Electoral tensions in a ‘rebellious’ Mozambican city

 
On Saturday, during the run-up to a municipal election in the city of Beira, law enforcement officers were pitted against supporters of the outgoing mayor from the opposition party. Our Observer was an eyewitness to the events that took place.
 
Mozambique has seen several instances of political violence over the last few months. According to Radio Mozambique, the conflict in Beira on November 16 injured at least 46 people. The clashes occurred two days before the close of the electoral campaign for the November 20 election. Beira, a port city and the capital of Sofala province, is the second largest city in Mozambique, after Maputo. Given the city’s political importance, the different political parties compete fiercely in municipal elections.
 
Daviz Simango, the mayor of Beira, is eyeing a third term as a candidate for the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), a party that split off from Renamo (Mozambique National Resistance) in 2009. The MDM is Mozambique’s third largest party after Frelimo (the governing party, which has ruled the country since independence in 1975) and Renamo, the two main rival parties that fought each other in a bloody civil war from 1975 to 1992 that killed a million people.
 
Renamo did not participate in the municipal elections because they did not come to an agreement with the national electoral commission.
 
Miguel Mangueze, from the online newspaper @Verdade, took all of these photos.
 
Contributors

“Some people are considering camping out at the polling stations to ensure they will be able vote on Election Day”

Helder Shirangano Xavier is a journalist based in Nampula, in northern Mozambique, who writes for the news site ‘A Verdade’. He was sent to Beira to cover the municipal elections.
 
 
Right before the situation degenerated, I was taking photos of the area in front of Beira city hall where the mayor, Daviz Simango (MDM) was supposed to make his electoral speech. The moment he appeared on the podium, there was a very large explosion that caused a huge panic in the crowd. People started running in every direction, trying to push and shove their way out.
 
An elite police squad, known as the Rapid Intervention Force (FIR), escalated the situation. The police officers were in charge of escorting a Frelimo convoy close to where the MPM rally was taking place. They were very nervous and began to arrest the opposition supporters they ran into on their way, fearing that they would try to block the road. These arrests made locals very angry and they started throwing rocks at the officers, who responded with tear gas and real bullets. According to a woman I spoke with, these gunshots killed three babies carried on their mothers’ backs at the time of the shooting. But the Beira central hospital stated that there were no such reported deaths on that day.
 
 
 
Beira is known for being a rebellious city, in which the opposition party typically has its best results. There is no other part of the country that yields such low electoral results for Frelimo. The type of violence that took place on Saturday is likely to occur again on election day, on November 20, when electoral tensions will be at their peak. MDM supporters are convinced that Frelimo will try to ignite an already tense situation, or that they will find some excuse to cancel the election. For this reason, some people are speaking of camping out at the polling stations in order to ensure they will be able to vote on election day.
 
Post written in collaboration with FRANCE 24 journalist Grégoire Remund (@gregoireremund).
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