Mozambique: Violence, Refugees, and the Luwani Camp | Freedom House

Key Findings

  • Security forces of the Mozambican government are committing gross human rights abuses against civilians in central Mozambique, leading people to cross the border into Malawi as refugees.
  • Through interviews with Mozambican refugees in Malawi, researchers found substantive evidence of growing violence by government forces as part of a little-known conflict with the opposition Renamo movement in central Mozambique.
  • Violence against civilians continues and new refugees are fleeing across the border.
  • Half (53 percent) of the Luwani Camp residents said they or family members were personally attacked in their village. The majority of camp residents came from districts in Tete province.
  • A majority (71 percent) indicated a willingness to return to Mozambique but only after a formal peace agreement between Frelimo and Renamo.
luwani refugee camp in Malawi

Executive Summary

This report examines the violence and conflict that have been unfolding in Mozambique, causing large numbers of Mozambicans, predominantly from Tete province, to flee to neighboring Malawi. Findings from this research stem from focus group discussions, key informant interviews, and a representative survey of adult residents in Luwani Refugee Camp in Malawi. They also include interviews conducted in Kapise village, the initial site of UNHCR’s refugee camp (Kapise Camp) for displaced Mozambicans from this particular conflict. Just over 2,300 Mozambicans lived in Luwani Camp at the time of this research, down from the 10,000 who had initially crossed the border for Kapise Camp. Several themes and findings came out of this research, each of which is discussed in the report and summarized here.

Camp residents indicated key themes: perceptions that government forces were targeting them; the use of killings and other forms of violence meant to send a message and create fear; soldiers from the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo; the dominant political party) targeting villagers after losing battles to the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo; the primary opposition party) either out of the desire to make up for lost battles in which Renamo won or in order to punish (alleged or real) Renamo sympathizers; and positive yet cautious attitudes toward Luwani Camp itself.

The entrance to Luwani Refugee Camp in Malawi. Luwani Camp has sheltered thousands of Mozambican refugees since re-opening in March 2016.

The data indicate that Luwani Camp adult residents are all Mozambican—with the exception of four women married to Mozambican men—who left Mozambique because Frelimo soldiers directed violence at them. Eighty-five percent were from Tete, and of these, around half were from Moatize District. The overwhelming majority of residents (98 percent) left specifically due to “political” reasons, and large numbers experienced one or more of three types of events/sentiment: personal/family attacks (53 percent), general attacks on their home village (88 percent), or a fear of attacks based on what they were hearing from neighbors and friends (96 percent). Between 86 percent and 89 percent of respondents (depending on type of attack) indicated that perpetrators of all three types of attacks were Frelimo soldiers.

Up until March 2016 when refugees were relocated to Luwani Camp deeper into Malawi, some refugees stayed at a camp in Kapise. Many refugees reached Kapise camp after crossing the border on foot, some having walked for days from Mozambique.

Residents reported leaving Mozambique at different times, with attacks occurring throughout 2014, 2015, and 2016. Around half the attacks (53 percent) occurred in 2015. Of the half who experienced personal/family attacks, a majority (72 percent) indicated the dominant type of violence directed against them or their family was “killing.” Other types of violence were burning (of homes, storage facilities, and people), beating, sexual violence, abduction, family separation, and shootings. Eight-in-10 (83 percent) reported hearing about these types of violent events occurring to others. Responses were mixed on whether perpetrators attacked all types of Mozambicans in the villages (43 percent), or (alleged or real) Renamo supporters/sympathizers in particular (44 percent). Almost all residents (95 percent) acknowledged feeling more secure in Luwani Camp, but food and employment remained challenges for them. A majority (71 percent) indicated a willingness to return to Mozambique in the future, but only with a formal Peace Agreement between Frelimo and Renamo.

Tents at Luwani Camp housing Mozambican refugees.

1. Introduction

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world. We analyze the challenges to freedom, advocate for greater political rights and civil liberties, and support frontline activists to defend human rights and promote democratic change. Founded in 1941, Freedom House was the first American organization to champion the advancement of freedom globally. We recognize that freedom is possible only in democratic political environments where governments are accountable to their own people; the rule of law prevails; and freedoms of expression, association, and belief, as well as respect for the rights of minorities and women, are guaranteed.  Freedom House acts as a catalyst for greater political rights and civil liberties through a combination of analysis, advocacy, and action. Our research and analysis frame the policy debate around the world on the progress and decline of freedom.

We advocate for U.S. leadership and collaboration with like-minded governments to vigorously oppose dictators and oppression. We amplify the voices of those struggling for freedom in repressive societies and counter authoritarian efforts to weaken international scrutiny of their regimes. We also empower frontline human rights defenders and civic activists to uphold fundamental rights and to advance democratic change.

