Maputo — The chairperson of Mozambique’s National Human Rights commission, Custodio Duma, has condemned the excessive use of force by the police to disperse a demonstration by demobilised soldiers on Tuesday.
A unit of the riot police (FIR) used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon against the former soldiers – but the police charges also affected ordinary passers-by who had nothing to do with the demonstration.
The police prevented the demonstrators, members of the Forum of Demobilised Soldiers, from gathering at the Antonio Repinga athletics circuit, near the office of Prime Minister Alberto Vaquina. They were demanding a pension of 20,000 meticais (about 664 US dollars) a month – which is three times higher than the largest of the current statutory minimum wages.
Reacting to a claim by Deputy Interior Minister Jose Mandra that the violence used against the demonstrators was correct and proportionate, Duma pointed out that citizens have a right to demonstrate as long as they do not create disturbances or disorder.
Cited in Thursday’s issue of the independent daily “O Pais”, Duma said the group of demobilised soldiers had done nothing that justified the police charge against them.
“All citizens have the right to demonstrate, as long as they are orderly and do not use force”, he said. “Even if this is not the best way of solving problems, it doesn’t matter. It’s a way of bringing pressure to bear. They can march, sing, display placards, even if they know that placards are not going to solve their problems”.
The spokesperson for the Forum, Constantino William, who was detained during the clashes, was released on Wednesday.
He told reporters that the police had threatened to drag him before a firing squad, and said that he would shortly have to appear in court. However, he does not seem to have formerly charged with any crime.