In its weekly review, Zitamar News broke the disturbing story of the high death toll in Mozambique’s conflict-ridden Cabo Delgado province during the weeks and months following the March 2021 insurgent seizure of the port town of Palma and adjacent area.
This brought about the declaration of force majeure by TotalEnergies and the cessation of all activities at the $20 billion construction site of the liquefaction plant on the nearby Afungi peninsular.
TotalEnergies and its partners have yet to say when they might return to northern Mozambique, while offshore the Eni-led consortium owning and operating the FLNG Coral Sul offshore of the Cabo Delgado coast, are well into production and have announced plans for a second production vessel which will be named FLNG Coral Norte.
Most news reports, based mainly on government sources, suggested the death toll during the seizure of the port towns of Palma and Mocimboa de Praia was less than a hundred. Now two independent researchers have stated the death toll including those still missing is much, much higher.
Mozambique government claims remain difficult to clarify and the presence of journalists in the affected regions is strongly discouraged. More than one journalist who attempted to report from the area has ‘disappeared’ or even been killed, in mysterious circumstances. Others are harassed and some detained.
Despite this blanket of silence, it now appears the death toll was in the region of 1 200 people who died in the 12 days of violence.
Zitamar reports that a survey conducted by journalist Alex Perry reports that up to 1 193 people were killed during the 2021 Palma massacre. Perry hired a team of six surveyors and three supervisors in Mozambique who called on over 13 600 homes in Palma and surrounding villages between November 2022 and March this year, recording the victim’s name, age and manner of death.
A total of 1 402 were killed or kidnapped, 432 are presumed dead, 366 were shot and 330 beheaded, the survey found.
The government has never provided a tally of the casualties of Palma and district, although provisional government estimates were much lower than Perry’s figure. Even figures released by the insurgents spoke of much lower numbers.
A second recent survey by the Observatório do Meio Rural (OMR), published on 14 June, made use of questionnaires distributed across the district of Palma, Mocímboa da Praia, and two other areas, and came up with similar figures to those of the Perry survey.
According to Zitamar, neither OMR or Perry’s surveys collected information about who killed civilians, although Perry adds insurgents were indicated to be responsible for the vast majority of killings.
However, local sources have told Zitamar that in many cases, civilians were also killed by Mozambican defence and security forces.
Total declined to comment on Perry’s data but insisted that all staff “took an active part in assisting the local population insofar it did not jeopardise their security and that of the local population.”
According to Perry, “Total’s continuing refusal even to acknowledge this disaster occurred makes a lie of their professions of ‘solidarity’ with the community.”