Bodies found scattered in Mozambican bush
Maputo - Regardless of whether there is any mass grave in central Mozambique - as journalists have claimed - there are certainly victims of atrocities decomposing in the bush, and their remains have been photographed and filmed.
On Thursday, Mozambique’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) - a statutory though independent body - threw its considerable weight behind the growing calls for a thorough investigation of the deaths.
The story that there is a mass grave in Gorongosa district was first published by the Portuguese news agency Lusa, which said that a group of peasants had found the grave near an abandoned gold mine in Canda administrative post, about 76 kilometres from the district capital, Gorongosa town.
A statement issued a week ago by the district administrator, Manuel Jamaca, says the authorities investigated the story - and found nothing.
He described the story as “disinformation”.
But shortly after this denial, photos of bodies appeared on social media, taken by a Mozambican journalist who had visited the scene.
The bodies were said to be a few hundred metres from the site of the supposed mass grave.
Any suspicions about the authenticity of these photographs was dispelled when the same bodies were filmed by the independent television station, STV, which counted 13 of them. Nine of the bodies were lying under a bridge over the Piro river.
The other four bodies were a few metres from the bridge, near a field.
This is not in Gorongosa, but in the neighbouring district of Macossa, in Manica province.
The shocking story was aired on the STV evening news on Wednesday.
Jamaca admitted that these bodies existed.
He believed the victims did not die at the bridge but were killed elsewhere and their bodies later dumped.
He remained adamant in his insistence that there was no mass grave anywhere in Gorongosa.
So far nobody knows who the victims in Macossa are, or who killed them.
This part of central Mozambique has been the stage for clashes between the rebel movement Renamo and the police and armed forces.
The CNDH on Thursday said the discoveries indicated “serious violations of human rights”, and called for a full and independent investigation, in which all the relevant bodies would be given unfettered access to the sites of the killings.
The CNDH is a statutory, independent body.
Its members are appointed by the government, by the political parties in parliament and by civil society.
Its current chairperson is a prominent human rights lawyer and civil society activist, Custodio Duma.
The CNDH also urged the authorities to collect the bodies and take them to a morgue where autopsies could be held.
Attempts should be made to identify the bodies, and deliver them to their relatives so that they could be given a decent funeral.
– African News Agency