As the crisis caused by the jihadist incursion into northern Mozambique worsens, the international community is failing those caught up in the chaos, according to a leading European politician.
Portuguese MEP Paulo Rangel told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that the world is turning a blind eye to what is happening in the province of Cabo Delgado, north-east Mozambique, where violent attacks by Islamist militants have caused hundreds of deaths and left more than 200,000 homeless.
Mr Rangel, who is also vice president of the EPP (European People’s Party parliamentary group), said: “The international community is nowhere to be seen in regard to the problem”.
He added: “It is already becoming late to act, yet it is better to do so now rather than later.”
Mr Rangel also told ACN that the extremist group Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah, which claims to be affiliated to Daesh (ISIS), has been kidnapping young men and women.
He said: “At present we know that there are young girls who have been abducted and enslaved, forced into sexual slavery by some of these guerrillas, these insurgents, these terrorists…
“We know that the recruitment of boys and adolescents, some of them very young, aged 14, 15, 16, is also happening. It is obvious that these young boys are under coercion. If they refuse to join the group, they could be killed”.
Mr Rangel described the situation in Cabo Delgado as “a powder keg” and appealed for help for civilians affected by the violence – especially those forced to flee their homes following jihadist attacks.
He added: “What is happening at present in Cabo Delgado is that people are fleeing to the towns, where they believe the attacks will be less likely, because they have seen what is happening in the villages…
“At the same time this dislocation of the population is not just a direct result of the attacks on the villages and smaller towns but is even a reaction of panic, which is absolutely justified. As a result, people are fleeing for their own protection, even before being attacked.”
According to the MEP the exodus is compounding existing problems: “The people were already living in extreme poverty, facing grave difficulties.
“The problem is that at the present moment these people are facing the threat of death, of losing their homes, of becoming uprooted”.
Mr Rangel stressed that this is not a religious war. Both Christians and Muslims have been victims of the extremists.
He said: “The Bishop of Pemba [Luiz Fernando Lisboa] has been absolutely clear in all his prophetic interventions and in all the appeals he has made – and he has been the great apostle of this cause. He has made clear that the Muslims are also suffering greatly.”