Mozambican army vehicles patrol roads in the Gorongosa area in central Mozambique, May 2016.

“The Next One to Die”

State Security Force and Renamo Abuses in Mozambique

Mozambican army vehicles patrol roads in the Gorongosa area in central Mozambique, May 2016. © 2016 John Wessels /AFP/Getty Images


From November 2015 until the start of a ceasefire in December 2016, Mozambique’s security forces and the armed group of the country’s largest opposition party, the Mozambican National Resistance, or Renamo, committed numerous abuses in Mozambique’s central provinces. This report documents enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, summary killings and destruction of private property allegedly committed by government forces, and political killings, attacks on public transport and looting of health clinics by alleged Renamo forces.

In the year since the ceasefire was declared, hostilities and conflict-related human rights abuses have mostly ceased. However, the government has not met its obligation under international human rights law to hold those responsible for serious abuses on both sides to account.

The report focuses on abuses in the provinces of Manica, Sofala, Tete and Zambezia. Human Rights Watch documented seven cases of enforced disappearance—the government’s arrest of an individual but refusal to provide information on their whereabouts—and heard credible reports of many more cases. The military also arbitrarily detained those it suspected of belonging to or supporting Renamo or its armed group and beat suspects in custody. The houses and property of those arrested were at times burned or destroyed. A number of Renamo officials and activists were killed or nearly killed by unidentified assailants.

In a written response to questions from Human Rights Watch, the office of the president of Mozambique, Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, denied that government security forces had committed any abuses and rejected allegations of enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, torture and property destruction.

The wife, son, and mother of Manuel Fungulane, with his photograph (man on left). Fungulane disappeared on August 13, 2016, after being detained by government soldiers.  © 2017 Human Rights Watch

Renamo’s armed group, which is commanded by party leader Afonso Dhlakama, was implicated in the kidnappings and killings of political figures working with the government or its ruling party, the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo), or people Renamo apparently suspected of being government informants. Armed Renamo fighters also looted at least five medical facilities, threatening or denying access to health care for thousands of people in remote areas. Renamo’s armed group also committed ambushes and sniper attacks against public transport, mainly on the N1 road in Manica and Sofala provinces. According to the government, 43 people died and 143 were injured in such attacks from November 2015 to December 2016.

Party leader Dhlakama has admitted to giving orders to attack public buses that he claimed were secretly transporting soldiers. The allegations of political assassinations, however, Renamo has rejected as ruling party “propaganda.” In response to Human Rights Watch questions, Renamo provided a list with 306 names of party members who had allegedly been attacked or killed by government forces between March 2015 and December 2016.

The Mozambican government has failed to adequately investigate the alleged abuses documented in this report. Victims and witnesses of government abuses told Human Rights Watch that the authorities had never contacted them, nor did they otherwise learn of investigations. The office of the president did not respond to Human Rights Watch’s question about the status of investigations.

Impunity for grave abuses, long prevalent in Mozambique, encourages future abuses. Among the incidents documented in this report, the still unsolved case in Gorongosa district from April 2016, in which villagers reported a mass grave and at least 15 bodies were found under a bridge, highlights not only a government failure to investigate, but also apparent obstruction of justice.  Local authorities acted slowly to collect the bodies and later announced that decomposition had made autopsies impossible. A parliamentary committee formed in May 2016 to examine the incident has yet to report its findings.

The government should meet its obligations under international human rights law and impartially and thoroughly investigate allegations of serious abuse, whether by government forces or Renamo, and bring those responsible to justice. The government should also establish a national database of missing persons with detailed information to help identify and locate those who have been arrested, forcibly disappeared or killed.

Mozambique’s international partners should press the government to investigate the human rights abuses allegedly committed by both sides since late 2015. 


To the Government of Mozambique

  • Conduct prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into credible allegations of torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detention, and other serious abuses by government officials and their agents, including in cases in which the victims or their families do not file an official complaint. Appropriately prosecute those responsible, regardless of rank, according to international fair trial standards.
  • Issue clear orders that all members of the security forces, including commanders, will be held responsible for committing or ordering abuses, including as a matter of command responsibility.
  • Conduct prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into credible allegations of abuses by Renamo members and their agents, and appropriately prosecute those responsible according to international fair trial standards.
  • Ensure that all individuals apprehended for criminal offenses are promptly brought before a judge within the legally defined periods, and that prosecutions meet international standards.
  • Promptly provide information about those in custody to their families, including their whereabouts, charges against them, if any, and allow detainees prompt access to counsel and their family members.
  • Publicly and unequivocally condemn arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, and enforced disappearances, and make clear that government officials responsible will be appropriately disciplined or prosecuted.
  • Establish a national database of missing persons that includes information to help locate detainees and victims of enforced disappearances and killings, such as detailed information about the victim, known arrest and places of detention, and any investigations into the case.
  • Invite the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and relevant United Nations special procedures—including the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and the special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment—to visit Mozambique to investigate and make recommendations for ensuring justice and accountability, as well for reform of the security forces to act independently and professionally.
  • Provide adequate and prompt compensation to the victims of arbitrary arrest and detention, torture or ill-treatment, enforced disappearances, and unlawful killings by government officials or their agents.
  • Ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.


To the Mozambican Parliament

  • Promptly publish the findings of the Parliamentary Commission on Constitutional and Legal Affairs and Human Rights investigation into the killings in Gorongosa district, Sofala province, uncovered in April 2016.
  • Hold public hearings with senior government officials on the government’s failure to investigate allegations of enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, and torture and other ill-treatment by government officials.


To Renamo

  • Issue clear orders that all Renamo members and agents, including commanders, will be appropriately punished for committing or ordering abuses, including kidnappings, unlawful killings and attacks on public transport and medical facilities.
  • Ensure any disciplinary mechanisms provide basic due process, including hearings by an impartial adjudicator in which the accused can present a defense and has assistance of counsel.


To the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC)

  • Press the government of Mozambique to credibly and impartially investigate all allegations of arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, and enforced disappearances, by government security force members and their agents.
  • Call on the Mozambique authorities to implement the recommendations in this report.


To International Donors

  • Re-evaluate financial and other development assistance, including training and capacity-building, to ensure that institutions involved in human rights violations do not continue to receive support unless the Mozambican government takes concrete measures to end these violations and to hold perpetrators to account.
  • Provide training and other support, where the government has demonstrated genuine commitment to reform, to strengthen the capacity of Mozambican prosecutors and investigators.
  • Ensure that any assistance to Mozambique’s security forces promotes rather than undermines government compliance with international human rights obligations.
  • Support, where the government has demonstrated genuine commitment to reform, internal oversight and accountability mechanisms for security forces.
  • Publicly raise human rights concerns, including accountability issues, in political dialogue with the Mozambique government, and monitor the government’s compliance with international human rights standards.
  • Call on the Mozambique authorities to implement the recommendations in this report.


This report is based primarily on research conducted during three fact-finding missions to Mozambique in 2017: in April to Beira city and Gorongosa district in Sofala province; in June to Gorongosa and Chibabava districts in Sofala province and in Barue and Gondola districts in Manica province; and in November to the Nhamatanda district in Sofala province. Altogether, Human Rights Watch interviewed 71 people, including victims of abuses and their relatives, as well as witnesses to abuses that were committed by government security forces or the Renamo armed group. We also spoke with police officers, soldiers, politicians, activists and journalists. Interviews were conducted in Portuguese and Ndau, when necessary with an interpreter.

Some of the people interviewed requested anonymity because of security concerns. All instances where pseudonyms have been used are referenced in the footnotes. In some cases we have withheld additional identifying information to protect a person’s identity.

Human Rights Watch informed all interviewees of the nature and purpose of our research, and our intentions to publish a report with the information gathered. We informed each potential interviewee that they were under no obligation to speak with us, that Human Rights Watch does not provide humanitarian or legal services, and that they could stop speaking with us or decline to answer any question with no adverse consequences. We obtained oral consent for each interview and interviewees did not receive any compensation for speaking with Human Rights Watch.

On August 17, 2017, Human Rights Watch submitted a list of questions about alleged human rights violations by security forces to Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi, who serves as commander-in-chief of the defense and security forces (see Appendix I). The president’s office responded on October 9 to some of the questions (see Appendix II), and those answers are included where relevant in the report.

On September 12, 2016, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Mozambique’s attorney general, with copies to the ministers of justice and interior, asking about the status of investigations into politically motivated killings (see Appendix III). As of December 19, 2017, none of these offices had replied.

On August 17, 2017, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, head of the party and its armed group, with a list of questions about alleged human rights abuses committed by Renamo’s armed group (see Appendix IV). Renamo responded on August 30, 2017 (see Appendix V), and its answers, where relevant, are included in the report.

I. Background

In 1977, two years after Mozambique gained independence from Portugal, a bloody civil war erupted between government forces controlled by the ruling party, the Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (Mozambique Liberation Front, or Frelimo) and the Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (Mozambique National Resistance, or Renamo). An estimated one million people died during the 16-year-long war, and five million were displaced.[1] Both sides committed numerous war crimes against civilians, including mass killings, sexual violence, torture, and use of child soldiers. In November 1990, during direct talks between the two warring sides, the Mozambican parliament adopted a new constitution that established a multi-party system with regular elections and guaranteed respect for fundamental rights and liberties.

The two parties signed a peace agreement to end the civil war on October 4, 1992. Nine days later, parliament ratified an amnesty law for both government forces and Renamo rebels that protected members of these forces unconditionally from prosecution for war crimes and other atrocities during the war. Due to the amnesty law, no one has been held accountable for war crimes.

As part of the peace deal, the government allowed Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama to keep a 300-man private armed guard. Successive failures to demobilize other Renamo fighters or integrate them into the national army encouraged many of these men to join Dhlakama’s private guard informally. Today Renamo is believed to have an armed force of about 700 men.[2]  Other credible sources suggest that the force could be as high as 2,500.[3]

Mozambique held its first multi-party elections in October 1994. The ruling Frelimo party maintained control, winning both the presidential election with 53 percent of the vote, and parliamentary elections with 44 percent. Renamo received 34 percent in the presidential election, and 38 percent in the parliamentary vote.[4]

Renamo and Dhlakama came close to winning Mozambique’s second election in December 1999, but they have rejected the results of every Mozambican election ever since, accusing the ruling party of rigging the vote. In November 2000, during a Renamo protest against the 1999 election results, police opened fire on reportedly violent protesters. Forty-one people died, including six police officers, and 200 were injured. Over 200 Renamo supporters were arrested.[5]

Tension between the Frelimo-led government and Renamo flared again in April 2013, when the Renamo armed group raided a police station in Muxungue, killing at least four officers.[6] Armed clashes ensued in the provinces of Inhambane, Manica, Sofala, Tete and Zambezia, and the government raided Renamo’s former military bases in Sofala province.[7] The government has never reported official casualty numbers from these clashes.

On September 5, 2014, the Mozambican government and Renamo signed a new peace deal that called for the disarming of Renamo fighters and their integration into the national army and police.[8] The agreement collapsed within four months, after Renamo alleged that the government had failed to integrate its fighters. The government accused Renamo of refusing to provide a list of its fighters to be integrated.

In October 2014, Frelimo won parliamentary elections and Filipe Jacinto Nyusi became president. Renamo won 89 seats in the 250-seat national assembly but challenged the results and vowed to govern six of the country’s 11 provinces in which, based on its own count, it claimed to have received the most votes.

