Mozambique: Mass Grave – Witnesses Invited to Come Forward

The Commission on Constitutional and Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, has invited any citizens, Mozambicans or foreigners, with information on an alleged mass grave in the centre of the country to come forward.

Speaking to AIM on Thursday, the Commission’s chairperson, Edson Macuacua, said this invitation is intended to support the investigations the Commission has already undertaken, following the publication (on 28 April) of the original dispatch from the Portuguese news agency Lusa, which, citing peasants who requested anonymity, claimed there was a mass grave in Canda, in the central province of Sofala.

The commission has held hearings in which the Ministries of the Interior and Justice and the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC) gave evidence. It also heard the journalist who wrote the original dispatch, Andre Catueira, and the Lusa delegate in Maputo, Henrique Botequilha.

The Commission visited Canda and spoke to local leaders, including the Canda “regulo” (chief), and members of the community. According to Macuacua, the latter were chosen at random.

No evidence was found suggesting that there was a mass grave anywhere in Canda. Nonetheless Macuacua said the Commission is still inviting anyone who claims knowledge of such a grave to give evidence.

The Commission is now moving into the second phase of its investigations. These concern, not an allegation, but the well attested fact of bodies dumped in the bush near the site of the supposed mass grave.

Catueira came across the bodies under a bridge and in a nearby field, photographed them and wrote a Lusa dispatch on the grim discovery on 1 May. Other journalists confirmed his finding, and film of the decomposing bodies was shown by the independent television station STV (which counted 13 of them).

The police collected the remains and buried them, but claimed there were only 11 of them, and this is the number that Macuacua mentioned to AIM.

However, earlier this week a journalist from the French news agency (AFP) came across nine more bodies near the bridge where Catueira had made his discovery. Both sets of bodies lay across the provincial boundary, in Macossa district, Manica province.

Nobody knows who these victims were or how they met their deaths. The police decision to bury the 11 bodies was strongly criticized by forensic experts, who believed they should have been taken to a morgue.

Macuacua said the Commission will begin working in Manica on Saturday.

Source: Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique