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Mozambique: Police and Protesters

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Sep 10, 2010 (100910)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

Thirteen dead, at least 300 injured, and 224 arrested is the toll of three days of demonstrations against prices rises and the high cost of living. The main protests were in Maputo and the adjoining city of Matola, with both cities paralysed on Wednesday and Thursday (1 and 2 September) and only slightly functioning on Friday. Activity returned to normal on Saturday, and on Tuesday September 7, the government announced a reversal of the price increases.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a summary of the events by Joseph Hanlon, published on September 8, and a translation of a report on police conduct by the Center for Public Integrity (CIP) in Maputo, also released on September 8. The Center calls for a parliamentary investigation, with involvement of civil society, and for state compensation for the victims of police violence. Particularly notable in the CIP report is the documentation on lack of preparedness and organization of the police actions.

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin released today, and sent out by e-mail as well as available of the web ( focuses on the issues of poverty and inequality that lie behind the demonstrations earlier this month.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Mozambique, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note++++++++++++++++++++

Police unprepared, poorly equipped and corrupt
A picture of police activity in the recent popular uprising in Maputo and Matola

Maputo, September 8, 2010

Center for Public Integrity (Centro de Integridade P£blica)

[Following text translated from Portuguese by Google; minor corrections only made by AfricaFocus Editor. For the full Portuguese original see the CIP website at]

  • The police used rubber bullets and gas without obeying the basic rules
  • The police used live bullets, violating basic principles of human rights
  • State should compensate all victims of police action

The recent popular revolt in Maputo and Matola was marked by a disproportionate police response, following which there were deaths, including at least one child, and hundreds were injured. These notes prepared by the Center for Public Integrity aim to characterize the contours of this police action, describing the cause of the brutal reaction and drawing attention to the unpreparedness of the Mozambican police in dealing with similar situations.

The occurrence of deaths was due primarily to the actions of the police, for which they should be held accountable. In civil terms, the state should compensate all the families of the dead and defray the costs of treating the wounded.

A parliamentary committee of inquiry with participation of civil society must be established to determine the responsibilities for violent police actions.

Police without means and unable to control large riots

Law 19/92, of 31 December, establishing the Police of the Republic of Mozambique (PRM) provides in article 27 that, if the reported violence exceeds the capacity for action of Protection Police (PP), the Rapid Intervention Force (FIR) is called upon to take action. This is a special force housed in barracks, training daily in special intervention situations for small and large demonstrations and other kinds of explicit violence. Police action in cases of civil disobedience should be within universally accepted standards, ensuring the physical integrity of citizens.

A study produced by CIP shows that PRM has no means or structure to face a mass revolt. In the revolt of September 1 and 2, five assault vehicles of FIR were involved, as well as 18 vehicles from Maputo police stations, 8 vehicles from police stations in the city of Matola, and 6 highway patrol vehicles from Maputo City and Maputo Province. Most of these resources were used to escort journalists, tourists, health practitioners, as well as trucks with various goods bound for the provinces.

General Police Command ignored the call for the revolt

After the circulation of mobile messages (SMS) calling for a revolt against the rising prices of essential goods, capable of turning from peaceful to violent, as in the case of the revolt of February 5, 2008, the General Command of the PRM called a press conference where it announced to journalists that there was no formal call for an outbreak and that the messages by phone were just mere rumors. The lesson of February 5, 2008 was forgotten. In that year, the popular uprising had only to do with the rise in the price of semi-collective passenger transport (aka chapa).

This year, the anonymous call originated not in a price rise of one essential commodity, but several (fuel, bread, electricity, water and the entire set of imported goods). Given this situation, it was hoped that the Police would undertake preventive actions, preparing properly for not so as not to take action under improvisation, as it turned out. The only preventive measure taken by the General Command of the Police was to maintain service agents on simple alert, requiring commanders of Squadrons to remain in their sub-units and keeping staff members to work normally in their usual and inhuman regime for 24/24 hours, with no meal break.

