WORLD REPORT 1999 - Mozambique

Human Rights Developments
Mozambique continued to consolidate peace and reconciliation, five years after the peace accord, with the 1999 presidential and parliamentary elections to be a litmus test of how sustainable the peace was to be. Despite improvements, human rights concerns including heavy-handed policing and the manipulation of the electoral process remained.

On June 30, the first ever municipal elections occurred after a number of delays. Polls were limited to just thirty-three towns and cities, with nearly 1.5 million eligible voters, about 10 percent of the population. The elections were notable for the boycott by the main opposition parties, voter absenteeism, and poor administration; many polling stations opened late and the National Election Commission (CNE) took two days longer than the fifteen allowed by law to compile and announce the results. Fewer than 15 percent of voters turned out.

The Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO) and many of the smaller parties which stood in the 1994 multiparty elections called for a boycott and used the two-week campaign period to promote their boycott. This resulted in ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) candidates being unopposed for mayor ( president ) in nineteen of the thirty-three cities. FRELIMO won the mayoral elections in all thirty-three cities and towns although independent candidates gained significant numbers of seats in Maputo, Beira, and Matola.

Witnesses described some fraud and intimidation. RENAMO cadres forcibly collected and destroyed voters cards in the northern town of Angoche, Nampula province. Police detained ten RENAMO members there on charges of seizing voting cards, who were sentenced to between three and six months in prison. In Chimoio, Manica province, RENAMO members reportedly visited the bars and warned people that if they had ink on their hands - voter’s hands are stamped to prevent repeat voting - the party would note for future reference that they had voted.

FRELIMO supporters in Maputo threw stones at vehicles full of supporters of Philippe Gagnaux, one of the independent candidates for mayor of the capital, injuring a women. RENAMO, also alleged that six of its members were arrested by the police in Tete city in June, targeted because they were campaigning for a boycott of the elections. RENAMO also published in April a list of eighty-four names of RENAMO members or sympathizers who it alleged lost their jobs or were otherwise victimized because of their political loyalties. By August the Supreme Court had identified six anomalies in the administration of the electoral process at polling stations throughout the country and ordered the CNE to correct the errors.
Arms smuggling was a particularly prominent issue and generated joint South African-Mozambican police operations against it. The head of Chokwe prison was arrested in May, charged with accepting a bribe after releasing four alleged arms dealers. The Mozambican Christian Council’s “Guns into Hoes” project continued to grow with some 27,000 items of weaponry exchanged since 1995 for useful goods such as bicycles, sewing machines, or agricultural tools. Landmines remained a problem, but the government demonstrated its support of the 1997 Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty by ratifying it on August 25.

Police behavior remained a serious concern and continued to be the source of the majority of complaints Human Rights Watch received in 1997. In January police killed one man and wounded four others as they attempted to disperse some 250 security guards who demonstrated for better pay against a private security firm in Maputo run by the United States corporation Wackenhut. Human Rights Watch also received a number of reports of excessive force against suspects by police in Nampula, including shootings. In May, in the Angoche area, a policeman who shot a man suspected of stealing a chicken but he remained in post. In late November 1997 reporter João Chamusse tried to interview people about a robbery in which police were alleged to have been too intimidated to intervene. The police detained him on the pretext that he did not have his identity card.

Conscription had ended with the signing of the October 1992 peace agreement, but the Mozambican parliament on November 26, 1997 passed a bill reintroducing military conscription, against strong opposition from RENAMO. According to the law all Mozambicans who reached eighteen must register for military service. The reintroduction of conscription followed failure to attract volunteers to the Mozambican Defense Force (FADM) In 1998, there were reports that renewed conscription had been abused. The commander of the Samora Machel Military College repeatedly denied that youths in Nampula were being violently recruited into the military. The Child-Soldier Campaign, a network of Mozambican NGOs dedicated to children’s welfare, also lobbied parliament to legislate against conscription of former child-soldiers who fought in the war ending in 1992. According to the campaign’s coordinator there were some 10,000 ex-combatant youngsters who were at risk of conscription.

Defending Human Rights
The Mozambican Human Rights League (LDH) complained that a lack of resources made it difficult to document and publish reports on abuses, although it announced that Mozambique had “the best human rights record” in southern Africa. The Association of Human Rights Development (DHD) held a number of workshops in Maputo on human rights but did not embark upon documentation of abuses. After a long delay, Amnesty International obtained an invitation from the Interior Ministry and visited the country in June to look at policing.

The Role of the International Community
In April President Chissano thanked the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the Paris Club for measures to reduce Mozambique’s foreign debt and pledged to work on a general financial strategy called the 2020 Agenda. Mozambique also qualified for a new World Bank/IMF initiative as a Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC). In 1988, the Paris Club agreed to cut the debt by 80 per cent and granted U.S. $170 million in bilateral aid. The E.U. tried to mediate over the municipal election boycott and urged the opposition parties to reconsider their withdrawal. In 1988, the Paris Club agreed to cut the debt by 80 percent and granted U.S. $170 million in bilateral aid.

United States
The new U.S. ambassador to Maputo, Dean Curran, arrived in Mozambique in December 1997. However, bilateral U.S.-Mozambican relations deteriorated over the conduct of the municipal elections. The U.S. issued a demarche in May to the government and withdrew support for the election process alleging that transparency and fairness were lacking. USAID committed U.S. $44 million to Mozambique for development aid in 1998 and an additional U.S. $19 million through the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the P.L. 480 Title II Emergency program. The U.S. Peace Corps opened a program in Mozambique in October working on health care issues and English teaching. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin visited Mozambique in July to support the retooling of the economy from socialism to free enterprise.