1.1 Background

1.1.1 Background on Displaced Mozambicans in Malawi

In March 2016, Malawi re-opened the Luwani Refugee Camp to house the influx of displaced Mozambicans fleeing their country due to alleged violence against them in their communities.1 News reports in 2015 and 2016 claimed that villagers were fleeing due to the longstanding conflict between the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo; the dominant political party) and the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo; the primary opposition party).2 Tensions between the parties had been rising since 2013 in anticipation of the 2014 Presidential election, and have only continued to escalate since then. Initially, refugees crossed the border for Kapise Camp due to its proximity to the Mozambique-Malawi border (Text Box 1). Luwani Camp currently houses more than 2,300 Mozambicans. While organizations such as UNHCR, World Vision, Plan International, World Food Program, Care, Jesuit Refugee Service, and Save the Children have been instrumental in camp oversight and resource distribution, until now accurate and systematic documentation of events on the ground has not been collected.3 This research was undertaken to fill this gap by documenting and assessing the causes of migration (occurring predominantly from Tete province), case stories of events (violence) in Mozambique, and whether human rights abuses have occurred/continue to occur.

2. Purpose of Assessment & Methodology

2.1 Aim of Assessment

In March 2016, Malawi re-opened the Luwani Refugee Camp. Prior to this research project, the lack of access to evidence of violence against villagers in Tete province, as well as an overall shortage of information on events made it difficult to assess the true extent of the current conflict and what civilians have been facing. Therefore, the overall objectives of this survey were to:

  • Determine the extent to which human rights violations have been/are being committed against Mozambicans in particular areas in Mozambique; and
  • Disseminate information on the human rights violations broadly so that more awareness is brought to the crisis and lasting solutions can be found.

The qualitative and quantitative tools for this project were based on specific objectives, to determine:

  • Why and when displaced persons left their home villages in Mozambique;
  • What types of harm/violence/threats, if any, were carried out against displaced persons or their families;
  • If displaced persons heard of other attacks;
  • Whether targeted attacks were carried out by specific perpetrators on specific groups;
  • Dates of incidents; and
  • Views of the camp, displacement, and potential for return to Mozambique.

2.2 Methodology

Data collection occurred in Luwani Camp from October 5 to 19, 2016 with a Freedom House research team consisting of 10 quantitative enumerators, two quantitative supervisors, two qualitative researchers, and two senior research managers. UNHCR staff served as gatekeepers for approvals in Luwani and Kapise. Prior to entering the field, a desk review was conducted of available documents, including background of the displaced persons, previous survey instruments used in refugee camps, and available news articles. Fieldwork was conducted primarily in Chichewa with responses translated into English.

2.2.1 Quantitative Research

Luwani Camp held fewer inhabitants than initial media estimates, which suggested 10,000 were relocating from Kapise Camp.4 The current population of Luwani at the time of this research was approximately 2,351 (with 886 adults, 18+). From population figures, UNHCR estimated that the total number of occupied dwellings with adults 18+ was approximately 608.5 Based on this population data and information on camp layout determined by initial site visits to the camp, and to ensure a margin of error of no more than 2.5 percent, 469 camp observations were conducted in the quantitative survey. This sample was structured as a two-stage cluster sample. On the basis of the available data (imagery, maps, and UNHCR statistics combined) the pre-determined subdivisions (12 geographical units known as camp villages) served as clusters for the first stage of sampling. These clusters had different population figures regarding the targeted population of 18+ adults. They were sampled accordingly with probability proportionate to the population size of the villages.

At the second stage, households within each selected village were selected through systematic random sampling.6 In total, 486 interviews were planned, and 469 interviews were completed. The sample design deliberately exceeded the necessary sample size for a margin of error of 2.0, such that data lost due to non-response or data cleaning would not impact overall confidence in the analysis. Based on an assumed design effect of 1.5, the final sample size yields a margin of error between 2.0 and 2.5, with a 95 percent confidence level, for key variables of interest. The primary advantage of sampling via probability proportionate to population size (PPPS) is that the sample is self-weighting and analysis does not require the construction or use of sampling weights.  Due to logistical difficulties (transportation and others, see below) experienced during fieldwork, the number of interviews completed in each camp subdivision did not precisely match the number of interviews each was allocated.  Sampling weights were constructed to account for the slight mismatch between interviews planned and interviews completed per subdivision in case individuals from the same village or district had clustered into camp subdivisions together.7  For each household, the weight is equal to the inverse of their probability of selection, given the number of interviews completed and the underlying population of households in each subdivision of the camp. Interviews lasted approximately 30 minutes and occurred face to face with smartphones utilizing Askia software to reduce human error when compared to traditional pen and paper survey methods. The data is representative of the camp’s adult population at the time of this research.