In February 2015, the government announced that it would start an operation to disarm Renamo’s armed group by force. Renamo resisted the operation, resulting in frequent violent clashes in the central provinces of Manica, Sofala, Tete and Zambezia. In June 2015, the 23 foreign military observers in Mozambique, who had arrived in September 2014 to monitor the disarming and integration of Renamo forces, left the country.[9] Renamo demanded control over half of the senior positions in the armed forces as a precondition to provide the government with a list of its armed men. The government rejected this demand, leading to stalled talks between the two sides. An international mediation effort led by Mario Raffaelli, a representative of the European Union, started in July 2016. That December, following a publicly announced phone conversation with President Nyusi, Renamo leader Dhlakama announced a unilateral ceasefire.

In January 2017, President Nyusi dismissed the team of mediators and announced the creation of a multi-disciplinary team to plan the demobilization of RENAMO fighters, the integration of Renamo fighters into state security forces, and the decentralization of political power. The last point – allowing provincial governors to be elected rather than appointed by the president – was one of Renamo’s demands to end its attacks. On August 7, 2017, President Nyusi and Dhlakama met for the first time in the Gorongosa bush, in what many analysts considered an important step towards peace.[10] At the time of writing, the ceasefire was still in effect.


II. Violations by Government Security Forces  

Human Rights Watch documented a range of serious human rights violations committed by government security forces in the central provinces of Manica and Sofala between November 2015 and December 2016, when the latest ceasefire came into effect. These include enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, torture and other ill-treatment in detention and the destruction of property.

Such abuses violate Mozambique’s obligations as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, among other treaties.[11]

Human Rights Watch’s findings are consistent with reporting by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which reported in mid-2016 that government security forces were implicated in summary executions, looting, destruction of property, rape, and ill-treatment of prisoners.[12] OHCHR also said it had received information from “reliable sources” that at least 14 Renamo officials had been killed or abducted by unidentified individuals across the country in the first quarter of 2016. The Mozambican government has not publicly responded to OHCHR’s allegations.

The Mozambican human rights organization Liga dos Direitos Humanos (LDH) said that government forces abducted or summarily executed at least 83 people in the provinces of Manica, Sofala, Tete and Zambezia between November 2015 and December 2016, but it did not provide details to allow corroboration of these claims.[13] Most of these people were opposition members whom the government apparently determined were helping Renamo fighters, LDH said. 

In October 2016, Renamo gave Human Rights Watch a list containing names of its members and officials who they allege were detained or killed between the October 2014 general election and October 2016, with details such as places and dates. The same list was published in the party’s newsletter, “A Bancada,” in which the party said that the people on the list had been killed by a “death squad” linked to the government.[14]

On August 30, 2017, Renamo provided Human Rights Watch with another detailed list containing 306 names of its members and officials who they assert had been attacked or killed by a “government death squad” between September 2015 and December 2016 in the provinces of Nampula, Zambezia, Tete, Manica, Sofala, Inhambane, as well as the capital, Maputo. The list includes names, dates, places and basic circumstances of each case. Human Rights Watch could not independently verify every case on the list, which included the cases of senior political figures covered in this report, who had apparently been killed for political reasons, as well as the apparent targeted killings of other Renamo officials that had been reported in the media.

 In August 2017, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to President Nyusi, who serves as commander-in-chief of the defense and security forces, listing various allegations of abuse and requesting an official response. The Office of the President replied on October 9, 2017, that the information received from the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice, Constitutional and Religious Affairs did not lead them “to conclude that the alleged abuses of human rights have occurred” (see Appendix I).

Enforced Disappearances

Human Rights Watch documented seven cases of apparent enforced disappearance, all of them in Sofala province, and heard credible accounts of many more in the same province. Relatives and friends of those allegedly disappeared provided details of the cases and the families’ failed attempts to locate the person. They said that government officials had failed to provide them with information about the whereabouts of their relative, despite repeated requests.

Enforced disappearances are defined under international law as the arrest or detention of a person by state officials or their agents, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty, or to reveal the person’s fate or whereabouts.[15] Mozambique has an international legal obligation to take appropriate measures to investigate alleged enforced disappearances by officials or their agents and bring those responsible to justice.[16] 

Two women who lived in the Munhava neighborhood of Beira city, the capital of Sofala province, told Human Rights Watch that their husbands, José João Munera and Manuel João Munera, who are brothers, disappeared on April 16, 2016, after they reported themselves to the Gorongosa village police station. The men were summoned there, both women said, in relation to the detention of two other men, José and Tioto, who worked for Manuel. None of the four men have been seen or heard from since. The wife of José Munera said:

My husband’s brother came here to ask my husband to accompany him to Gorongosa where two of his workers had been detained by police. On Saturday, April 16, 2016, when my husband was off duty, they travelled to Gorongosa. At 4 p.m., they called to inform us that they had arrived at the police station…. At 6 p.m. I called him and the phone went unanswered.[17]

José Munera’s wife said that she and Manuel’s wife went to the police station in Beira on April 18 and the police officers there called the station in Gorongosa. The police received confirmation that José and Manuel had been there and that they had been taken to the army barracks, both women said. “To date, I don’t know where they went to after the barracks,” said José’s wife.

A photo of the brothers José João Munera and Manuel João Munera. The two men disappeared on April 16, 2016, after they reported to the Gorongosa village police station.  © 2016 Human Rights Watch

Manuel’s wife said that her husband’s family went to Gorongosa to look for the two brothers but had no success. Residents there told the family that the police had also detained Manuel’s two workers.

When asked in April 2017 about the case, two police officers in Beira city, who spoke with Human Rights Watch separately, said they did not remember the case as it had happened “long ago.” In response to questions from Human Rights Watch, the office of President Nyusi said the government had no records of having arrested or detained the four men.

The mayor of Beira, Daviz Simango, said he had asked his staff about José João Munera, who had worked for the city’s department of waste collection, and confirmed that he had not come to work since April 2016. Unconfirmed reports indicate that Munera and his brother were detained due to their involvement with Renamo, the mayor said.[18] Manuel Munera’s wife said that her husband was not involved in politics, saying he was a businessman who bought corn in Gorongosa to sell in Beira.