In a situation of possible popular revolt, one would hope for an immediate connection between the specialized FIR and the Police protection services. But, according to a CIP investigation, no FIR official went to police stations to make known to staff on duty how they should respond in case of outbreak of a violent revolt. As a rule, any actor involved in a mission should be notified in advance of the purposes of this mission, of their role, of cautions to take, and of the characteristics of the opponents.

Police disorganization

In the early morning hours of September 1, the demonstration soon turned violent, finding the PRM totally unprepared, and without a reserve force, because it had not mobilized its own resources in advance to collect the personnel needed who were not on duty, and who normally arrive for the workday at 8 a.m.

An immediate consequence of the revolt was the disruption of public transport services, by express orders, and semi-collective transport services, a decision by the owners. This interruption affected the police themselves, since most of the PRM staff live in the suburbs in precarious conditions and without means to travel to the workplace. The police was limited to staff who had already been on duty for 24 hours without a meal, as usual. When supervisors realized that the uprising was reaching unmanageable levels, the order was given to supply the staff of police stations with some anti-riot equipment, including shotguns (rubber bullets) and tear gas and pepper gas launchers.

To try to contain the spread of the revolt, the police were deployed without any coordination and without reporting to a single command (point which should be the Commander of the FIR), making the police action ambiguous and incoherent. On one side were the agents of the FIR, fresh after a night rest in the barracks, properly equipped, trained but poorly educated. On the othher hand, the PP agents (Police Protection, aka Cinzentinhos), poorly equipped, hungry, and without response capacity because they had already worked 24 hours nonstop. A small contingent of officers from the Border Guard Force (FGF) and the Armed Forces for the Defense of Mozambique were also mobilized, the latter protecting the entrances to the luxury condominiums of Sommerschield 1 and 1 and Mahotas neighborhood, where the family residence of President Armando Guebuza is located.

The police actions on September 1

Once on the ground, the consequences of poor leadership, lack of unified command, and especially the absence of one or two agents of the FIR in each Police Station to control operations, the following took place: on September 1, the PP officers made it to the street ill-equipped, armed with helmets, vests and weapons such as AK 47s, and a few shotguns with rubber bullets and gas devices, limiting themselves to firing indiscriminately, using excessive force, but not carrying out actions for persuasion and dissuasion as the rules mandate.

  • Rubber bullets were fired directly into crowds (as documented in the media) without observing the required precautions. Rubber bullets are instruments used worldwide to disperse violent riots but they become lethal weapons unless they are fired from more than 25 meters away and towards the ground, as a rule, these bullets should only be fired in order to rebound before reaching the target. In all situations last week, guns were pointed directly at those involved in the disturbances, in violation of the rules. This lack of care caused some of the deaths that occurred because rubber bullets can be lethal when fired directly at a target.
  • Devices for the use of rubber bullets were used by the protection police, who are not trained in the use of such weapons.
  • The use of gas also did not follow the rules. On September 1, gas canisters were fired by agents of PP and also by the FIR without observing the wind direction, an elementary rule. This had the effect of the gas reaching peaceful groups who were only watching the demonstrators, but also their own protection police, who were not adequately equipped to deal with the substance, forcing them to retreat to escape the effects of the gas, thereby facilitating the advance of the demonstrators.

    The police was seen to throw huge amounts of tear gas into yards in residential areas, hitting women and children who had not even been on the street. There are reports of at least one death caused by this behavior.

  • The protection police were seen using lethal weapons such as AK-47s.
  • All actors in the FIR and the regular police who were on the street had no shields to protect against objects thrown by the rioters, so whenever they were hit by a stone, got be angry, venting their anger on the crowds, in some cases shooting to kill, as has been witnessed.
  • The action was completely uncoordinated: there were no sub-group commanders able to withdraw actors from the front who were hit by stones, to calm them done and avoid overreactions, which undermined the physical integrity of the protesters and aroused even greater hostility from those involved.

