Human Rights in Africa: Review of 2019 - Mozambique [AFR 01/1352/2020]


Various interrelated trends drove political instability. Armed groups carried out attacks against civilians, and security forces were alleged to have committed serious human rights violations and abuses in their response to the violence. The crackdown on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association continued.


The FRELIMO-led government and the main opposition party, RENAMO, reached a peace deal aimed at disarming RENAMO’s forces and integrating them into the national security apparatus. However, one faction of RENAMO refused to recognise the deal and began launching armed attacks.

Cyclones Idai and Kenneth ravaged parts of central and northern Mozambique in March and April respectively, killing some 600 people, and causing over US$2-billion damage to infrastructure, homes, livestock, food and water sources and the livelihoods of over 2-million people. The government response was inadequate, and disturbing allegations also emerged that women survivors were forced to trade sex for food aid.

Impunity - The conflict in Cabo Delgago

Cabo Delgado province continued to experience armed attacks by individuals believed to be members of an extremist group, popularly known as “Al-Shabaab”. The attackers invaded villages, set houses on fire, hacked villagers to death with machetes and looted their food. Although the government increased its military presence in the region, its response was inadequate. Civilians suspected of being extremists and journalists reporting on the attacks were subjected to intimidation, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, and other ill-treatment, and even summary executions.

On 23 January, a South African businessman Andre Hanekom died in mysterious circumstances under police custody after being shot in the arm and stomach. He had been abducted by four masked men armed with AK 47 rifles in Palma district on 1 August 2018. A series of events between security forces, justice and health services culminated in his death. The Mozambican authorities have not conducted any investigations into the torture allegations and his death.

Freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association

Authorities continued to crack down on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. There was an escalation in repression and a clampdown on civil society, journalists, human rights defenders and activists ahead of the elections held in October.

The government restricted media freedom, including preventing the media from reporting on the current political and social conditions in Cabo Delgado. Journalists and researchers were harassed, intimidated, arrested and detained for reporting on the conflict in Cabo Delgado. After the arrest of Amade Abubacar and Germano Adriano in January, the governor of Cabo Delgado threatened journalists during a press conference in Pemba that there was much more happening in the province than human rights abuses and, warned them of dire consequences if they continued to report on these abuses.

On 5 February, the police used excessive force against 100 demonstrators who were peacefully protesting the Administrative Court’s decision to bar Manuel de Araújo from running for a second term as mayor of Quelimane city. The police arrested 15 protesters and one journalist, Nhama Matabicho, who was covering the protest, confiscating his equipment and beating him so severely that he required hospitalization.[1]

On 18 January, Fátima Mimbire, a woman human rights defender and former Centre for Public Integrity (CIP) researcher, received intimidating messages and death threats on social media.[2] The attacks began when CIP launched a campaign denouncing the move by government to repay the aforementioned US$2- billion loans. CIP was distributing T-shirts to the public with the message “I won’t pay for hidden debts”. From 21 to 24 January, the PRM surrounded CIP’s office in Maputo and ordered people to remove the T-shirts, which they then confiscated. They also ordered CIP to stop distributing the T-shirts. Further, FRELIMO militants have been advocating violence against Fátima on social media, and to this effect, on 3 May 2019, Alice Tomás, FRELIMO member of parliament, agitated on Facebook for Fatima “to be raped by 10 strong and energetic men to teach her a lesson.”

The rights of refugees and asylum seekers

Amnesty International received worrying reports of arbitrary arrests and attempts to deport refugees by the security forces. On 17 January, the police and immigration officers arrested 11 refugees and five asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Ethiopia. The police and immigration officers arrived at the Maratane Camp in the evening.[3] On arrival, these officers beat, handcuffed and arrested the refugees and asylum seekers without a warrant. On the same evening, the PRM transferred them from Nampula to the Third Police Station in Pemba, Cabo Delgado. The refugees and asylum seekers were not informed of any reasons for their detention.[4]

Amnesty International also notes with concern that on 23 January, the Government deported seven men from the group. They were not notified of a deportation order, nor were they permitted to challenge the legality of their deportation. When they arrived in Kinshasa, DRC, the immigration officials denied them entry as they did not have any travel documents and they were sent back to Mozambique. On 26 January, the refugees and asylum seekers arrived in Pemba and were immediately transferred to the Third Police Station where they were still being held at the end of the year.[5]

[1] VOA Português, Quelimane: Polícia trava marcha em apoio a Manuel de Araújo e agride jornalista, 5 February 2019,

[2] Amnesty International, Mozambique: Woman human rights defender facing threats online: Fátima Mimbire, 29 January 2019,

[3] Amnesty International phone interviews, 30 May 2019.

[4] Amnesty International (13 June 2019) Mozambique: Refugees, Asylum Seekers Held Arbitrarily – AFR 41/0465/2019,

[5] Ibid.