In November 2017, a police officer in the Beira Investigative Police (PIC), who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, said that at least four other cases of people who had disappeared in Gorongosa had been reported to the investigative police in Beira.[19] He declined to share details of those cases but acknowledged that the police had not opened any investigations, because, according to him, “the country was in war.”[20]

A police officer in the Gorongosa station, who likewise requested anonymity, said that army special forces managed all cases related to “the armed conflict.” He said the police had orders to hand all Renamo-linked detainees to the army. When asked to provide a contact in the army special forces, the officer said he did not have permission to provide that information. [21]  

In another case, a friend of Timoteo Bernardo, a 27-year-old motorcycle taxi driver, told Human Rights Watch that on February 16, 2016, army soldiers stopped Bernardo at a checkpoint in Mapombwe near Gorongosa. The soldiers asked for Bernardo’s identity card and then, without explanation, took him away in an armored vehicle. The friend said:

They took [Bernardo] inside the tent there at Mapombwe, tied him up and brought him back to the main road. When people started approaching to watch what was going on, they fired shots in the air to disperse us. Then they took my friend Timoteo away in an armored vehicle and left.

He said he had not seen or heard from him since that day.[22]

Bernardo’s friend also said that he knew of two other motorcycle taxi drivers who worked with Bernardo, who had also been detained on different occasions, allegedly because soldiers accused them of transporting food and money to Renamo fighters at a Renamo base near the Gorongosa village of Casa Banana. 

In another case, soldiers apparently detained Manuel Fungulane, 28, near the Mapombwe checkpoint in Gorongosa on August 13, 2016, and he has not been seen or heard from since. Fungulane’s wife and mother told Human Rights Watch that Fungulane was driving a female friend home on his motorcycle when the two were stopped and Fungulane was detained. The soldiers handcuffed Fungulane, put him in an army vehicle, and told the friend to inform the family that they had detained him for his connections with Renamo. The wife and mother said that Fungulane was just a trader with no political activity.

A photo of Manuel Fungulane (left), who was detained by soldiers near the Mapombwe checkpoint in Gorongosa on August 13, 2016 and has not been seen or heard from since.  © 2017 Human Rights Watch

When Fungulane’s wife went to the police to look for her husband, they told her to look for him at the military base in Mapombwe. When she went there, she said, the guard at the base told her to go to the police station in Gorongosa village. The woman said that she and others searched in vain for several weeks until they finally gave up. “Since then, no one has found a body,” she said. “I am still waiting for my husband to come back home.”[23]

Celestino Dez, 30, a gasoline seller, disappeared on May 5, 2016, and the authorities have refused to provide his family with information. Dez’s brother said the military knew Dez because he used to trade gasoline with them. Witnesses told him that soldiers had detained Dez in the village of Canda, beat him and took him away in a Ford Ranger like the ones commonly used by government security forces. He said that he initially thought his brother had been detained over disagreements about the gasoline business, but he soon realized that it was something “more serious.” He said:

Traces of [what appeared to be] his blood could be seen on the ground when I arrived at the scene within hours of his detention. People who witnessed the case told me that the men beat my brother, tied him up, and put him in the car. They then left at high speed with the emergency lights on.[24]

Dez’s brother said he reported the case to the police and they collected evidence at the scene but have subsequently provided the family with no information. He went to the nearby military base but personnel there said they knew nothing about the case.

“Since that day, I have never seen my brother again,” he said.

Asked about the reasons that could have led to Celestino’s detention, his brother said the military might have thought he was part of Renamo because they had previously accused him of supplying Renamo fighters with gasoline.

In its response to Human Rights Watch’s letter, The Office of the President did not say whether any members of state security forces had been held accountable for involvement in enforced disappearances.

Arbitrary Detentions and Abuse in Detention

From November 2015 through December 2016, state security forces arbitrarily detained people suspected of having ties with Renamo’s armed group, and tortured or otherwise ill-treated some of them in detention. The government has yet to release any information about Renamo members or supporters it has arrested or legally charged, despite police spokesmen claiming on various occasions that they had arrested armed men.[25] 

The Office of the President, in its response to Human Rights Watch’s letter, provided no information about arrests and prosecutions of suspected Renamo fighters or members.

Human Rights Watch interviewed four men who alleged that they were wrongfully detained and tortured by state security forces between May and June 2016. Interviewed separately, each said that security forces accused them of supplying food to Renamo armed men in the Gorongosa mountains, which they denied.

One of the men, a pastor of a church in Tanzaronta, Gorongosa, said that soldiers driving an armored vehicle and a pickup truck arrived at his church at about 2 p.m. on May 12, 2016, and took him into custody. He explained:

They approached me and one of them beat me on the head with a gun. Then they ordered me to get in the car trunk and took me to the military base. There they questioned me until 4 or 5 p.m. …  They would beat me while forcing me to say that I was a Renamo fighter.[26]

The pastor said he saw eight other men detained on the base, one of whom he recognized as a motorcycle taxi driver in Tanzaronta.

He said a military commander named Bambo arrived at the base and, recognizing him as a pastor, ordered the soldiers to let him go. On his way out, the pastor said he asked a guard what had happened to the eight other detained men. The guard told him they had been killed. The pastor said he has not seen the motorcycle taxi driver or the other seven men since that day.

Residents of Gorongosa village told Human Rights Watch that during most of 2016 government soldiers and traffic police set up checkpoints where they stopped public transport and ordered passengers to produce their identity cards. The soldiers prohibited some people from proceeding because their names appeared on a list. Three residents said they had witnessed soldiers remove people from cars, beat them in front of other passengers and take them handcuffed in tents near the checkpoint.