The actions of police on September 2

On September 2, the scenario repeated itself:

  • Police agents remained on duty for the 3rd consecutive day without rest, totaling 72 hours of work. Agents who should substitute for their colleagues, also among the discontent, claimed lack of transportation to reach the police stations and the General Command of the PRM did not provide means to transport them. In two days of great tension, the police vehicles involved in the control of demonstrations, mainly assault vehicles of the FIR, spent much time escorting journalists, health professionals, employees of public and private companies, who were going out of Maputo or to their jobs, etc.
  • The order was given for vehicles not to travel to suburban neighborhoods to collect police officers to go on duty who had no way given the lack of public transport. There were orders for the agents to travel to work with their means. The failure to relieve officers who had been working on since August 31 led to actions by personnel at the limits of their mental and physical capabilities, leading them to more violent reactions when they were confronted with the revolt, choosing in certain cases to fire AK-47 shots in the air.
  • Even in the case of those Squadrons who did get food kits (rice / mackerel and rice / chicken), which usually does not happen (agents remain on duty 24 hours with no meal) many of them still showed physical weakness, moreover, because they were few in number, and could not always get the time to go to the police stations to feed themselves because they couldn't leave the street due to the severity of the revolt in the outbreak population where they were placed.
  • On the second day, probably due to the physical and psychological state of the agents, there were a number of violations of the rights and freedoms of citizens. For example, in the Infulene neighborhood, Rua 21.307 young people were gathered peacefully in an entertainment place, called Ludo's Bar, when suddenly a PRM car PRM appeared and forced them to duck by shooting at the outside walls of that establishment without any reason.
  • In Patrice Lumumba District, people report that police fired shots into the air to scare off looters of ware of merchants of Burundian and Nigerian nationality, but, then, police officers took possession of articles for their own benefit, especially cell phones and essential food items. This kind of police behavior was reported in almost all districts where the rebellion had the most impact.
  • In the late afternoon of September 2, almost all outbreaks of violence had been controlled by the forces of defense and security, in some cases with injuries for families (including some children with school uniforms) and both slight and serious injuries caused by lack of skill of PRM in the use of plastic rubber bullets and weapons like AK-47s.
  • Only with the intervention of Army elements were the outbreaks of violence were controlled. According to military sources, members of the Army had instructions to fatally shoot at anyone who dared to continue to mobilize the revolt. To put the military in various areas in Maputo and Matola, the Army had to resort to the use of of civil transport, given the meager resources at its disposal.
  • On September 2, according to reports from several witnesses, officers of police escort vehicles began to charge money to citizens who wanted protection. An escort from Maputo to Matola cost about 500 MT per car. Several motorists had to pay that amount. The CIP has encountered at least 11 citizens who had to pay sums between 1000 and 2000 MT to be escorted to Matola and other residential areas of greater Maputo. The revolt, and the risk she placed on citizens, was an opportunity for corruption. Instead of protecting citizens, police officers in some cases exaggerate reports on the areas of greatest violence, and then charged for illegal escorts necessary for those who wanted to gather together family members.

Police unprepared, poorly equipped and corrupt

Apart from the brutal police action, the revolt of 1 and 2 September showed that Mozambique does not have a police force properly equipped and trained to act with respect for human rights. And it also provided a painful portrait of a lack of preparation, shortage or misuse of resources, and corruption:

  • The Police have a shortage of equipment (if they have it, then they don't use it correctly) for use in controlling outbreaks of large dimensions, including shields, gas canisters, rubber bullets, water jets, the later being major elements for forced dispersal which protects the physical integrity of people. A few months ago, the Portuguese Government has provided various units of FIR with batons, masks, shields and gas, but the agents went to the streets at least without shields.
  • In recent years there has been some training for the FIR, especially against riots, but on days 1 and 2, police action was shown as outside internationally accepted standards. For example, in December 2007, the FIR received 70 officers trained in crowd control, ushering in a new "police" allegedly having qualifications to participate in international missions.
  • There was noted the absence of a single command, for a police action based on a mix of forces (FIR, PP, FGF, FADM), causing ambiguity in the transmission of orders and randomness in the conduct of forces that, except for the FIR, do not have any specific training to handle these situations.
  • There was noted the lack of capacity to infiltrate the insurgents, in order to avoid random arrests (those at the front were detained, including women and adolescents, and not more appropriately the leaders of the revolt).
  • Even police officers took advantage of the revolt to get hold of consumer goods in shops raided in the Plaza dos Combatentes (Xikheleni), in Benfica, in the Patrice Lumumba neighborhood, and in many other locations reported by the press.