2.2.2 Qualitative Research

To complement the quantitative data, qualitative data from refugee camp residents and camp officials was also collected. For qualitative interviews, participants were recruited purposively from Kapise village for two Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) and Luwani Camp for two KIIs and five Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) on the basis of their ability to provide a diverse range of relevant opinions on the refugees and their status. FGDs were disaggregated by age and gender and included 4 to 8 participants (Table 1). Participants were interviewed using a semi-structured script intended to elicit impressions of the camp, and on topics such as: attacks that served as focus points for the community members, key reasons for displacement, perpetrators, and events. Respondents were chosen randomly from various camp villages.

2.3 Limitations

Logistical limitations regarding transportation, a national holiday, inability to conduct research in the camp without UNHCR staff present at the reception center, and scheduled food distribution delayed the end of fieldwork by three days. The population of interest in the survey consists of adults in Luwani camp. The report therefore does not analyze the experiences of Mozambicans who did not make it to the camp or who did not live in the camp at the time of the survey.

3. Findings

This section illustrates the demographics and findings of the six aforementioned objectives and discusses each in turn.

3.1 Profiles of Luwani Camp Residents

All participants in the survey and focus groups were Mozambican and there were no reports of any Malawians living alone in Luwani.8 Six-in-10 camp resident adults were female (59 percent female, 41 percent male). Households averaged approximately four residents. The majority of survey respondents were between 20 and 40 years (Figure 1). Three-quarters were of Chewa ethnicity (Figure 2). Eighty-five percent of adults came from Tete Province.9 Of those from Tete, around half were from Moatize District (Figure 3, next page).

3.2 Indicator: Determine the extent to which human rights violations have been/are being committed against Mozambicans in particular areas in Mozambique

3.2.1 Why and when displaced persons left their home villages in Mozambique

An overwhelming majority of Luwani Camp residents (98 percent) claimed they left their home Mozambican villages for political reasons (as opposed to social, economic, environmental or other). Approximately half the residents (53 percent) claimed they or their family members were personally attacked in their village (47 percent said they were not). Nine-in-10 (88 percent) said their home village was attacked.10 Of those who were not personally attacked, almost all (96 percent) said they left Mozambique because they were fearful of eventually being attacked.

The majority of camp residents came from the Tete districts of Moatize and Tsangano and claimed high levels of fatal attacks, non-fatal attacks, attacks that included burning, and sexual violence (Annex Table 1). Across those four districts, violence was fairly uniform and all four had all four types of violence.  All were reported as having very high rates of killings.

Qualitative respondents generally indicated the bulk of attacks began with the October 2014 disputed presidential elections.11

"The Renamo soldiers arrived in our village assuring us that they had gone to enforce democracy in the country, not to kill us or demand anything from us, just telling us they were enforcing the rule of democracy in the country. So the Renamo soldiers stayed there for almost two years before the clashes began."
—Female, 41, from Moatize

In the focus groups and interviews, virtually all participants reported they left Mozambique because they felt targeted by Frelimo soldiers via threats, assault, killing, burning, and rape or other forms of sexual violence.12 Their stories are discussed extensively in the next section.

Approximately a third of camp residents recently left their home village (Figure 4).13

Recent arrivals from Tete indicated they tried to remain in Mozambique prior to fully understanding the extent of the threat and fleeing:

"What had been happening, we took it as a joke because it wasn’t actually happening in our village. But then it was our turn and this was now our reality and this is why we had to seek refuge in Malawi."
— Male, 24, from Moatize
"We took refuge in the bush where there were graveyards but we became tired of running to and from, so we said let’s take refuge elsewhere."
— Male, 27, from Moatize
"Initially when the fighting began we could go to the nearby bush, seek refuge there, then come back to the village, and this was an ongoing process."
—Male, 19, from Ncondezi
"On this particular night, we heard gunfire and explosions, we even saw fire, so it was clear houses were being burnt, so we took flight. It took us almost three days on end to cross into Malawi."
—Male, 30, from Moatize

UNHCR staff reported the influx of higher numbers of incoming Mozambicans in the month prior to the survey, as compared to what they had seen in previous months (around 20 per week). Community leaders suggested one possible reason was an event that occurred in September at a football game in Zobue (a border town), where six people were suspected of being Renamo soldiers. Their hands and feet were bound; two were killed with guns and four with machetes. A Kapise village resident claimed some displaced persons refused to move to Luwani (Text Box 2), in part due to circulating stories about a previous cholera outbreak, and thus the camp population only began to increase after others told them the camp has adequate housing and no cholera.14