Tito, 33, said that a group of about 20 soldiers arrived at his house in Nyaranga on the evening of June 22, 2016, saying his name was on a list of people to arrest because of their collaboration with Renamo. Tito said that, after verifying his identity, the soldiers put him in the back of their pickup truck, where there were four other men lying down with their hands bound. The soldiers took the men to a forest near Canda, where they told them to leave the pickup truck, kneel, clasp their hands behind their heads, and close their eyes, Tito said. Soldiers then fired shots into the air.

“Then this soldier came toward me and started shouting: ‘You are Renamo!’” Tito recalled. “I said, ‘I’m not.’ He then said: ‘Run! I want to see how far you can go.’ I stood up and I ran. From that day, I never returned to my house.”[27] One year after the incident, Tito said he was still living in hiding for fear of harassment or arrest.

In August 2016, local media reported that residents had found six bodies inside a burned car in a forest in Cheringoma, Sofala province.[28] The authorities said the victims had been attacked and killed by Renamo on August 12.  However, two men who claimed to have escaped the attack gave a different account to the local television station STV from a hospital where they were receiving treatment.[29] The men accused the security forces of abducting eight men and killing six of them execution-style. One of the men told STV:

When we arrived at the river, officers ordered us to stop and produce our documents. After checking the documents, they told us we had to wait because a district commander wanted to talk to us. Later, they told us to go to their car and they took the keys of our car. They drove us for a long distance before we stopped, and the soldiers started talking to each other. Moments later, they told us to leave the car one by one…and they started shooting at each of us… I jumped out of the car and ran. They fired at me…and the bullet struck my waist.[30]

The other man, who identified himself as a Bangladeshi national, told STV:

They took us to the bush. There they told the Mozambicans to leave the car and shot at us one by one. When they were done with the Mozambicans, one of the soldiers grabbed me by the jacket… I managed to push him away and I ran… They fired at me. But I continued to run through the bush.[31]

Government security forces also have arrested, but not formally charged, Renamo officials whom they accused of helping Renamo fighters. Human Rights Watch spoke with five men who identified themselves as Renamo officials in Gorongosa and said they were living in undisclosed places due to fear of arrest and mistreatment. Residents of Gorongosa village said that soldiers started searching for people linked to Renamo after armed men from the party raided the village on February 16, 2016. According to media reports, at least two people died and five others were injured during clashes between security forces and Renamo fighters that day.[32]


The burned house and car of Pinto, a Renamo member in Gorongosa village. Neighbors said they saw soldiers set the house and car on fire on February 17, 2016.  © 2017 Human Rights Watch

Pinto, 43, said that soldiers came looking for him at the school where he was taking classes on the night after the February 16 attack. He explained how he eluded arrest but later found his house on fire:

[The soldiers] said: “We are looking for Pinto from Renamo.” I was lucky because my teacher and colleagues did not denounce me, even though they know me as a Renamo official. As soon as they left, I too left the school and ran to my house. When I arrived at home, they had set everything on fire. I called a friend who told me that soldiers were rounding up all Renamo people at their houses. That night, I and three other Renamo officials left the village and went into hiding.[33]

Two residents living near Pinto’s abandoned burned house and two burned cars in Gorongosa village told Human Rights Watch that they had seen soldiers set the house and cars on fire.

Another Renamo official, Carlos, said that he managed to run away after a soldier warned him via text message on February 21, 2016 that soldiers would be raiding his house:

I was in the house when I got a text from a soldier who happens to be my friend. In the text he told me that they were hiding behind the trees waiting to raid the house. I looked out from a window and I saw one of them preparing to throw something similar to a grenade into my home. I ran through the back door and I did not return until today.[34]

As of April 2017, when Human Rights Watch interviewed the five Renamo officials, they were all still in hiding, despite the ceasefire between the government and Renamo. They said that they feared undercover police in Gorongosa and did not want to reveal where they were staying.

Destruction of Property

During research in April, June, and November 2017, Human Rights Watch saw at least 32 destroyed or burned houses in Sofala province in the villages of Nhampoca, Mukodza, Inhaminga, Nhamapadza, Casa Banana, Vunduzi, Nhamandzi, and Gorongosa, that residents said had been targeted by state security forces. The residents said they had seen soldiers arrive in armored vehicles and trucks, set houses on fire and destroy crops.

In Vunduzi village, Gorongosa district, government forces burned and destroyed at least six houses in June 2016, apparently because they suspected them of belonging to Renamo supporters. Three witnesses said that for two consecutive days, soldiers arrived in Ford Rangers and armored vehicles, used aggressive language and, without warning, set fire to the houses, destroying the residences and barns and killing domestic animals. Residents who tried to remove their possessions from the houses were forced away.

A woman and her son in front of their house with bullet holes in Mukodza village, Gorongosa. They said soldiers arrived in army vehicles and fired without warning at the house in June 2016, forcing them to flee through a window.  © 2017 Human Rights Watch

A 68-year-old resident of Vunduzi who witnessed the arson said that he found soldiers destroying his property when he returned from his farm:

They started accusing me of helping to hide Renamo men in my house. I denied that… Then one of the soldiers lit a match and threw it into my house… I begged them to let me remove my belongings. They refused.[35]

Human Rights Watch visited the man’s compound and saw a burned house and the burned remains of what appeared to have been a barn. The man said he asked the soldiers why they were destroying his belongings and they responded: “Orders from the commander.” [36]

A 62-year-old man in Vunduzi said that soldiers stole his belongings before setting his house on fire. In his compound, Human Rights Watch saw remains of what appeared to have been straw houses. He said:

[The soldiers] entered the house and took my radio and cell phone. One soldier took two of my chickens before setting fire to everything. He was not even ashamed…. He took the chickens before getting in his car and driving away.[37]

Residents of Mukodza village said that soldiers fired their weapons at homes. A 54-year-old woman explained what she saw:

