AFRICA/MOZAMBIQUE - Cholera misinformation fuels deadly violence in Mozambique

Thursday, 11 January 2024 cholera   armed groups  

Maputo (Agenzia Fides) - A wave of violence has shaken northern Mozambique, where angry citizens, accusing local authorities of spreading the cholera epidemic, set fire to several homes. In a dramatic turn of events, at least three community leaders lost their lives during the riots generated by the spread of false messages, according to local authorities. Government authorities have said the unrest was primarily orchestrated by the Naparama, a militia group fighting jihadists in Cabo Delgado province. The attackers, who accuse the authorities of spreading cholera through drugs, not only burned down more than a dozen houses, but also demolished a cholera treatment center, according to official reports. The Naparamas, which emerged at the end of 2022 in the districts of Balama and Montepuez, take their name from a group of the same name that participated in the Mozambican civil war in support of FRELIMO in the 1980s. It should be remembered that the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO), an anti-colonial liberation movement that took power in 1975, at the time of national independence (still in government today), fought against RENAMO (Mozambican National Resistance) until the peace agreements of 1992. This original group was founded by a traditional healer named Manuel António in the province of Zambezia, who claimed that he possessed a medicine that turns bullets into water. With this idea, he managed to mobilize a small army of followers to confront the RENAMO rebels. The Naparama avoided firearms and fought only with spears, machetes, bows and arrows. Their preferred mode of attack was to charge at the enemy en masse, chanting as loudly as they could, scaring the young and inexperienced RENAMO fighters into retreat. Inheriting traditions from their predecessors, the current Naparama preserve practices such as "vaccination" through cuts on the chest and the introduction of a "magic potion" into the wounds. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 11/1/2024)