The Choice to Stay in Kapise Village

One resident of Kapise village (who was a member of Kapise Camp but refused to relocate to Luwani Camp) indicated that refugees who chose not to relocate were free to stay in Kapise village. Water is not a problem for him, but food is, so he does small jobs like selling wicker mats in the community in order to purchase food. He left Mozambique because “when Renamo forces passed [through communities] the Frelimo forces asked individuals about who passed through, and when we didn’t explain, the Frelimo forces would fight the villagers, and kill people.” He continued by stating that in the area from where he comes, three people were killed…” Renamo forces passed and Frelimo soldiers were following and they asked a man if he knew their whereabouts and he said no. They beat him with baton sticks and he died.” The other two were killed in a similar manner. He stated that Frelimo sympathizers previously would enter Kapise Camp, but since the refugees relocated to Luwani, there has been no sign of them.

These Dwellings of some Mozambican refugees who chose to stay in Kapise village rather than be moved on to Luwani Refugee Camp. Kapise village is located on the Mozambique-Malawi border, where many of the Mozambican refugees crossed into Malawi.
The home of Mozambican refugees in Kapise, Malawi who have fled the violence across the border in Mozambique.

3.2.2 What types of harm/ violence/threats, if any, were carried out against displaced persons or their families

3.2.3 If displaced persons heard of other attacks

This section addresses the key themes that arose when discussing the violence that caused residents to flee: the use of fire as a weapon (to burn people, homes, and/or food storage units), violence and/or killings based on who was home or in the village at the time, shootings, disappeared family members, sexual violence and humiliation, and displaced persons not knowing the fate of their family members.

"My brother in law was tied hands and feet together and pushed into a house, then that house was set on fire and he died."
—Female, over 30, from Moatize
"My grandfather was a community leader in our village. He was alleged of harboring Renamo soldiers in his house. They came at night and shot and killed him."
—Male, 23, recent arrival from Moatize
"I left home because the Frelimo soldiers were visiting our villages looking for Renamo soldiers, and they would find us and our husbands and they would beat us, and burn our houses and accuse us of supporting the soldiers."
—Female, over 30, from Moatize
"In addition to all of these other things, there’s a tendency that when it is night we feel we are safe in our houses, but as we wake up in the morning, we find that several individuals have been kidnapped, disappear from their homes. Once they disappear they never come back, it means they’ve been shot dead there, they never come back."
—Male, 30, recent arrival from Moatize
"The reason I fled is because my father in law was killed by Frelimo soldiers. I also saw other people’s houses being burnt down. My husband feared being killed in clashes so we fled to seek refuge in Malawi."
—Female, 30, from Moatize
"Another incident was a group of young men who were kidnapped and Frelimo soldiers started beating them, put them in a car, took them to a river [River Madamba in Moatize] and they shot them."
—Male, 24, recent arrival from Moatize

Camp residents indicated that killings were the most prevalent type of attack they had experienced, followed by burning, beating, and sexual violence (Figure 5).

Focus group participants indicated that the Frelimo soldiers burn down homes, often with people in them, and storage units so as to eradicate any possibility that villagers can feed Renamo soldiers.

Some families had been split up due to the logistics of fleeing an attack: because we ran away, as we were running away we were dispersed and we went in different directions, so up to today I don’t know where they are.” (Unaccompanied male, 18, from Ncondezi) Survey data indicated that others lost touch after leaving home: 38 percent of residents left their home village with family members but no longer knew their whereabouts (62 percent didn’t experience this). A minority (6 percent) lost family members to killing, starvation/dehydration, or disease on the way to Malawi.

Two individuals’ stories illustrated displacement of family members: one young woman from Angonia District in Tete who arrived in June to Luwani talked about arriving back at her compound to discover her family’s seven houses had been burnt down. She did not know the fate of many family members other than one who was killed and one who escaped with her (Text Box 3, next page). Another man, also from Tete, described how he was randomly targeted, kidnapped, beaten, and eventually released (Text Box 4, next page).

A large majority (82 percent) of camp residents heard of violent events occurring to other people.

One Teenage Girl’s Plight

“On this particular day I had gone out to a river to wash clothes, when we returned back to the house, I was surprised to see there was no one in the village, no one in the compound and the houses were burnt down. We spent a night, we were trying to trace where our parents were. During this time the Frelimo soldiers caught us, they told me to go get water and my brother to get fire and we were able to escape. I was not sexually abused or harassed or raped. When my brother was sent to get fire, and I was sent to get water, then we went, and … we agreed let’s take refuge, we don’t have to go back there. The fire was meant to set the houses on fire so that we would be pushed in and burnt alive. They had already pushed us into the house, but because they had no matches, they remembered, ‘go and get the fire and we’re also thirsty so go and get some water too.’ Before they pushed them into the house, one of the soldiers told her: “Today is your last day to live, you’re dying.”

