WIRIYAMU, MOZAMBIQUE, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has declared that the village of Wiriyamu, in the western province of Tete, where around 400 people were massacred by Portuguese troops on Dec 16, 1972, should be developed into a pillar of community development.

Speaking at a ceremony over the weekend to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in Wiriyamu, and the nearby villages of Chawola and Juwau, 45 years ago, he said: We urge that efforts be made to rescue our history, and to make this place a pillar of community development, so that the martyrs of Wiryamu remain forever in our hearts.

The monument built in Wiryamu, he added, symbolizes all the other massacres which occurred in various parts of Mozambique during the national liberation struggle. They included the notorious massacre at Mueda, in Cabo Delgado Province in 1960, and lesser known mass killings at Inhaminga in Sofala Province and Daque, in Tete Province.

This country, Mozambique, must be defended because its liberation cost so much bloodshed,” declared Nyusi, who added that the dates of the massacres were painful memories but also sources of inspiration.

Nyusi announced that next year a health centre, with maternity facilities, would be built in Wiriyamu. During the ceremony, Nyusi laid a wreath at the monument, and three survivors gave harrowing accounts of the massacre.

Wiriyami achieved more fame than the sites of other colonial massacres because a Catholic priest, Adrian Hastings, of the missionary society, the White Fathers, investigated, and published his findings in The Times of London. He could confirm that soldiers of the colonial army’s 6th Commando Company had rampaged through Wiriyamu, Chawola and Juwau in December 1972, killing about 400 people.

The Portuguese colonial rulers counter-attacked. The Archbishop of Lourenco Marques (now Maputo) ranted about Marxist priests, and tame right-wing journalists claimed they couldn’t find Wiriyamu on the maps. However, Hastings and fellow members of the White Fathers order were credible, and eye witnesses could be located.

Unfortunately for the Portuguese colonial regime, Hastings’ account appeared in The Times just days before the Portuguese Prime Minister, Marcelo Caetano, made a visit to London to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the Anglo-Portuguese alliance. The revelations of the massacre doubtless swelled attendance at the anti-fascist demonstrations that greeted Caetano wherever he went in Britain.