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Human Rights Watch World Report 1996 - Mozambique

Publisher Human Rights Watch
Publication Date 1 January 1996
Cite as Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch World Report 1996 - Mozambique, 1 January 1996, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8a81c.html [accessed 10 July 2014]
Comments This report covers events of 1995
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Human Rights Developments

After Mozambique's first ever multi-party elections in October 1994, human rights practices improved throughout the country. For many observers Mozambique is seen as a success story in Africa with a bloody civil war ended and elections generally considered free and fair. However, significant human rights concerns remain, including restrictions on freedom of movement and expression in some areas controlled by the former rebel Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO), heavy-handed and intimidatory government policing, and appalling prison conditions.

A final breakdown of the 1994 election results showed that the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) took 57 percent of the vote, to just 28 percent for RENAMO in urban areas, but that in rural districts RENAMO scored a narrow victory of 41 percent to FRELIMO's 40 percent. Unlike in neighboring countries, such as Angola and South Africa, there has been no power-sharing between the government, headed by President Joaquim Chissano, and the main opposition party. This was part of a government strategy to slowly strangle RENAMO of resources by denying it access to positions of patronage and power. With few exceptions, the new administration is made up of FRELIMO supporters, although RENAMO does receive a state subsidy of about US$1.1 million yearly. Throughout 1995 RENAMO warned that it was in financial crisis and could not guarantee control of its supporters without additional resources.

Impunity for human rights abuses during the 1977-1992 civil war continued to be advocated by both FRELIMO and RENAMO officials. Officials from both sides have told Human Rights Watch that any trials or exposure of the past would undermine national reconciliation. There has been no acknowledgment at senior levels in RENAMO or FRELIMO of involvement in human rights abuses; in some cases, known human rights abusers in authority continued to generate fear and mistrust among those who knew about their past abuses.

A de facto situation of "dual administration" persisted, in which RENAMO continued to exercise administrative control over a patchwork of territory. Expanding public administration into areas dominated for many years by RENAMO remained slow. In Sofala province, RENAMO still effectively ran three districts (Maringue, Cheringoma and Muanza), and large parts of three others (Gorongosa, Chibabava and Machanga). In these areas RENAMO boycotted schools, health posts and even shops that it believed were funded by the Chissano government. This resulted in some violence and confrontation.

In Manica province, in June, a dozen police attempted to open a police station in Dombe, but the RENAMO-supported regulos (former colonial chiefs) expelled them and a dispute has continued ever since. Forty-four of these Dombe regulos demanded that the government buy them uniforms and pay them a wage before they permitted the police to return. In northern Nampula, western Tete province and in Sofala province, RENAMO also blocked freedom of movement and information and, as in Dombe, claimed that it had won the 1994 multi-party elections. In contrast, in some areas of Zambezia and Nampula provinces, there was better cooperation between RENAMO and the government, with increasing freedom of movement and expression.

There were several reports of extrajudicial executions. The government-apointed administrator of Mongincual district in Nampula province, Isidro Loforte, was suspended by the provincial governor in June following reports that he had ordered the execution by firing squad of a disabled former soldier and was involved in a series of other crimes.

Police behavior remained a serious concern and was the source of the majority of complaints Human Rights Watch received from Mozambique in 1995. Police units and especially the paramilitary police force, the Rapid Intervention Police, maintained a reputation for intimidation and heavy-handed tactics. Arbitrary detention, torture and bribery were common allegations. There was tangible evidence that the Rapid Intervention Police were used to intimidate RENAMO supporters. Several policemen interviewed by Human Rights Watch admitted that malpractice was common, but justified it by saying they felt it was internationally acceptable police practice: they said many U.N. Civilian Police monitors (CIVPOL) engaged in corrupt practices and did not comment on their policing style although they frequently visited their stations. Until the U.N. withdrew from Mozambique in December 1994, CIVPOL was mandated to monitor police practice.