Now when I was trying to find out where my relatives were, I was lucky to meet someone who told me my relatives were in a certain direction. I went to Zobue, the border post, then an area that branches off to the camp here, with directions on how to get to this place. When we got to immigration, I made a diversion so that the police could not track me down.” She eventually arrived at Luwani with her younger brother and they have reunited with another brother living in the camp.

From A Kidnapping to the Camp

“During the month of June I was doing some carpentry work—my wife said, ‘look, there are some soldiers there coming towards us.’ By the time I was taking attention to them, there were others that rounded me up and arrested me…they laid me down and started whipping me. They demanded I give directions of where the Renamo soldiers were hiding. But I had no [knowledge of their] whereabouts, I just see them passing by. They said ‘ok, come with us, give us an escort, then we’ll leave you free.’ … I stayed with them for a couple of days, almost five days, by then I took no food no water, all the five days I was put in a cell in Zobue. … I was put in a darkened car, I was walking in the dark. But after I was released I knew it was Zobue. There were seven of us. After being released, we were dropped off in a place away from our home. After being released, we were given some drinks, frozen, two bottles each as our food. From the place where we were dropped, we were told we would be escorted to our home village where we were picked up. To my surprise, I saw the contingent was so high, so big, there was a truck full of soldiers. They said there were so many of them ‘because after we drop you off, we’re going to fight the Renamo soldiers.’ The road condition was so poor that there was a division among the soldiers—some wanted to proceed to fight, others didn’t want to. They were going back and forth on this decision, so they left us free as they were trying to find an alternative to crossing the river to go to where their counterpart soldiers were.

When I got back home, I found that my parents and my family, my wife, my children, had already fled. As this home was left desolate, it meant that most of my belongings, my carpentry tools, were stolen by unidentified people. Because I had nowhere to stay, no way to make my living easier, is when I decided to leave the place to come to Kapise to seek refuge here and get some humanitarian assistance. I would like to tell you what the Renamo soldiers always say ‘we are not here to fight with people or to kill people, but to fight for democracy, that’s all.’ …The Renamo soldiers have stayed amongst us in our villages for close to three years, they have never done anything so negative. Simply put, we have fled from home to seek refuge here solely from the Frelimo soldiers, not from Renamo.”

Of these, killing was once again at the forefront (Figure 6). These stories included many that highlighted sexual violence, a topic discussed in some of the focus groups. Some participants discussed sexual humiliation tactics, or how Frelimo soldiers would force women, and at times men, to strip and engage in sexual acts. Others told stories of how women were usually killed after being raped. This potentially also explains the higher percentage of responses about sexual violence as stories some have heard rather than personally experienced.

"There was a mother who had just given birth, she was coming from the maternity and these soldiers met her with her guardian, both women were raped, the mother passed away, the other one survived but was wounded."
Female, former community leader, 53, from Moatize
"There were instances where women (and sometimes men) were being undressed by soldiers, made to stand side by side, and ordered to touch each other sexually."
—Female, 30, from Moatize

The circulating stories served as warnings to Mozambicans in the villages, and helped them decide whether to leave for Malawi:

"This other day there was a gunfire all day, now it happened that one old man was in his garden and when it was time for him to go back he met a group of soldiers and he was bound, his hands, and then they set him on fire after shooting him in the face. This instance sent fear into most of the elders, youth and the whole community, we agreed to say no, if others are being [hurt] like this, we thought we needed to go for safety."
—Male, former community leader, 25, from Moatize

One young man’s father had been a community leader, and when he was killed, others understood the gravity of the situation:

"In the village the death of his father sent fear amongst most of us, so we forced ourselves to leave, because we knew the next targeted people would be us or our parents."
—Unaccompanied male, 17, from Ncondezi

3.2.4 Whether targeted attacks were carried out by specific perpetrators on specific groups

Majorities accused Frelimo soldiers of personal attacks, the attacks they had heard about, and the attacks on their home villages (Figure 7).15 Residents stated they were easily identifiable specifically as Frelimo soldiers because they wore “metal gear,” “uniforms,” and “they come with vehicles.” One resident noted they would walk in groups of ten or so. Renamo soldiers would only be in twos or threes” (Female, 41, from Moatize). She further stated “Frelimo would put their guns in a shooting position, Renamo’s guns would be facing down.” Camp residents usually saw Renamo soldiers in civilian clothes.

