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The cry of Cabo Delgado

Ana Sofia Fonseca*

There are screams that time doesn’t stop. Hands are thrown to the head. The whole body runs away to look at it. It looms out in a cry: “My son, my son!” A cry at the age of 42. Two steps forward. Suddenly, the body was immobile. How do you hold on to the past? That cry: “My son!” From the center of the earth. He recognized it immediately. I haven’t seen him since he was stolen. 42 years ago. He was five, he was shorter than bullets. Her hands stuck to her head, in that cry: “My son!” How do you embrace the son that “the white man took”? The son became a 47-year-old man. Run towards the mother. Tears faster than the legs. They fall into a hug. Both. Like the day he fell from his capulana and was grabbed by Portuguese troops. For the colonial war. The cry now tears, happiness already disgraced. Mother and son in a hug.

From the burnt village. Slowly, the smoke reaches the rest of the world. It will arrive denser.

It was 10 years ago and Joaquina Mgongo’s scream continues to make me shiver. I met her in northern Mozambique. In a lost village, there for the bands of Mocimboa da Praia, Cabo Delgado province. These past few days, I have been thinking about her a lot. There’s no phone, never had. Neither water nor light. But there is war at the door. Again. He doesn’t speak Portuguese, only Maconde, but feelings don’t need a dictionary. “My son!” Where will Joaquina be? Will he be one of the thousands of victims of the terror that is taking over the region? You know what it is like to flee into the bush, run across the grass, children and fear on your back. That scream stuck to our lives, after days of searching. A 42-year-old photograph of her and her son, the boy dressed as a troop, the only hope of finding his whereabouts. Villages and villages, “do you know this lady?”. The eyes of the elders fixed on the photograph, on the son’s current features. Then, in amazement: “Ba, the son that the white man took”. The son that the Portuguese military made a war mascot. They packed in their luggage and dispatched to Lisbon. Around here, each one went to his peace. And he, Joaquina’s son, stuck in an abandoned car, not knowing who she was. Nor, who was he himself.

War is war, they are all the same. And the war returned to the land of Joaquina. No one knows for sure which hands the weapons are in, there are those who proclaim the self-proclaimed Islamic State, there is al-Qaeda, there are armed groups linked to the military. And there is a land rich in gas fields. They demand peace, spread terror. Children, women, men running for their lives. In a village, 11 beheaded in one day. But who runs without a destination, does not leave the place. From the burnt village. Slowly, the smoke reaches the rest of the world. It will arrive denser. Terror grows like weed. Without conditions, Médecins Sans Frontières leave the post. The bishop of Pemba remains of stone and lime. To give voice to those who do not have. To make us hear Joaquina’s cry. The cry of Cabo Delgado. “My son, my son!” Are we deaf?


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