Regional force in Mozambique probed after video emerges of body being burnt

By Borges Nhamire and Matthew Hill

A southern African regional force that’s been helping Mozambique fight Islamic State-linked rebels is investigating a video circulating on social media that depicts two uniformed soldiers throwing what appears to be a dead body onto a pile of burning debris.

The footage shows one of the soldiers pouring a flammable liquid over the corpse, while others look on and film the scene on their mobile phones. At least one of the soldiers’ uniforms has a South African flag on it. Bloomberg wasn’t able to verify the authenticity of the video. 

South Africa is the biggest contributor to the regional force known as the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique, or Samim. 

The South African National Defence Force is aware of the video, which was believed to have been filmed in November, and the Samim force commander is investigating “this despicable act,” it said in a statement Tuesday. It referred to the incident as “against the law of armed conflict.” 

Disgruntled Communities

If genuine, the video will further harm the reputation of the regional force, which has been criticized by local communities for not pursuing insurgents aggressively enough in the northern Cabo Delgado province since their arrival in 2021. There has also been tension between Samim and Rwandan security forces that Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi called on to help fight the rebels before the deployment of the southern African troops. 

Samim said in a separate statement that it had set up an inquiry, without confirming the act depicted in the video took place in its area of responsibility. Mozambique’s defense ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

At least 4,500 people have died in the violence that began in Mozambique 2017, and about one million have fled their homes. Mozambican forces have also faced allegations of abuse in Cabo Delgado. Samim said in November two of its members died on Nov. 29 in fighting in Nkonga in the Nangade district that borders Tanzania and the Palma district. The regional force killed more than 30 rebels in that battle, it said in a statement at the time.

TotalEnergies SE plans to build a $20 billion liquefied natural-gas project near Palma but put the project on hold more than two years ago due to the violence. The company has said it will only consider resuming work once peace has been restored. 

While the security situation has improved in the coastal strip that’s home to the gas project, fighting continues further inland. TotalEnergies didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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