I was inside the house with my 16-year-old son when they arrived. We had heard about what happened in other houses the day before, so we decided to hide. They fired their guns at our house. My son managed to jump out of the window and helped me to do the same…. We ran to hide in the plantations. When we returned home, everything had gone with the fire.[38]

Human Rights Watch heard credible reports that government forces also burned homes in the Manica province villages of Nhamatema, Honde, Chiula and Maguti. In June 2017, at a camp for internally displaced people in Vanduzi town, Manica province, Human Rights Watch interviewed two dozen people who said that government soldiers had burned down their houses between March and December 2016.[39]

III. Abuses by Renamo

Human Rights Watch documented cases of Renamo armed men committing serious human rights abuses between November 2015 and December 2016, including kidnappings and killings of political figures, attacks on public transport, and the looting of health clinics in remote areas. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that these armed men sometimes wore dark green uniforms similar to those used by the Renamo leader’s private guard. They carried AK-47 assault rifles and often announced themselves as Renamofighters. Some of the abuses documented resemble those reported on by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who alleged in mid-2016 that Renamo had targeted people it perceived to be associated with the ruling party Frelimo, or to be cooperating with security forces, as well as attacking buses on roads with snipers.[40]

Political Killings

Since October 2015, Renamo armed men have been implicated in killings of people connected or believed to be connected to Frelimo. In October 2016, Frelimo gave Human Rights Watch the names of 15 of its members who were allegedly killed, six who were allegedly beaten, and six who were allegedly kidnapped in the provinces of Manica, Sofala, Inhambane and Nampula between February 2015 and September 2016, along with the dates and locations of the alleged incidents.

Frelimo said that Renamo was responsible for the crimes but provided no information to support the claim. Human Rights Watch investigated six of the cases, including three of the alleged killings, and found that these victims were apparently killed or attacked because Renamo suspected them of providing information to government security forces.

On September 2, 2016, alleged Renamo gunmen abducted and killed the regulo (traditional chief) of Nhampoca, Joaquim Chirangano, and another man, the head of Tica administrative post, Abilio Jorge. Three men who witnessed the abductions said that local officials from Nhamatanda district had called a meeting with residents of Nhampoca village to discuss compensations for people who had lost property during army incursions. At the meeting, Chirangano urged residents not to abandon the village despite the nearby clashes between government forces and Renamo. Witnesses said that during the meeting armed men who identified themselves as Renamo fighters seized Chirangano and Jorge. Residents later found the men’s gunshot-ridden bodies nearby.

One of the men who attended the meeting said:

One of the [Renamo] men was there among us. We thought he was one of the villagers. Suddenly, he stood up and pulled an AK-47 from a bag… and ordered the meeting to stop. Then four other men emerged from the bush and took the regulo [Chirangano] and local administrator with them. We later found the bodies of the regulo and the administrator in the bush.[41]

Another man who witnessed the abduction said the alleged Renamo fighters gave the villagers a flag they said they had removed from Chiringano’s house and told them to give it to local authorities with a message that Renamo had taken Chiringano and Jorge. “We recognized some of them,” the man said. “We know the Renamo people.”[42]

Two other men said that they joined local residents about three hours after the meeting to help carry the bodies of Chirangano and Jorge, which had been found in a nearby forest. One of the men, José, said:

When we arrived at the place where the bodies had been dumped, the bodies were still fresh… They had gunshots in their bodies and the head of regulo had been cut from the back to the front with an object…a machete, I think. We tied their bodies onto our bicycles and brought them to the local clinic.[43]

José said police officers never came to the village to investigate the killings.

The wife and daughter of the regulo (traditional chief) of Muxungue, Makotori José Mafussi, show a photo of Mafussi (seated) and two relatives. Apparent Renamo fighters killed Mafussi at his home on July 21, 2016.  © 2017 Human Rights Watch

The regulo of Muxungue, Makotori José Mafussi, was killed on July 21, 2016. One of his daughters said that her father had received threats after he was accused of helping government forces to identify Renamo activists in the regions of Muxungue and Chibabava. “That day he was killed, he met a Renamo member named [name withheld] in the market,” she said. “When he came home, he told us that the man had warned him that he would be the next one to die.[44]

Mafussi’s daughter described the killing of her father in the evening by the man she assumed her father had earlier identified:

He arrived in our compound and started walking fast towards my father…. I shouted at him: “Who are you?” He told me to move away…. Then I turned to my father to alert him about this guy… But it was too late because he was already close to my father. He then shot my father in the head. [45]

When the police arrived at the house they found a handwritten letter on the floor, in which the assailants explained why they had killed Mafussi. The letter said that Mafussi had been killed because of his collaboration with government security forces.

On the night of June 2, 2016, in Honde, Barue district, armed men in dark green uniforms who identified themselves as Renamo fighters killed two men whom they accused of being informants for the authorities and security forces. Two witnesses said the killings came two days after government forces had ambushed Renamo fighters in the area. The daughter-in-law of one of the victims, Fungai Faniel, who was a Frelimo member, said that the men knocked on the family’s door and called her father-in-law by name. When Faniel opened the door, the men forced him out of the house, beat him severely, and left him to die. She said:

It was late at night when they arrived. We were sleeping when we heard male voices calling dad’s name. I went and checked through a hole and I saw four men. They did not look like the Fademo soldiers and they did not have a car... but they had uniforms: dark clothes.[46] When dad opened the door, they pulled him and started beating him with guns on his head. Then one of them said: leave him…he has learned his lesson… and they left. That’s when we left our hideouts and tried to save dad… but he was already dead.[47]

Another man said that armed men arrived at his house that night in Honde, looking for him because they believed he was a government informant. Since he was not at home, they kidnapped and then killed his father. He said:

For about two weeks they kept calling me on my phone to warn me that if I did not show up they would kill my father. The elders advised me to leave the village…. That’s when I went to the refugee camp in Vanduzi [about 70 kilometers away]. Then one day my family called me to say that they had found my father’s body in the Pungue River. Because I was in fear, I did not go back to the funeral.[48]

Renamo denied killing any government officials or Frelimo members, and accused Frelimo of blaming Renamo for its own crimes (see Appendix V).

