Tense Mozambique in fiercest election fever ever

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From Arimando Domingos in Maputo

Pomp and trumpet blast characterised the end of the
official campaign period in what is panning out to be the most
fiercely-contested polls in Mozambique but in the background, tensions
are brewing and some doubts persisting over a credible exercise.

Campaigns ended on Saturday with all favourites in the race for the
presidency, all high-spirited ahead of the Tuesday vote, drawing
thousands into respective venues for their final rallies.

A total of 13 million Mozambican voters were to participate in the
national exercise to elect the president, 250 parliamentarians and 10
provincial assemblies plus their governors.

Incumbent, Filipe Nyusi, traversed the 1 400 km in a final campaign
exercise that started in the northeastern Nampula and concluded in
Matola, to the south.

The local stadium was a sea of red, the signature colour of the Front
for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), in power since independence
from Portugal in 1975.

Music blazed from the vehicles of exuberant supporters outside the
venue, with the carnival also continuing inside while they awaited his
address.

Nyusi pledged that if re-elected, his administration would continue
building peace, security, public order, political stability, tolerance,
harmony, democracy and national unity.

FRELIMO's campaign is premised on sustainable and inclusive economic and
social development.

"During the campaign, we showed that we have the best programme to find
the best solutions that the country needs," he told supporters mostly clad
in red T-shirts.

Nyusi also promised his government, if re-elected, would maintain a
crackdown against corruption.

"We shall catch the corrupt and bring them to trial," the incumbent
said.

The northern port city of Nacala, some 2 000 km away from Nyusi's rally,
the streets teemed with supporters of the main opposition Mozambique
National Resistance (RENAMO).

Many chanted party slogans and sang aboard bicycles and motor-cycles in
anticipation of the address by party leader, Ossufo Momade.

Cultural ensembles added to the festive atmosphere in this region that
is seen as the stronghold of the party.

RENAMO romped to a convincing victory in municipal elections held last
year- winning five of seven posts.

Momade was only formally elected in January this year to succeed
longtime party leader, Afonso Dhlakama, after the latter's death last
year.

These will be the Southern African country's first elections without
Dhlakama.

The incumbent's main rival, Momade, pledged that if elected, a RENAMO-led
government would slash electricity and water tariffs and enhance health,
education and transport services.

"On Tuesday (today), we are all going to vote for RENAMO and for Ossufo
Momade. Vote for the development of our country," he told thousands of
party fans.

The final day of the campaign saw him traverse over 200 km between
Angoche, also in Nampula, to Nacala. In between, he made a stop at his
homeland of the Island of Mozambique.

Another front-runner, Daviz Simango, of the Mozambique Democratic
Movement (MDM), restricted his final rally to the city of Beira.

It was the epicentre of the Cyclone Idai, which left massive
infrastructural and human destruction when it made landfall in
Mozambique in March.

Beira is still reeling from the devastation, hence the atmosphere was
laid back as compared to the fanfare characterising final rallies held
by Nyusi and Momade.

His criticism of the Maputo Peace and Reconciliation Agreement signed in
August between FRELIMO and RENAMO dominated Simango's address.

Some hardliners in RENAMO are opposed to the truce and have thrown their
weight behind factional head, Mariano Nhongo, as the leader of the
party.

The furore stems from the issue of the integration of RENAMO's armed men
back into society.

"It is not enough to sign agreements just for the sake of signing them,"
Simango said.

Simango said if elected, his government would prioritise education,
health and agriculture.

"These form triangular base for the country's development," the
opposition leader said.

"An MDM government will ensure opportunities for all on all fronts of
economic and social life," Simango pledged.

Bloodshed and natural disasters have however overshadowed progress made
by political leaders to deliver a credible poll of some 30 million
people.

The Centre for Public Integrity (CIP) estimates that 44 people were
killed during the six-week election campaign. Some 271 people have been
injured and 59 detained.

However, while political violence has been documented, most of the
deaths are attributed to accidents involving vehicles used during the
campaign period.

CIP classified the run-up to the election as bloody.

Police arrested 50 people in connection with the violence.

The recent murder of election observation leader, Anastácio Matavel in
the city of Xai-Xai in Gaza, was the lowest point.

Some rogue elements within the police force have been implicated in the
killing.

In the most tragic incident, ten people died in a stampede in September
at the end of a rally addressed by Nyusi at a stadium in Nampula.

Predictably, the terror attacks by Islamist groups north of the country
were always going to be an impediment to the holding of peaceful
elections.

The province of Cabo Delgado is worst afflicted.

The Mozambique's Electoral Commission (CNE) has announced ten voting
stations in the most affected districts of Macomia, Mocimboa da Praia
and Muidumbe districts would not open for the general election.

This will leave 5 400 voters unable to cast their ballot.

The electoral process poll has already suffered setbacks in the region.

A wave of attacks by the militants during voter registration, which
began in May, forced the closure of several registration posts in some
districts.

Some areas suffered violent attacks during the just-ended campaigns.

The United Nations (UN) estimates that approximately 60 000 people have
been affected or displaced by the insecurity after the conflict started
in late 2017.

"It might be too late to ensure safe elections in these areas," said
Zenaida Machado, Human Rights Watch (HRW) Africa researcher.

The Electoral Commission has disclosed that an undisclosed number of
people may not be able to vote because they have lost their voters cards
or did not register to vote after fleeing attacks on their villages.

It could not be ascertained how many voters would not participate.

More than 200 people have been killed during the crisis in Cabo Delgado.

The area has been plagued by insecurity perpetrated by the Al-Sunna wa
Jama'a or Al-Shabab.

Since then, armed groups have carried out over 200 attacks on villages,
and security forces and armed groups have clashed several times.

The United Nations estimates that approximately 60 000 people have been
affected or displaced by the insecurity.

Nyusi lauded the military for its commitment in fighting the terrorist
groups active in the resources-rich area.

"We reiterate our total commitment to guaranteeing security to the
population of Cabo Delgado," Nyusi said.

- CAJ News


 

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