Urgent formation of committee of inquiry and compensation for victims

A state based on the rule of law must be linked to a series of principles and assumptions to be able to oppose the uncontrolled use of force. We talk about the rule of law when the fundamental rights of citizens (including freedom, equality and security) are recognized and guaranteed. Under the rule of law, police must serve the citizen and obey constitutional principles. That is not what happened on September 1 and 2.

Among the core principles for police action, the following should be taken into account:

The principle of preventive action, which gives the Police the task of preventing crimes. This principle reinforces the idea that repression is not the primary police mission.

The principle of minimum intervention, which refers to "the prohibition of excess" and is intended to limit police actions to the degree necessary.

The principle of equality, fairness and justice, which governs police action in which force can only be used once all means of persuasion and dissuasion are exhausted, seeking to cause the least damage possible.

Against this background, the Center for Public Integrity demand:

  • Setting up a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (incorporating elements of civil society), to investigate the character of the brutal police response, identify the key decision makers, and establish the actual operational conditions of our police.
  • The state must quickly compensate victims of police activity. Noting the harmful results, such as loss of human lives and injuries to individuals who were not involved in civil disobedience, victims of a lack of preparedness of the police and the employment of lethal means, the state is primarily responsible for this situation as prescribed by the Constitution of the Republic in paragraph 2 of Article 58: "The state is liable for damages caused by unlawful acts of its agents in carrying out their duties, without prejudice to the right of recourse under the law."

Lastly, we believe that organizations of civil society active in defending human rights and in initiatives of pro-bono litigation, should already begin to make a survey of victims of police action against the state and bring a civil action for damages.

For more information, contact:

Center for Public Integrity
Rua Frente de Liberta‡ o de Mo‡ambique (ex-Pereira do Lago), 354, r/c.
Tel: 00 258 21 4923 35 Fax: 00 258 21 4923 40
PO Box: 3266

Mozambique 168 - bribes, riots
News Reports & Clippings

September 8, 2010

Joseph Hanlon

Distributed by e-mail. Contact Joe Hanlon <>

A wide variety of related background material from Joseph Hanlon, including earlier issues of News Reports & Clippings but not yet the most recent issues, can be found on the web at:

13 dead, 300 injured, 224 arrested in violent demonstrations last week

Thirteen dead, at least 300 injured, and 224 arrested is the toll of three days of demonstrations against prices rises and the high cost of living. The main protests were in Maputo and the adjoining city of Matola, with both cities paralysed on Wednesday and Thursday (1 and 2 September) and only slightly functioning on Friday. Activity returned to normal on Saturday.

In Maputo and Matola young people coordinated by mobile telephone text message (SMS) blocked all main roads with burning tyres and other barriers on Wednesday. There was also some looting of shops and market stalls, and cars and buses were attacked.

There were also disturbances in the Beira corridor (Beira, Chimoio, Gondola and Vila Manica) with disruptions Wednesday and Thursday. In Chimoio the main road was blocked and part of a market looted and burned; demonstrations continued through Friday.

Soldiers and police were still on the streets Monday. Offices were open but Noticias reported that public transport was still limited, with many private minibuses (chapas) not running. The free newspaper @Verdade on its website ( and Carlos Serra on his blog report that it was impossible to send text messages with either mobile telephone company Monday or Tuesday. Yesterday (Tuesday 7 September) was a public holiday.

Health Minister Ivo Garrido announced the 13 deaths in Maputo and Matola. Noticias reported more than 290 injuries and 150 arrests in Maputo and Matola, and six injuries and 68 arrests in Chimoio and Manica. MediaFax and WampulaFax reported the six people were arrested in Nampula for trying to organise demonstrations.

Police spokesman Pedro Cossa said repeatedly that the police were only using rubber bullets and not live ammunition, but this has been widely contradicted by the media and observers. The government newspaper Noticias quoted Nat‚rcia Duarte, clinical director of Hospital Geral Jos‚ Macamo in Maputo, saying that 43 of those admitted had been shot by firearms. Garrido in an interview with O Pais published Friday said some of those in the Maputo Central Hospital had been shot. Noticias reported that two of the injured in Chimoio were children shot by police in the Francisco Manyanga neighbourhood.

