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Mozambique Police Crack Down on Opposition Before Election Results

Authorities Need to Ensure Accountability, Protect Candidates' and Voters' Rights

Supporters of the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) gather in Maputo to celebrate the results in the local elections on October 12, 2023. © 2023 by Alfredo Zuniga/AFP via Getty Images

Tensions appear to be rising in Mozambique as the country awaits the results of municipal elections held on Wednesday. Ahead of voting day, authorities had increased security measures throughout the country, following violent incidents reported in some municipalities during the election campaign.

While election day was largely peaceful, the following day violence re-emerged in several parts of the country, as police clashed with opposition party members. In the northern Nampula province, police used excessive force and fired tear gas against a crowd of opposition supporters backing the political party RENAMO, who went to the streets to peacefully celebrate non-official results, according to footage shared on social media.

A local election observers' group, Sala da Paz, which consists of members of various civil society groups, said at least one person was killed in the incident. Violent clashes between police and opposition supporters were also reported in Cuamba, Moatize, and Vilankulos municipalities.

Police were also implicated in arbitrary detentions of opposition members throughout the election process. On Thursday, police detained the RENAMO candidate and mayor of Quelimane city, Manuel de Araujo, allegedly because he was visiting polling stations, which police said was “disturbing” the work in the vote-counting process. He was released a few hours later, with no charges. Earlier in the month, police in Beira city, arrested three members of the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM), a national opposition party in power in Beira city. They were released after a judge found no legal basis for their arrests.

This apparent crackdown on opposition supporters and candidates violates fundamental human rights and undermines the integrity of the polls. The Mozambican authorities should urgently end police abuses and hold those responsible to account. As tensions rise while the country awaits the official results, authorities should be vigilant, prevent any further violence and police abuses, and uphold the right to peaceful protest and expression.

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