delgado it is not very present, according to the details of the report: “there are local and voluntary authorities”, but that “they have no connection with the public administration”.
Humanitarian agencies themselves lack the authority to punish offenders, he added.
In addition to allegations of sexual abuse, the CIP also reports allegations of embezzlement of humanitarian aid by local leaders.
Lusa tried to get reactions from the Mozambican National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC) and the United Nations in Mozambique to the CIP report, but in both cases, any statements were sent later.
The organization’s report states in the headline that internally displaced people in Mozambique have grown by 2,700 percent in two years and that they currently represent 1.4 percent of the country’s population – 424,002 out of a total population of 29 million.
The armed conflict in Cabo Delgado has been going on for three years, causing between 1,000 and 2,000 deaths, and some of the insurgency attacks have been claimed since June 2019 by the Islamic State ‘jihadist’ group, with the true source of the violence still under discussion.
This year the raids and occupations of the villages have deteriorated in some periods.
The diplomacy of the European Union (EU) guaranteed Wednesday that it will “follow closely” the wave of violence in Cabo Delgado, indicating that it will elect aid to be made available in its “next political dialogues” with the Mozambican government.
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