Attacks on Public Transport

Renamo armed men carried out several attacks against public transport, mainly on the N1 road that links the north and south of Mozambique, between the Save and Zambeze rivers in Manica and Sofala provinces. The Mozambican police said they recorded 19 attacks in February 2016 alone.[49] The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that Renamo sniper attacks on public transport travelling along the N1 had killed a number of travelers.[50]

Local media and police reported on February 13, 2016, for example, that Renamo carried out at least three attacks on vehicles traveling along the N1, injuring at least three people in Muxungue, Chibabava district, Sofala province, and another four people between Nhamapaza and Caia, in Maringué district, also in Sofala province.[51] In March 2016, Renamo armed men reportedly carried out at least four attacks against buses traveling between the provinces of Manica, Sofala and Zambézia. The authorities said at least three people were killed and several others were injured in the attacks.[52] A 27-year-old woman who was injured during an attack in Honde, Chibabava, on March 5, 2016, told Human Rights Watch that armed men ambushed the bus and started firing shots at it. As people tried to hide behind their seats, the driver lost control and the bus crashed into a tree. She said:

They came suddenly from nowhere in the bush and started firing at the bus. We were all in panic…. We knew the route was dangerous because we had heard about other attacks. But we always hoped that they would fight against soldiers.[53]

Renamo armed men also reportedly attacked at least three inter-provincial passenger buses on May 22 and on June 29, 2016 in Machanga, according to media reports.[54]

In March 2016, Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama confirmed a March 5, 2016 Renamo attack on a bus from the private company Nagi, in Honde, Manica province, saying the bus was transporting soldiers from Chimoio to Tete. “One or other members of the population” could have died in Honde where the incident took place, as well as 39 soldiers, Dhlakama said. [55]

Attacks on Health Facilities

Renamo armed men raided at least five hospitals or medical clinics in July and August 2016 to loot medicine and supplies, restricting access to health care for thousands of people in remote areas of Zambezia, Tete and Niassa provinces. Two witnesses said that at about 3 a.m. on July 30, 2016, Renamo armed men entered the village of Mopeia in Zambezia province.[56]


A bullet hole in the window of Morrumbala District Hospital after a raid by Renamo gunmen on August 12, 2016.   © 2016 Nova Radio Paz – Quelimane

A doctor who worked at the clinic told Human Rights Watch that the armed men stole vaccines, syringes and antibiotics. “[Armed men] caused panic and people ran for their lives,” he said. “It took a few days before residents could come back to the clinic.”[57] The doctor, who also works at the Mopeia district hospital situated about 8 kilometers away from the village, said that the armed men burned patients’ medical records before proceeding to the hospital.

A nurse at the Mopeia Hospital described the armed men’s attack on the hospital:

They were about 15, but not all of them had weapons. … They entered the ward where patients were sleeping, told everyone to move away…and took everything … bed sheets, mosquito nets… Nobody was hurt. They did not touch us.[58]

The next day, Mozambican media reported that about a dozen armed Renamo men raided the village of Maiaca, district of Maúa, in the northern Niassa province. During the raid, they attacked the local medical clinic and a police station. Similar incidents took place in Tome, southern Inhambane province, and in Tsangano district, in the western province of Tete.[59]

On August 5, 2016, Renamo leader Dhlakama gave a telephone interview to Mozambican television station STV in which he confirmed that he had given orders to attack some areas of Zambezia province, but he did not specify the targets or mention medical facilities.[60] In responding to Human Rights Watch questions, Renamo generally denied attacking civilians but did not address the specific cases mentioned by Human Rights Watch.


IV. Government’s Failure to Investigate Abuses

The Mozambican authorities, notably the Criminal Investigation Police, have failed to investigate serious human rights violations allegedly committed by government security forces, including politically motivated killings, enforced disappearances and destruction of property. Even for crimes that the authorities blame on Renamo fighters, such as killings and attacks on public transportation, the authorities have apparently failed to make any arrests.

Governments have a duty to impartially investigate and appropriately prosecute serious violations of human rights. The UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors compliance with the ICCPR, has stated that governments not only have a duty to protect their citizens from such violations, but also to investigate violations when they occur and to bring the perpetrators to justice.[61] International human rights law also enshrines the right to an effective remedy, including compensation for abuses.[62] 

Regarding potentially unlawful deaths, in 2016 the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights revised the guidelines for human rights investigations. Known as the Minnesota Protocol, the guidelines provide that these investigations must be prompt, effective and thorough, as well as independent, impartial and transparent.[63]

In a well-publicized case from 2016, the security forces appear to have actively blocked independent media and others from investigating an alleged mass grave and 15 unidentified bodies that were found in April of that year in an area between Manica and Sofala provinces.

Attorney General Beatriz Buchili, along with the Ministries of Justice and Interior, have not responded to Human Rights Watch’s September 2016 letter inquiring about the steps her office had taken to prosecute high-profile cases (see Appendix III).

Alleged Mass Grave in Gorongosa

On April 27, 2016, residents of Gorongosa district reported to various media that they had discovered a mass grave with 120 bodies between Canda and Macossa.[64] They told journalists that they discovered the bodies inside a former gold mine after noticing the stench of decomposing bodies. The media outlets that published the story were unable to verify the existence of the mass grave, reportedly because security forces blocked access to the former mine.[65]

On April 29, the police claimed that investigators sent to the area were unable to find a mass grave.[66] The next day, however, journalists from Deutsche Welle and the Portuguese news agency LUSA visited the area and photographed about 15 bodies scattered in the bush under a bridge, near where local residents had alleged the mass grave to be. Some of the victims appeared to have been recently killed, while other bodies showed more advanced signs of decomposition, according to images seen by Human Rights Watch and the journalists who took the photographs.[67] Due to the presence of security forces, the journalists were unable to reach the gravesite identified by local residents. One of the journalists who visited the bridge told Human Rights Watch that armed men on motorcycles chased him and a colleague out of the area as they tried to reach the old mine.[68]

On May 1, a police spokesman told Human Rights Watch that the government had not found any bodies in the area, though he was unable to give details about the investigation, including when the team visited the area, where they looked and who was on the team.[69] When alerted that the media had published photos of about 15 bodies, he asked for time to verify the story but never responded to repeated follow-up phone calls.

