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Mozambican police extort and detain civilians in Macomia

"You can't go there without being questioned", said a displaced person currently seeking refuge in Macomia

Officers of the Mozambican police force’s Rapid Intervention Unit (UIR) stationed to combat Islamist insurgents in the town of Macomia, in the province of Cabo Delgado, have set up a checkpoint where they threaten, extort and detain civilians, local sources have told Zitamar News.

The checkpoint is located in the Nanga A neighbourhood of Macomia town, in between the town and the neighbourhood of Cerração which is home to a large number of displaced families escaping violence in Mucojo and Quiterajo.

One source, who was himself shaken down at the checkpoint for MZN500 on Sunday 16 June, told Zitamar on Tuesday that UIR agents arrested his brother-in-law on suspicion of supporting terrorism and hiding weapons on his way home from Macomia town, where he had gone to pray on the occasion of the Muslim holy day of Eid al Adha. He remains missing as of publication. 

"The same agents are also raping women; three women have been victims,” he alleged, adding that passing through the checkpoint is unavoidable in daily life, in order to buy basic goods.

"You can't go there without being questioned", said a displaced person currently seeking refuge in Macomia, “and you don't leave without giving something, either money or a product that you’re carrying.” He told Zitamar he was detained and questioned last Sunday for carrying an identification card issued in another district. “I explained that I had fled [to the other district] as a refugee, but they didn't let me go until I gave them the only 100 meticais that I had," said the victim.

The UIR agents accept money via the mobile phone operator Movitel’s mobile money service e-mola, if their victims do not have cash. The agents ask their victims to transfer money to the account associated with the number 875164727, under the name of Sara Saite Paulo Supaile. Another man told Zitamar he sent money to that number on Sunday.

"I was questioned when I was leaving the farm. They asked me for documents, I presented them; they asked me what I was carrying and I said it was corn; then I was told to give them something. I said I didn't have any money; the corn was supposed to be ground for food. So they said, go and speak to the boss. I went there and the story was the same, until I transferred 500 meticais, because they threatened me and there was no other way", he said.

The source said that he saw other people being charged money to continue with their trip. "They’re getting a lot of money,” he said. “Imagine every person who passes by has to leave money. It wasn't just me, I also saw a man who was passing by on a bicycle be charged 100 meticais", he added.

Zitamar was able to confirm that the account linked to the number 875164727 is under the name of Sara Saite Paulo Supaile. However, when we tried to call, there was initially no answer; later the number did not even ring.

Illegal practices involving members of the Mozambican forces have been common, and a point of criticism compared to other forces that help Mozambique in the fight against the insurgency, namely the Rwandans. The mayor of the town of Chiúre in the south of Cabo Delgado recently denounced extortion, violation of human rights and mandatory curfew imposed by Mozambican security forces.

A spokesperson for the Police of the Republic of Mozambique in Cabo Delgado told Zitamar that the provincial command had not received any information about allegations of extortion or sexual violence.

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