Mozambique: Polling Stations Attacked in Sofala and Niassa

Maputo — The Mozambican police announced on Wednesday that it has arrested nine people in connection with an attempt to destroy a voting centre in Inharingue locality, in Machanga district, in the central province of Sofala.

The spokesperson for the general command of the police, Orlando Mudumane, told a Maputo press conference that the attackers wanted to grab the ballot boxes from the nine polling stations in this centre, but were prevented from doing so by "the prompt intervention of the police".

However, the Sofala provincial branch of STAE (Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat) made clear that the intervention was not particularly prompt. In the attack, one polling station chairperson was assaulted, and then all the polling station staff (MMVs) sought refuge in the surrounding bush.

The police later rescued them and brought them back to the polling centre. The police and STAE agree that the attackers did not steal or destroy the ballot boxes, if that had been their intention.

Mudumane described the attackers as "300 members and sympathisers of Renamo". As they left, they burnt down five houses in the vicinity.

But Mudumane did not say which part of Renamo the attackers came from. The movement has split, and a faction led by Mariano Nhongo, describing itself as the "Renamo Military Junta" has described the man elected as Renamo leader at a congress in January, Ossufo Momade, as "a traitor".

Nhongo threatened to disrupt the elections, and to murder those participating in the election campaign. This must make his faction the prime suspect for the attack. Certainly Momade's Renamo would have no reason to attack a polling station in Machanga which is regarded as an opposition stronghold.

While the attackers in Machanga failed, in the northernmost province of Niassa an angry Renamo crowd destroyed six polling stations in Maniamba in Lago district.

According to the latest issue of the "Mozambique Political Process Bulletin" published by the anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP), the Renamo supporters justified their attack on the polling stations with the claim that electoral fraud was being committed there.

After the voting, but before the count, the Renamo crowd surrounded the primary school housing the polling stations. Police fired in the air to disperse the crowd, but were unsuccessful. The crowd retaliated by throwing stones at the police and then burned all the ballot boxes. The classrooms in the Maniamba school that were being used as polling stations were reduced to ashes.

MMVs, journalists and even the police who had been stationed at this polling centre fled into the bush, and were rescued by other police officers at around dawn on Wednesday.

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