from ARMANDO DOMINGOS in Maputo, Mozambique
MAPUTO, (CAJ News) – MOZAMBICANS are tensely awaiting the results of the just-concluded municipal elections, projected to be the tightest race in years.
In this Southern African country, polls can be a matter of life and death.
Political activists and electorates hope the situation could not spiral beyond the anxiety that is so palpable lately after the electoral exercise.
The alleged killing of some opposition supporters by the police, vote rigging claims, repression and delays in some polling stations as well as an internet shutdown have marred the sixth municipal elections.
Some 22 parties and civil society organisations contested the polls in 65 municipalities in the terror-prone but gas-rich country.
Some 48 million Mozambicans were registered to vote.
While Mozambique is on the throes of an Islamist insurgency, in the north, there were no reports of related disruptions in that region.
The closure of polling on Wednesday however coincided with reports emerging that Manuel de Araujo, the mayor of the eastern port city of Quelimane, had been arrested.
Riot police detained and released the opposition Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO) politician later on Thursday amid his supporters claiming he was headed for a landslide.
Mozambique’s Police Force (PRM) alleged de Araujo was “disturbing normal voting process” at some local polling stations.
Police confirmed they had fired teargas to disperse supporters in the Garue area of Zambezia but denied reports there had been any deaths.
The opposition has claimed victory in that area.
The day after polling, the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (locally known as Centro para Democracia e Direitos Humanos – CDD) reported the death of two civilians at the hands of police in the Vilankulo area of the southern Inhambane province.
RENAMO claimed to be leading the vote count with a significant difference.
Similar skirmishes and alleged police brutality were reported in the northern provinces of Nampula and Niassa, where RENAMO was tipped to win.
Ossufo Momade, leader of the RENAMO, said the irregularities during elections were plunging Mozambique into “social chaos and upheaval.”
Momade, leader of the former rebel group since 2019, argued President Felipe Nyusi, who leads the country and the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), and commander-in-chief of the PRM, Bernardino Rafael, should be held accountable.
“We hold Bernardino Rafael (police chief) and the ruling party responsible for all the consequences that arise from the rage of Mozambicans in protest against the lynching and murder of democracy,” the opposition leader said.
Casting his vote at a polling station in Maputo on Wednesday, Nyusi appealed for peace, alluding to elections to be a process “like a game” where results can go either way.
Former Minister of Defence, Nyusi, is the fourth president of Mozambique and has been in power since 2015. Presidential elections are scheduled for October 2024.
On Thursday, the Mozambican head of state met Azerbaijani ambassador, Elchin Amirbayov, whose country, Nyusi revealed, asked for Mozambique’s support in the ongoing process to achieve peace with neighboring Armenia.
“This request is a clear acknowledgment of our approach of choosing dialogue as the only weapon for dispute resolution,” Nyusi said.
Mozambique’s latest peace deal between FRELIMO and RENAMO is as recent as 2019, ending intermittent civil wars, but at a smaller scale than the one that raged from 1977, two years after independence from Portugal, and 1992.
The conflict, and resultant famine, left 1 million people dead.
Disputed elections outcomes were at the centre of the recent conflicts between the ruling party and RENAMO, which then was under Afonso Dhlakama, who passed on in 2018.
FRELIMO has won every national election since the end of the civil war in 1992. It controls 44 municipalities, ahead of RENAMO’s eight and one for the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM), a breakaway from RENAMO.
The Mozambique Electoral Commission (locally, STAE) pledged to release preliminary results this weekend but it could take a fortnight to unveil the official outcome.
– CAJ News