Maputo — The campaign ahead of Mozambique's general elections, scheduled for 15 October, ran peacefully for the first two days, but there was an alarming rise in violence and political intolerance, in the subsequent period, according to the "Sala da Paz" ("Peace Room"), a coalition of election observation bodies.
Members of the Sala da Paz include some of the best known and most respected NGOs in the country, including the Christian Council of Mozambique, the Bar Association, and the Women's Forum. There are a minimum of three Sala da Paz observers in each of the country's 154 districts.
In a statement on the first ten days of the campaign, read out to a Maputo press conference on Monday, by Sala da Paz spokesperson Fernanda Lobato, the organisation expressed its concern at the murder of two campaigners, one from the ruling Frelimo Party, and one from the main opposition party, Renamo, in Dondo district, in the central province of Sofala.
Citing the anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity, the statement said that Frelimo supporters had issued death threats against a Renamo member in Mocumbura, in Magoe district, in the western province of Tete. Also in Mocumbura, Frelimo supporters prevented Renamo from campaigning.
In Namaacha district, on the border with Swaziland, a member of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) named Antonio Sitoe was attacked by a supposed Frelimo member, Jose Luis Tembe, because he was sticking MDM posters in a place where Tembe said only Frelimo posters should go.
In the Tete district of Changara, a member of the district election commission appointed by the MDM, Anselmo Lapson, was the victim of arson when his house was burnt down. He had previously received threats, supposedly from Frelimo members, demanding that he leave the district.
One of the worst incidents took place last Thursday, in Derre district, in the central province of Zambezia, where a teacher named Aristides Conceicao and his wife were severely beaten in their own home. Conceicao's only offence was to have received the Renamo candidate for Zambezia provincial governor, Manuel de Araujo.
In the northern province of Nampula, Renamo spokesperson Arnaldo Chalaua said the police had detained 17 Renamo members in Namapa district for flyposting their party's propaganda at night. The police, he said, had claimed that flyposting at night is illegal - which is untrue.
In the Nampula district of Rapale, a Renamo member was arrested for removing Frelimo posters which had been stuck on the walls of his house without his permission. In these cases, the Renamo members were detained for several days because a judge was not available to set them free.
Sala da Paz warned of the dangers of retaliatory violence. One such case has already happened in Tete. Supposed members of Frelimo attacked Renamo member Celestino Bande in his own home in the administrative post of Kambulatsisi. Renamo members retaliated with an attack on the local Frelimo secretary, Domingos Torre, and his wife, who had allegedly led the assault on Bande.
The statement noted that all three of the main parties - Frelimo, Renamo and the MDM - have been sticking their propaganda in places where the law forbids flyposting, such as schools, courtrooms, places of worship, traffic signs and monuments.
There were many incidents when one party destroyed the election propaganda of another, or posted over it - but Sala da Paz accused the police of acting only in cases where the injured party was Frelimo.
The statement also accused Frelimo of breaking the article in the law forbidding the use of state assets, such as vehicles and public buildings, for political campaigning. Thus a vehicle of the Buzi district administration in Sofala joined a Frelimo motorcade on the first day of the campaign, 31 August, and on 2 September a Ministry of Education vehicle was used to transport Frelimo members to a rally in Nhamatanda, also in Sofala.
On a more positive note, Sala da Paz welcomed the police protection given to parties campaigning in those districts of the northern province of Cabo Delgado affected by an islamist insurgency.
Although campaigning could, by and large, occur normally in these areas, the statement noted two attacks by insurgents. In one case, on 2 September, a man was murdered by insurgents in Chitunda, in Muidumbe district.
In the second case, five insurgents tried to attack a man in Mocimboa da Praia district, but he fought back and used a bow and arrow to kill one of his assailants.
Sala da Paz recommended that the political parties should persuade their members and supporters to obey the law, and remove propaganda from prohibited places. It called for political tolerance, particularly on the part of Frelimo and Renamo, and urged the police to behave in an impartial manner.