Residents generally attributed attacks to one of two reasons: either Frelimo soldiers had lost a battle that day with Renamo forces and the soldiers wanted to re-establish power by targeting unarmed villagers, or the soldiers suspected the villagers of harboring Renamo soldiers based on their proximity to Renamo bases.

"I think they do this out of fury, because when the Frelimo soldiers go to attack, in most cases it’s Frelimo that gets killed, so the survivors are so furious, so they do vengeance on the innocent people in the villages."
—Unaccompanied male, 17, from Ncondezi
"The survivors [surviving Frelimo soldiers] would be furious and take it out on the villagers by burning down their houses or killing those they found alive."
—Female, 21, from Moatize
"When they fought, after the fight, most of the time it was that the Frelimo soldiers were on the losing side, so when they came back, they killed, set fire to the houses, claiming they are harboring Renamo soldiers in them."
—Male, former community leader, 55, from Moatize
"The Frelimo soldiers were always suspicious of anyone they would meet, and just take them as hostage, no discussions."
—Female, 32, from Moatize

Some attributed the attacks to Frelimo soldiers targeting Renamo sympathizers:

"One of my brothers is a strong supporter of Renamo…The Frelimo soldiers came one day looking for him, because they wanted to persecute him. Since people had alerted us, we had to take refuge in the bush. As we were coming back, there was a larger group of soldiers who set fire to our houses and our food storage."
—Female, 21, from Moatize
"I still think that these Frelimo soldiers are doing this not just because they are angered by the villagers, because the villagers are peaceful. They don’t do anything against these soldiers. They do this because they think those that support the opposition must not exist. So they do what they can to stop support for the opposition party."
—Male, 30, recent arrival from Moatize

Others indicated that this bloodshed spilled over into the broader communities because “Frelimo soldiers couldn’t identify who was a Renamo soldier, so everyone within reach was targeted...” (Male, former community leader, 30, from Moatize). In contrast to the residents’ fear of Frelimo soldiers, they demonstrated respect for Renamo soldiers, likely only fueling the anger displayed by the Frelimo soldiers:

"The Renamo soldiers give us warnings or alert us to say something bad may occur, so take coverage. They have the security of our lives at heart."
—Male, 27, recent arrival from Moatize
"Renamo soldiers ask “people to give them chickens, flour, then tell them there will be fighting a few hours from now so take cover, you have to abandon your houses right now."
—Unaccompanied male, 18, from Ncondezi
"The Renamo soldiers have never done anything. If they were doing negative things, we couldn’t have stayed there [in the geographical area] like we did.”
—Female, 41, from Moatize
When the group of Renamo soldiers could be seen in the villages, most people were not scared, we were not scared. Quite often these soldiers were the ones who advised us to seek refuge because it was the Frelimo soldiers who were coming to prey on the rest of the villagers.”
—Male, former community leader, 30, from Moatize

Survey respondents who reported that their home village was attacked were asked if the perpetrators seemed to be targeting particular groups or types of people during the attack. Four-in-10 (44 percent) said they targeted Renamo supporters, about the same number (43 percent) indicated no one in particular, and 10 percent claimed they targeted Frelimo supporters.

Camp residents who personally experienced an attack were asked if anything was said during the attack, and a majority indicated the perpetrators used verbal threats against them (Figure 8).

3.2.5 Dates of incidents

Data indicate that attacks began as early as the beginning of 2014, with around half occurring throughout 2015 (Figure 9).16 Attacks as recent as the month prior to the survey were also reported.

Views of the camp, displacement, and potential for return to Mozambique

Residents offered mixed views of Luwani Camp: a recurring complaint in the focus groups was a perceived lack of adequate food they receive (see Annex Table 2 for an overview of distributed food goods). Others indicated their appreciation for food, water, and security, but lamented the lack of employment and income generation in the camp and nearby market.17 A few residents who had transferred from Kapise Camp to Luwani Camp in the March relocation compared the two:

"Kapise was much better, especially when it comes to issues of food. Food rations were regular, when the food ran out, we could go out into the village to do small work which would sustain us for the rest of the month. When the food is done here, there are problems."
—Female, 21, from Moatize
"We see improvements in living conditions compared to Kapise, here is better accommodation. Food items are sometimes in short supply but at least we can eat. But I will be ready to go back when there’s a declaration of peace back home because this is where we belong."
—Female, 30, from Moatize

Overall, the majority of camp residents (95 percent) indicated they feel safer in Luwani than they did in Mozambique (5 percent indicated that they did not). They expressed mixed views on whether Frelimo informants have infiltrated the camp in the same manner they were alleged to have done in Kapise.18 Some indicated they don’t believe there are informants, while for others, skepticism came from watching a few Mozambicans travel back and forth to their home village with no repercussions:

"We think there are some spies in the camp because we have some people here who leave the camp to return to Mozambique. Surprisingly, their home is close to the Frelimo base, they go there, they survive, they are able to come back. When others try to do that, they are killed by the Frelimo soldiers. We suspect them to be spies."
—Male, former community leader, 30, from Moatize
A border post near Kapise marking the Mozambique (MZ) and the Malawi (MW) sides.

