Mozambique 2016/2017

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Mozambique 2016/2017

The security forces and opposition members and supporters committed human rights abuses with impunity, including killings, torture and other ill-treatment. Thousands of refugees fled to Malawi and Zimbabwe. People expressing dissent or criticizing human rights violations, political and military instability or the country’s hidden debts faced attacks and intimidation.

Background

Violent clashes continued between the ruling party, the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO), and the main opposition party, the Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO), in the centre of Mozambique.

On 5 March, President Nyusi invited Afonso Dhlakama, leader of RENAMO, to talks on “restoring peace in the country”. Talks between FRELIMO and RENAMO teams started. On 10 June, the teams agreed to invite international mediators to facilitate talks around four points: RENAMO governing the six provinces where it claims it won elections in 2014; the cessation of armed activity; the formation of joint armed forces, police and intelligence services; and the disarmament and reintegration of RENAMO armed members.

In August, the mediators presented a proposed agreement. However, the parties disagreed over the condition that the government should withdraw its armed forces from the Gorongosa region, where Afonso Dhlakama is based, and no agreement was reached. Talks were continuing at the end of the year.

In April, the existence of hidden borrowing of more than US$1 billion for security and defence spending came to light. The disclosure led to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international donors suspending financial aid to Mozambique pending an independent international audit. In August, a parliamentary inquiry commission was established to investigate, but it had a majority of FRELIMO members and was boycotted by RENAMO. The commission’s findings were discussed in Parliament on 9 December in a closed session. The report had not been made public by the end of the year.

Mozambique’s human rights record was examined under the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process in June; Mozambique accepted 180 and rejected 30 recommendations. Recommendations on the ratification of the International Convention against enforced disappearance and the Rome Statute of the ICC, and on freedom of expression and corporate accountability were among those rejected.1

Lack of accountability

Members of the armed forces, police officials and secret service agents reportedly committed human rights violations against a number of people they suspected to be members or supporters of RENAMO. The violations included extrajudicial executions, torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary detentions and destruction of property. There was continued impunity for such crimes under international law and human rights violations.

On 10 May, Benedito Sabão, a subsistence farmer from the town of Catandica, Manica province, was arbitrarily arrested, ill-treated and shot at by suspected secret service agents, allegedly for supporting RENAMO. He survived the attack but continued to receive threats.2 Those suspected of criminal responsibility for the attack had not been identified, let alone brought to justice, by the end of the year.

In June, a group of Mozambican subsistence farmers in a refugee camp in Malawi said that their village in Tete province in Mozambique had been invaded by four vehicles with about 60 civilians armed with guns and machetes; the village had been labelled a RENAMO stronghold. The attackers set the village ablaze and torched crops that the farmers lived off. The refugees believed that these men were members of the armed forces.

RENAMO members and supporters reportedly looted health facilities and carried out attacks on highways and police stations, resulting in a number of casualties among the general population, as well as attacking the police and armed forces. The government failed to investigate and prosecute crimes against the general population committed by members and supporters of RENAMO.

In May, local and international media and civil society organizations reported the discovery of unidentified bodies and a mass grave near the Gorongosa region. An investigation was launched in June, but neither the bodies nor those suspected of responsibility had been identified at the end of the year.

On 8 October, Jeremias Pondeca, a senior RENAMO member and part of the mediation team to end the conflict between RENAMO and the government, was shot dead in the capital Maputo by unidentified men believed to be members of a death squad composed of security officers. Those suspected of criminal responsibility for the attack had not been identified at the end of the year.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

According to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, nearly 10,000 Mozambicans sought refuge in Malawi and Zimbabwe during the year. The Mozambican government did not recognize them as refugees, but considered them as economic migrants.

Freedom of expression

Intimidation and attacks against people expressing dissenting or critical views, including journalists and human rights defenders, occurred throughout the year.

On 23 May, political commentator and university professor José Jaime Macuane was abducted outside his home in Maputo by unidentified men believed to be members of a death squad composed of security officers. The men shot him in the legs and dumped him by the roadside in Marracuene district, 30km north of Maputo. The kidnappers told him that they had been ordered to leave him lame. José Jaime Macuane had publicly addressed issues of political governance, the ongoing clashes between FRELIMO and RENAMO, the hidden debts and violations of the right to freedom of expression. Those responsible for the abduction and shooting had not been identified at the end of the year.

Freedom of assembly

After the disclosure of hidden debts in April, a demonstration was called anonymously via text messages and social media. On 25 April, the police announced that any unauthorized demonstration would be repressed. On 28 and 29 April, the police reinforced their presence in the streets of Maputo but no demonstration took place.

In May, political parties without parliamentary representation and civil society organizations called for a peaceful demonstration to protest against the country’s hidden debts and political and military instability. However, Maputo City Council refused to allow the protest to take place.

João Massango, a leading member of the Ecology Party, was one of the organizers of this protest. On 20 May, he was the victim of an attempted abduction and was beaten by unidentified armed men believed to be members of a death squad composed of security officers in Maputo. Those responsible for the attack had not been identified at the end of the year.

  1. Mozambique: Amnesty International welcomes commitment to investigate extrajudicial executions, torture and other ill-treatment (AFR 41/4449/2016)
  2. Mozambique: Accused of being opposition member, shot at: Benedito Sabão (AFR 41/4099/2016)

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