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Macomia town comes back to life despite ongoing insurgent violence

Reconstruction efforts, but also a lack of alternatives, are leading people to return to the Cabo Delgado town of Macomia

The town of Macomia, largely destroyed by an insurgent attack at the end of May 2020, is seeing a return of commercial activity prompted by the reopening of roads connecting the district to Mocimboa da Praia to the north and Pemba to the south.

Zitamar’s correspondent in the town says two hotels have reopened in Macomia town to accommodate contractors who are repairing the bridge over the Messalo river, 70km north of the town along the N380 road in Miangalewa, Muidumbe district. Restaurants and food shops are also busier than before.

Local sources in the town of Chiure, where many residents of Macomia fled following the insurgent attacks, say they have seen beds, mattresses, tables and other goods being loaded onto trucks bound for Macomia town. Some of those who left have begun returning to Macomia town and coastal areas.

The reality for most now returning however is a lack of government support and limited access to basic services. Conditions have not yet been created to accommodate the flow of returnees, and many are complaining of having been abandoned by the authorities. For most, however, returning to their home town is preferable to remaining in formal or informal displacement camps, where help is also scarce.

Many returnees have found themselves destitute as their homes were burnt by the insurgents. Hospitals and health clinics were also destroyed in the attacks and so people are turning to traditional medicine.

Without job prospects and with scarce food supplies, many are choosing to work on their farms which had lain fallow since the attacks. Others have turned to fishing.

Fishermen have ventured to the coast of Macomia, setting towards the islands of Makalowe, Magundula, Quifula in particular, despite it being off-limits. At least 20 boats have been seen in coastal Macomia, reported a local source. Navy patrolling the zone have warned fishermen not to return though.

The security situation in the wider Macomia district remains highly volatile. There have been several incidents involving insurgents.

On 3 October, a group of farmers from Macomia town who had travelled to Cagembe to harvest manioc saw suspicious-looking strangers carrying backpacks. Fearing that they were insurgents, the residents ran back to the district headquarters, our correspondent said.

Two days earlier, works on the bridge over the Messalo River had to be stopped for a few hours due to intense fighting near the construction site in Miangalewa. Local sources said insurgents were clashing with Mozambican soldiers. The works are being carried out under military protection. Sources say the workers travel between Macomia and the construction site with military escort.

There have also been reports of kidnappings in the area. On 3 October, in a report by Carta de Mocambique, seven women who were farming near Nacate village were abducted by insurgents.

Also on the same day, four women who had gone to fetch water at a well close to Nangololo village in bordering Meluco district were kidnapped by insurgents. The women were reportedly taken to a forest where the terrorists are hiding. Zitamar News can confirm that one of the women managed to escape, surfacing in Bangala 2 village, Macomia district.

This article was produced by Zitamar and Mediafax under the Cabo Ligado project, in collaboration with ACLED. The contents of the article are the sole responsibility of Zitamar News.