(Johannesburg) – The killing of a prominent opposition leader on October 8, 2016, in Maputo puts ongoing peace talks in Mozambique at risk, Human Rights Watch said today.
Political Killings 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.
On August 8, 2015, former agent of the State Intelligence and Security Services, Inlamo Ali Mussa, was shot dead, apparently on the outskirts of Maputo. His family said he was planning to give interviews denouncing alleged abusive practices of Mozambique’s secret services. His body was found a day after he disappeared from his home, with his hands bound and two bullet wounds to his head.
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 also 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.
After the 1992 peace agreement that ended Mozambique’s 16-year civil war, RENAMO leader Afonso Dhlakama was allowed to keep a 300-man private armed guard. Successive failures to integrate other RENAMO fighters into the national army and civilian life have encouraged former fighters to join the private guards and to camp in old RENAMO training grounds. RENAMO, a political party that currently holds 89 seats in parliament, is now believed to have an armed force double the size of what it was permitted under the peace agreement.
Over the past four years, tension has increased between RENAMO and the governing party, FRELIMO, including an increase in armed attacks by RENAMO and by government forces. The parties signed a new peace agreement in September 2014, but RENAMO says the government has failed to integrate RENAMO fighters into the national army and police in accordance with the agreement. The government says RENAMO has refused to hand over a list of its militia to be integrated into the security forces because it wants to use them as leverage for political negotiations. FRELIMO won elections in October 2014, but RENAMO says it wants to govern the six provinces in which it claims it received more votes.
Preparations for a meeting between President Filipe Nyusi and Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, to reach a ceasefire and end the hostilities, started in July. The talks are coordinated by a team of international mediators led by a former Italian diplomat, Mario Raffaelli, a representative of the European Union.