Mozambique: Nampula Tragedy: Presidential Guard Blocked Gate and Stopped People Leaving

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Actions of the Presidential Guard may be behind the Nampula tragedy, which killed 10 people and injured 98, according to a Bulletin investigation, talking to people attending the event, including journalists and police officers.

On Wednesday 11 September President Filipe Nyusi, standing for a second term as president, gave a speech at a "showmicio" (free music "show" + "comicio" or meeting) at Nampula's 25 June Football Stadium. It can accommodate 5,000 people seated, but many more were there, standing on the field. Filipe Nyusi had just left the stadium when thousands of people tried to leave at the same time using a single open gate. Some fell and were trampled to death. Curiously no television showed the moment of the incident, nor are smartphone images circulating on social networks, as might be expected. So we investigated.

Nampula is an opposition city, and Frelimo last won it in 2008. Municipal elections in 2013 were won by MDM, and a by-election in 2017 and municipal elections in 2018 were won by Renamo. So many in the audience were supporters who had been brought long distances to fill the stadium.

Thousands of people, including many who came for the free music, were stuck for long hours and could not leave. Nyusi was scheduled to arrive at 15.00 and after that no one could leave. He arrived a half hour late. His speech finished at 17.00. After Nyusi's convoy of luxury cars left through the main gate, thousands of people tried to leave on foot through the gate after the cars, but the gate was closed again and no one could leave.

People were crowding near the only gate that was open during the day but were not allowed out. As soon as Filipe Nyusi and his entourage left, people who were bored all wanted to leave at the same time and the gate was closed again, causing a crush.

Many journalists left in convoy cars. But even journalists on foot were not allowed to leave. "I was able to sneak out through the small gate near the ticket window, because I was up against a deadline," one journalist told us.

Other Presidential candidates are protected by the police. But Filipe Nyusi, as the sitting President, is protected by the Presidential Guard (Casa Militar da Presidencia da Republica). The Presidencia website explains that "It is the function of the Casa Militar to protect the places occupied, permanently or provisionally, by the Head of State, including regulating and controlling access to areas occupied by the President of the Republic." https://www.presidencia.gov.mz/por/Presidencia/A-Casa-Militar

It was the Casa Militar agents, directed by Brig. Eugenio Roque, who were in charge - not the police - and it was Casa Militar which blocked the three gates to the stadium.

The initial lack of information about the tragedy was because most journalists had already left with the president. As word spread, they ran to the Central Hospital. where they were blocked by Casa Militar. At gunpoint, Eufrasio Gilberto, a cameraman of HAQ Televisao, was forced to hand over his camera. Others were forced by Casa Militar to delete any pictures they had taken.

Police Commander Suspended, but He Was Not in Charge

After the incident, Interior Minister Basilio Monteiro appointed an investigation commission of four senior police officer, and he suspended provincial police commander Joaquim Sive. But security at the event was not controlled by the police because it had been taken over by the Casa Military which is specifically responsible for Presidential security.

As the Presidencia website stresses: "The personnel of the Casa Militar come mainly from the armed forces and the police forces, on secondment basis. During the period of secondment, the personnel are totally subordinate to the Direction of the Casa Militar."

Police were not responsible for the showmicio security and the suspension of the Commander Joaquim Sive, who the local newspaper Ikweli called a “victim,” seems to have been intended to distract attention from the security of the President

Basilio Monteiro acted as Interior Minister to suspend the provincial police commander, but he is also an interested party in the case. Monteiro was in Nampula at the scene of the incident accompanying Filipe Nyusi in the campaign. Basilio Monteiro is part of Nyusi's campaign as a member of the Frelimo Central Brigade in Zambezia Province.

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