26 June 2019

Mozambique: Opposition Implosion Raises Spectre of Brutal Polls

Maputo — SLIGHTLY over 100 days after a series of devastating cyclones and over 100 days before crucial polls, Mozambique is at a crossroads while sitting on a ticking time bomb.

The impoverished country, still reeling from Cyclones Idai and Kenneth that left over 600 people dead, has to contend with disorderly preparations for polls that look likely to be violent as the main opposition implodes amid threats by some militants to kill their leader if he does not resign.

Spokesperson of the radical group, which has labeled itself the military wing of the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO), has called on party leader, Ossufo Momade, to step down before the October 15 elections.

"He has destroyed our party. If he does not want to go, we will kill him," threatened Mariano Nhongo, spokesperson of the group.

He replaced the late Afonso Dhlakama as the head of the opposition-cum-militant organisation upon his death last year.

The militant youths accuse Momade of "destroying" the party, which is an inference of his laid-back stance in comparison to Dhlakama, who led RENAMO during a 15-year civil war that ended in 1992.

They also threatened to disrupt talks between Momade and President Felipe Nyusi, who will lead the Mozambican Liberation Front (FRELIMO) at the polls.

Some RENAMO radicals took up arms against the government alleging vote rigging.

RENAMO has downplayed the threats, dismissing the youths threatening Momade as deserters.

Political commentator, Almiro Marcelino, noted the tensions in the opposition party, as heightened by the youths baying for their leader's blood, exacerbated an atmosphere already made tense by terror attacks north of the country.

"These threats, coupled with the killer cyclones and terror attacks that have marred preparations for the elections, Mozambique is in dire straits," Marcelino said in an interview.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility of the attacks in the Cabo Delgado Province under the banner of the Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCA).

These, together with Cyclone Kenneth, have caused displacements and disrupted the voter registration exercise.

While Kenneth and the insurgency have rattled the north, Idai's impact has been largely countrywide.

There are fears polls could be postponed in the wake of indications the country would not be ready to hold a credible exercise.

Former president, Joaquim Chissano, believes polls should not be postponed because of the ructions in RENAMO, which at the time of publication had not yet presented the proposal for presidential candidacy.

The National Election Commission (CNE) has received candidacy proposals from 39 parties and three coalitions for the legislative and provincial elections prior to the sixth multiparty elections.

"In the past, the country held elections when a much larger number of people were under arms," Chissano said.

The statesman was at the helm of Mozambique at the height of the civil war and the ceasefire signed in 1992.

Saturday, this past weekend, marked 100 days since Cyclone Idai ripped into central Mozambique.

Kenneth hit six weeks later.

This was the first time in recorded history that the country of 30.37 million has been hit by two cyclones in the same season, raising serious concerns about the destruction climate change will wreak in the future.

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