Beira violence: 20 arrests, five hospitalised

The Mozambican police on Sunday announced that they have detained 20 people in the central city of Beira, in connection with the violent clashes that marred the municipal election campaign the previous day.

The spokesperson for the Sofala provincial police command, Feliciano Dique, told Radio Mozambique that those detained “will answer for the acts they have committed”. He said nothing about the political affiliations, if any, of the detainees.

In clashes involving members of the ruling Frelimo Party, of the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), and of the riot police (FIR), dozens of people were injured. The spokesperson for Beira Central Hospital, Orlando Jamal, said the hospital had treated 46 people, five of whom are still hospitalized. The hospital denied that there had been any deaths in the confrontation (thus contradicting a claim made by the Sunday paper “Domingo” that three children had died).

Although some details remain unclear, it is now possible, from eye-witness reports, to piece together the broad outline of events. On Saturday afternoon, the MDM was winding up its election campaign with a rally in the neighbourhood of Munhava where the party’s leader, and Mayor of Beira, Daviz Simango was scheduled to speak. Many thousands of people had gathered for the rally.

But at the same time, a Frelimo motorcade was returning to the Frelimo Beira headquarters, which is also in Munhava, on the edge of the field where the MDM was rallying. The police were escorting the motorcade, and decided to clear a way through the MDM crowd.

In this tense atmosphere, somebody in the crowd started throwing stones at the police. The riot police response was massively disproportionate, firing into the air, and then using rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd.

A correspondent for the weekly paper “A Verdade” suggested a possible spark that set off a chain reaction. He says that one of the cars in the Frelimo motorcade hit a youth, who then responded (presumably by banging on the car). The police grabbed him, and other youths nearby tied to free him. This minor disturbance escalated, into the throwing of stones, and then the use of tear gas.

A section of the MDM crowd then attacked the Frelimo office. Several of the Frelimo cars were outside the office, and so was the Frelimo mayoral candidate, Jaime Neto. Wielding sticks and stones, the MDM supporters attacked Neto and other Frelimo members.

Neto was injured and appeared on the independent television station, STV, with his arm bandaged and his shirt spattered with blood.

Mozambique Television (TVM) showed that the Frelimo platform for the party’s final campaign rally in Beira on Sunday had been burned down.

Both parties are accusing the other of responsibility for the violence. Thus on Sunday afternoon, Simango issued a statement accusing Frelimo General Secretary Filipe Paunde (who was in the motorcade) of "coordinating a strategy of violence" and of being “provocative” by passing next to the MDM rally.

No further acts of violence had been reported in Beira by Sunday afternoon.

Post published in: Africa News

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