The bulk of current camp residents (92 percent) have not returned to Mozambique since leaving (8 percent have returned at least once). Some residents indicated they would return to Mozambique only when an official declaration of peace occurs and they feel safe.

"If there’s a signed peace deal I will [return], otherwise I don’t trust those people there."
—Unaccompanied male, 18, from Ncondezi
"We can think of going back only if we hear that there’s no soldiers in the bush. It’s not enough to say there’s peace, it’s only when the soldiers are out of the bush."
—Female, 30, from Moatize

Only 2-in-10 (21 percent) indicated they would return to Mozambique today if asked (79 percent would not), but these numbers flip when asked if residents want to return in the future (71 percent responded “Yes,” 29 percent responded “No”). Part of this desire to return stems from the disempowerment that has occurred from surviving on humanitarian aid:

"With me, the only thing I can say is that I’m dying to get back home because this is where I belong. For me, the way how I earn a living is through farming so I don’t depend on handouts. So we are living here, but we are totally dependent on handouts but that’s not our tradition. We would like to go back home when the situation normalizes.”
—Male, 27, recent arrival from Moatize
"We really want to go back home because life here is a challenge. We depend on handouts – food, clothes, this is not the type of life we would like to lead, we would like to go back, we have sugarcane, sweet potatoes, we could drink, we were producers.”
—Female, 53, former community leader from Moatize
A view of a mountain in Mozambique in the near distance from Kapise, Malawi, the direction from which some Mozambican refugees flee.

4. Summary of Conclusions

The data indicate that Luwani Camp residents, most of whom come from Tete province, left Mozambique because Frelimo soldiers directed indiscriminate violence at them. If anything, this report may underestimate the extent of violence occurring in Tete, given that the project focused solely on Mozambicans who survived attacks and escaped to Malawi. It does not include those who may have suffered violence and could not escape, nor does it include those refugees who refused to relocate from Kapise to Luwani. While media reports estimated that all 10,000 were to relocate, the reality is that many chose not to; there have not been more than 2,500 residents in Luwani Camp as of October 2016, but this number has since increased.19

Luwani Camp residents left Mozambique due to political reasons, and specifically due to three types of events or sentiment: personal/family attacks, attacks on their home village, or a fear of attacks based on what they were hearing. Residents reported leaving at different times, with attacks occurring as far back as 2014 and as recently as just before data collection occurred. Around half the attacks occurred in 2015. Majorities indicate that the dominant type of violence in these types of events was killing. Others were burning, beating, sexual violence, abduction, family separation, and shootings.

Majorities also indicate that perpetrators of all types of attacks were Frelimo soldiers. Responses were mixed on whether perpetrators attacked all types of Mozambicans in the villages or specifically targeted (alleged or real) Renamo supporters or sympathizers. Residents acknowledged feeling more secure in Luwani Camp, but food and employment remained challenges for them. A majority indicated a willingness to return to Mozambique, but only with a formal Peace Agreement between Frelimo and Renamo.

In order for the refugees to safely return, perpetrators should be held accountable for the human rights abuses illustrated here and a formal Peace Agreement should continue to be promoted. In mid-2016, Frelimo and Renamo agreed to include international facilitators in a dialogue to seek to end ongoing clashes in the country. Yet getting the parties to the negotiation table to sign a definitive ceasefire has been riddled with difficulties. In August, with international observers present, Frelimo agreed to a regional power-sharing deal with Renamo, which would theoretically pave the way for legislation that decentralizes power before the 2019 election. Thus far, however, an official ceasefire between the parties does not exist.20


Freedom House thanks its researchers who conducted data collection in Kapise village and Luwani Camp in October 2016 and UNHCR for access to the research sites. We also wish to express our gratitude to the local residents of the camp who participated in the project and who demonstrated great courage in telling their stories.



1 Luwani Camp was active in the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s during the two consecutive wars in Mozambique.