On May 5, local television station STV visited the location where the bodies were found, and aired footage that showed 13 bodies still lying under the bridge.[70] In response, the governor of Manica province announced that, by that point, decomposition had made it impossible to identify the bodies, and that the victims would be collected and buried.[71] Despite this, journalists from Al Jazeera visited the site on May 25 and found 15 bodies still there.[72]

Facing criticism from human rights groups and the media, the prosecutors’ office in Manica announced it would transfer the bodies to the hospital in Beira and investigate the case. On May 26, the Parliamentary Commission on Constitutional and Legal Affairs and Human Rights launched an investigation into the claims of a possible mass grave. The commission included members from the ruling Frelimo party and the opposition Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM). Renamo boycotted the investigation on the grounds that it would not be impartial.

On June 1, the head of the commission, Frelimo member of parliament Edson Macuacua, announced that the commission had concluded its work after speaking with local regulos (traditional chiefs), community leaders and local residents. The commission found no mass grave in Gorongosa district but did confirm the existence of 15 bodies at the location near the bridge, Macuacua said.[73] In footage aired by state television, a community leader who met the commission members denied the existence of a mass grave and the 15 bodies.

On June 6, the only opposition member of parliament to take part in the commission’s visit to Gorongosa, MDM’s Silvia Cheia, distanced herself from the commission’s findings. She accused Macuacua of “jumping to conclusions” and “intimidating” local residents during interviews.[74]

Ten months later, in April 2017, the office of the state prosecutor in Manica province said it would soon announce the results of autopsies that were conducted on 11 of the 15 bodies that had been transferred to Beira Hospital. A hospital official said the autopsies were concluded in March 2017 and the results were sent to the state prosecutor in Manica.[75]

In April 2017, two residents led a Human Rights Watch researcher to a road near Canda, which they assert led to the mine that contained the alleged mass grave. Security forces in army uniforms at a checkpoint on the road prevented the researcher from proceeding, allegedly for “security reasons.”

As of November 2017, the authorities had not released any information about the autopsy results or the investigation into the alleged mass grave.

Apparent Politically Motivated Crimes

The Mozambican authorities have failed to investigate at least 10 high-profile apparently politically motivated killings or attempted killings across Mozambique since March 2015.

  • On March 3, 2015, constitutional lawyer Gilles Cistac was shot dead outside a cafe in the center of Maputo. Witnesses said he was entering his car outside the building when four unidentified men from another car opened fired, killing Cistac and his driver. Cistac’s family and friends say he had been receiving threats after he publicly defended the disputed constitutionality of Renamo’s petition to create autonomous provincial authorities.[76]
  • On January 16, 2016, the secretary general of Renamo, Manuel Bissopo, was shot and severely wounded as he travelled in his car in the center of Beira city, in Sofala province. His bodyguard died. The incident took place hours after a news conference in which Bissopo had accused state security forces of abducting and killing members of his party.[77]
  • On February 4, 2016, senior Renamo official Filipe Jonasse Machatine was found dead with eight gunshot wounds in Gondola, Manica province, two days after he had been kidnapped by unidentified men.[78]
  • On March 7, 2016, a senior Renamo official in Inhambane province, Aly Jane, was found dead after he had disappeared four days earlier. His body, found near the Nhanombe River between Maxixe and Homoíne districts, bore signs of violence.[79]
  • On April 9, 2016, Renamo member of the National Council for Defence and Security, José Manuel, was shot dead outside Beira international airport after he had arrived from Maputo. It reportedly took the police about 10 hours to arrive at the scene.[80]
  • On June 22, 2016, the body of a senior Frelimo official in Manica province, José Fernando Nguiraze, was found by neighbors inside his house with gunshot wounds. He lived alone because his family had been evacuated for security reasons. Police said four unidentified Renamo members had committed the crime, but they provided no evidence to support the claim.[81]
  • On September 2, 2016, the administrator of Tica, in Nhamatanda district, Sofala province, Jorge Abílio, was killed by armed men whom the police identified as Renamo fighters. Abilio was ambushed after attending a community meeting in which he tried to convince local residents not to abandon the region despite frequent clashes between the Mozambican army and Renamo fighters.[82]
  • On September 22, 2016, senior Renamo official in Moatize district and member of the local Tete provincial assembly, Armindo Nkutche, died after being shot six times on the street, just hours after speaking at the assembly’s closing session.[83]
  • On October 8, 2016, Jeremias Pondeca¸ a Renamo member of a team preparing a meeting between President Nyusi and Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, was shot dead during his morning jog on Maputo’s main beach, Costa do Sol. His family only learned of his killing a day later, after contacting the authorities to report his disappearance and being told that an unidentified body with bullet wounds had been taken to the morgue. Preliminary police investigations suggest that four men who had been following Pondeca by car approached the victim and fired two shots at his head and one at his abdomen before fleeing.[84]
  • On October 4, 2017, the mayor of Nampula and member of the opposition MDM, Mahamudo Amurane, was shot and killed near his house by unidentified men.[85]

To date Attorney General Beatriz Buchili has not responded to a September letter from Human Rights Watch enquiring about the steps her office had taken to investigate or prosecute these cases (see Appendix III). The Mozambican Criminal Investigation Police, which is the state body responsible for conducting criminal investigations, had not concluded investigations into any of these cases nor had they been able to identify any suspects.