The free weekly newspaper @Verdade in its 3 September issued carried the photograph (below) of the body of Helio, an 11-year old schoolboy who it said was shot in the head by police Wednesday on Avenida Acordos de Lusaka in Maputo as he returned from school.

A video has been posted on YouTube which appears to show someone shooting from the first floor of a Frelimo building on Av de Angola in Maputo.

Detailed coverage of the demonstrations, in Portuguese, is available on the O Pais website ( with pictures, and on the blog "Di rio de um sociologo" by Carlos Serra ( There are also photos on: Accessing the YouTube video also gives links to other videos of the demonstrations

In a statement on 1 September, President Armando Guebuza stressed that "the government is implementing an action plan to increase food production and in a general way taking actions to struggle against poverty in urban and rural areas, and has already registered progress in implementing this plan for food production as well as the supply of water and sanitation, and improving transport, communications, health and education."

Price rises reversed

Price rises which triggered the riots last week have been reversed, the government announced Tuesday afternoon after an emergency cabinet meeting.

Wheat will be subsidised to bring bread prices back to what they were before. Prices had gone up by 18% to 33%. Small loaves rose from 4.5 to 5.5 meticais (12 US cents to 15›) and rolls from 1.5 to 2 meticais (4› to 6›).

The government also reversed the electricity and water prices rises on "social tariffs" for small consumers. Electricity consumers who use less than 100 kilowatt-hours a month will not pay more. For those who use between 100 and 300 kilowatt-hours a month, the price increase is reduced from 13.4% to 7%. Richer consumers, who used over 300 kilowatt-hours a month, will pay the full increase. Households who use less than five cubic metres of water a month will continue to pay 150 meticais a month. Prices for urban electricity and water connections have also been cut. The price of low grade rice will be cut by 7.5% by removing an import duty. The surtax on imported sugar will be also temporarily removed. Subsidies for urban passenger transport will be "maintained and guaranteed".

The government also announced austerity measures, including a freeze on wages and allowances of all senior state figures (who include members of the government itself) and all members of the boards of public companies and companies where the state is the major shareholder. These wages must be paid in meticais, and not in foreign currency. The government also promises to rationalize its own expenditure on air travel (particularly in business class), fuel, lubricants and communications.

Demonstrations legitimate and justified

Many commentators, even in the government daily Noticias, were critical of the government and consider the demonstrations legitimate and justified (although usually condemning the violence.) Writers note that this is a repeat of the 5 February 2008 demonstrations, which means problems have not been resolved. A selection of articles (in Portuguese) is attached.

"The government has driven its people to desperation, and the people have responded with violence," wrote Lazaro Mabuda, deputy editor of O Pais, the second Maputo daily. "We did not choose a government to present excuses in periods of tension, we chose a government to provide solutions in time of crisis." He concludes: "The great dilemma of our country is that our leaders never take decisions that benefit everyone. Instead they say 'me first, then the people'."

Instead of just condemning the violence, we should look for the reasons for the demonstrations, notes Jeremias Langa, editoral director of O Pais. "Clearly there is a class that feels itself excluded from the redistribution of income, and believes that the state has broken the social contract." In particular he talks about ideas which come to the fore at times of crisis - biofuels, using Mozambican natural gas for cars, producing wheat in Mozambique, etc. But when the crisis is over, the ideas are forgotten, and there is no change.

Mia Couto writes of "youth with no present who attack their future." With no unions and no parties to represent them, violence is the only response. The demonstrations may not have been legal, but they were legitimate; those without a voice are trying to say something. President Guebuza in his speech talked about the "marvellous" Mozambican people. But all peoples are "marvellous". Leaders need to think seriously about poverty, and not just repeat nice words.

Even the government newspaper Noticias, while criticising the demonstrations and violence, also printed voices critical of the government. One letter to the editor stressed that "development projects are not benefitting the population, but instead have the tendency to generate political elites and corrupt economies." Elites talk about "absolute poverty" but do nothing to reduce it.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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