For over a year and a half, since April 2013, Mozambique has been going through a tense political atmosphere. Many parts of the country were going through an undeclared war between the party in power (Frelimo) and the main opposition party (Renamo). We reported on this situation in our New Year JA blog. It was because of this tense atmosphere, increased insecurity for citizens and clamp down on civil society that an unprecedented 30,000 people marched on the streets of Maputo on 31 October 2013, demanding peace, justice and solidarity, and an end to insecurity and war (see photos on the New Year blog).
After much negotiations, the parties decided to go ahead with elections scheduled for 15 October 2014, although the tense atmosphere had clearly not yet abated.
Elections took place on 15 October. On the same day, media and observers already reported several irregularities. There are many instances of violence including a young man killed in Beira. Opposition party observers were deliberately kept out of voting rooms and were unable to observe. There were reports of ballot boxes disappearing in some places, being burnt and destroyed in others. Several people were caught with multiple ballots in their hands already marked in the ruling party’s name and ready to be put into ballot boxes. Many election booths opened many hours after they were supposed to. Social scientist Joseph Hanlon’s page in English registers several issues with the voting.
All these and many more reports were actively covered in the media and are substantiated by two renowned Mozambican organisations, Liga dos Direitos Humanos (LDH, Human Rights League) and Centro de Integridade Publica (CIP, Centre for Public Integrity). They were both civil society observers of this election. These organisations were already raising these issues and irregularities on the day of the elections itself.
These irregularities were reported to the National Election Commission right away on the same day! However the official response was that these incidents were minimal and did not affect the overall outcome!
The Mozambican people are livid. The tension across Mozambique around this issue is evident and everyone is talking about the lack of democracy. Front page headline on Canal de Moçambique on 22 October stated “Filipe Nyusi: Uma Fraude Retumbante” (Fipile Nyusi [ruling party candidate]: A Reverberating Fraud). Social media including facebook has been ripe with discontent about the elections scenario.
Given the sentiment in the country, and the terrible official response, 4 Mozambican organisations today submitted a formal complaint to the National Election Commission. The 4 organisations include:
- Liga dos Direitos Humanos,
- Centro de Integridade Publica,
- Justiça Ambiental (JA, Friends of the Earth Mozambique) and
- Acção Académica para o Desenvolvimento das Comunidades Rurais (ADECRU, Action for Development of Rural Communities).
The complaint has nothing to do with who wins or who loses the elections. It is about governance, transparency, justice and democracy. We as Mozambicans demand free, fair and transparent elections. We demand justice. We know there will be backlash on our organisations from the government; however it is a matter of justice for all Mozambicans. It is also important to note that the Electoral Law does not provide any legal avenues for civil society or citizens to be able to make any complaints about the electoral process and get a response. However, the outrage is huge, so we decided to go ahead with a complaint anyway.
It is really sad that some big advocacy Mozambican groups who usually work together with us on issues, and who are criticising the election irregularities, yet did not have the courage to bring their voices to such an important complaint.
Just now the government has released the final results of the elections and has claimed a victory for the ruling party.
But what is the truth? Where is our democracy?
A luta continua (the struggle continues)…