2 After gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, Mozambique slid back into war between Frelimo and Renamo forces until the 1992 Peace Agreement. Several provinces in the central part of the country are currently experiencing various types of violence attributed in part to the longstanding animosity between the parties, alleged discrepancies in the 2014 presidential elections, and Renamo’s accusations that a Frelimo elite has enriched itself at the expense of the country. For background on allegations on the conflict in Tete, see Mozambicans Flee as Renamo and Frelimo Face Off, 18 April 2016, available at Number of Mozambicans Flee to Malawi, 16 March 2016,

3 For one report on the issues, see Mozambique: Mass Flight Over Reported Army Abuses, Human Rights Watch, 22 February 2016, available at: Plan focuses on human rights, child protection, sexual and gender based violence, and persons with special needs. World Vision partners with UNHCR for food distribution. Care constructs houses and areas where displaced persons can garden. The Jesuit Refugee Service focuses on education and the school, as well as psychosocial services. Save the Children finished its water and sanitation program in September 2016 but is still working on nutritional issues until December (from discussion with UNHCR staff member).

4 Malawi Moves 10,000 Mozambique Asylum Seekers to Camp, VOA News, 18 April 2016, available at: One UNHCR staff member indicated there have never been more than 2,500 residents at Luwani Camp. Prevalent sentiment has been that 10,000 were relocated, but the reality is that many chose to return to Mozambique rather than go to Luwani. There have been few to no media reports on the actual number who were relocated.

5 Many of the currently occupied dwellings house children under 18, because they often live next door to their parents/guardians.

6 Random sampling is used to select households for the survey in an attempt to make the surveys as representative (i.e. free from bias) as possible despite the small sample size.

7 In some camps, refugees cluster into areas with former neighbors or friends. There is no evidence this occurred systematically in Luwani, but this precaution was taken to prevent this type of potential bias.

8 There were two reports of Mozambicans who had Malawian spouses, but these couples were displaced from Mozambique. UNHCR staff reported there were four Malawian women married to Mozambican men in the camp.

9 Of the 15% who were not from Tete, the provincial breakdown was a follows: Zambezia (21%), Gaza (5%), and less than 3% each from Manica, Maputo, Nampula, and Sofala. Sixty-six percent responded with “don’t know.” This, and the high rate of “don’t know” responses for which district the respondent was from in Tete seem to indicate some Mozambicans do not identify with administrative boundaries.

10 Of these, 51% said their village was completely destroyed (44% said partially).

11 The survey data from this project indicates some attacks occurred prior to the elections (see the section on Dates of Incidents later in this report). After the 2014 elections, international observers agreed they were free, transparent, and fair, but Renamo and the MDM (Democratic Movement of Mozambique) called on the Constitutional Council and the National Elections Commission to annul the elections, highlighting irregularities in the process (discrepancies in the number of registered voters and police intervention in certain areas). The commission voted against the request and in December 2014 declared Filipe Nyusi the winner. See Freedom in the World, Freedom House, available at Since then, Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama has threatened to take over six provinces he claims he won.

12 One FGD participant said she and her family left because two of their family members are albinos and were being targeted by others in their locality.

13 Some of the focus group participants had arrived as early as April 2015 and as recently as the week prior to data collection.

14 It is unclear if this was a reference to a cholera outbreak in Malawi during that time or the outbreak in Luwani in the 1990s.

15 These illustrate the percentages of the different types of attacks (personal attacks, N=427; attacks on home village, N=414; attacks heard about, N=970).

16 While the number of respondents who were attacked was 250, the number of attacks against them was 427. This figure represents the percentages of the 427.

17 There is no public transportation to/from Luwani, so employment in a larger market along the paved road is not feasible. The distance from Luwani to the paved road is 16km. From there, it is a minimum of 30 minutes by bus to a larger market. When asked what services are provided in the camp, fewer residents report “income generating projects” and “psychological support” than they do food, shelter, water, or healthcare, by a rate of about 1:2.

18 There is a police unit in the camp to which residents and staff can report suspicions of spies or informants.

19UNHCR data confirms the number of Mozambican refugees in Luwani Camp is increasing. As of 14 December 2016 the number of Mozambican refugees in Luwani reported is 2,864 up from approximately 2,351 at the time of Freedom House research in October 2016. See UNCHR operational web portal ‘Mozambique situation’ at,

20 Media reports highlight such difficulties as the following: repeated calls for Dhlakama to attend face-to-face discussions are rejected, out of Dhlakama’s fear of assassination; recently, high-level Renamo leaders have been overtly assassinated; Renamo forces have raided and attacked administrative posts, police stations, health facilities, and citizens; Frelimo leaders do not want Renamo to control the six contested provinces. See Negotiations between Frelimo and Renamo suspended as Mozambique war escalates, August 1, 2016, available at agreement reached in Mozambique peace talks, August 18, 2016, available at