Prison conditions and detention without trial remained a source of grave concern. According to official statistics, there were 2,572 prisoners in prisons across the country and over half, 1,451, were still waiting to be tried. The full number may have been considerably higher as the official statistics are unreliable. The recognized capacity of the central prison in Maputo was 800 but, at this writing, it had 1,576 prisoners, of which only 566 had been sentenced; 686 had been detained, pending trial. The civil prison (for lesser crimes) in Maputo also had a serious overcrowding problem. Its official capacity was 250, but it held over 550 prisoners.

The situation in the provinces was worse. In the first eight months of 1995, thirty-one prisoners died of hunger or untreated illness in Manica's provincial prison in Chimoio. Built to house 300, it held over 900. Similar reports of overcrowding and deaths of inmates in Tete, Nampula and Gaza provincial prisons were obtained by Human Rights Watch. In July, prisoners rioted in the Xai Xai jail, Gaza's provincial prison, reducing the building to a shell. The riot was in protest against the long delays in cases coming to court. Of the 164 prisoners in the jail, only twenty-one were serving sentences.

Riots and press reports on poor prison conditions prompted Justice Minister Jose Abudo to tour provincial prisons in July, resulting in a public acknowledgment that, with the exception of Niassa provincial jail, all prisons were substandard, and in a pledge that there will be a full review of the prison system.

The Information Service for State Security (SISE), the state security service, became more active after the withdrawal of the U.N. It appeared to have engaged in a recruitment drive, especially among FRELIMO supporters, offering scholarships and other incentives for joining. Human Rights Watch was concerned that this was a return to the previous practice of maintaining SISE as a branch of the ruling party.

Throughout 1995 there were incidents of banditry, occasional riots, and violent demonstrations by ex-combatants who are found reintegration into civilian society hard and had few employment prospects. Most violent incidents were believed to have been acts of economic and socially induced banditry. The thousands of guns readily available for as little as a second-hand shirt were a potential temptation to more focused violence and protest. There have also been incidents where landmines have been used by highwaymen to ambush vehicles.

The Right to Monitor

The League of Human Rights (LDH) was active in lobbying the National Assembly about the poor policing standards of the police and the performance of the interior minister, Manuel Antonio. A new Mozambican nongovernmental organization, the Center for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (CPDH), was launched in April. It is comprised of past members of the LDH, who found its operational style too confrontational. The CPDH pledged to defend civil, political, economic and cultural rights.

The Role of the International Community

The United Nations

Following the October 1994 elections, U.N. policy was focused on the withdrawal of its forces from Mozambique. On November 19, 1994, the then U.N. special representative, Aldo Ajello, formally declared that the elections had been free and fair. On November 21 the U.N. Security Council endorsed the results and called on all parties to accept and fully abide by them.

The United Nations Operation in Mozambique's (UNOMOZ) mandate was extended until the swearing in of the new government in December, and U.N. withdrawal continued until the end of January 1995. After this date, only the Accelerated Demining Program (ACP), the U.N. supervised mine-clearance operation, continued. This program was an attempt to compensate for the little mine-clearance that occurred during UNOMOZ's mandate. The ACP had 450 mine clearers, organized in ten platoons, plus a headquarters in Maputo. It depends on outstanding funds from the UNOMOZ budget and on personnel provided by the governments of Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, committed until November 1995. At a meeting in Copenhagen during the March 1995 World Summit for Social Development and at the U.N. in New York in October, U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali assured President Chissano that the U.N. remained committed to providing assistance to Mozambique for reconstruction and for its mine-clearance in particular.

The U.N. proclaims Mozambique as a success. However, the U.N. clearly had not performed well in human rights monitoring and mine-clearance. Poor CIVPOL monitoring directly influenced subsequent local policing standards and contributed to the lack of seriousness with which respect for human rights was maintained by local police. Hundreds of thousands of antipersonnel mines, manufactured by at least fifteen countries, were found in Mozambique and frequently claim victims. Until mid-1994 U.N. mine-clearance efforts were limited due to internal U.N. disputes and a lack of political will by U.N. special representative Aldo Ajello to confront the issue and quicken clearance efforts. Such failures have lessons that future U.N. operations of this kind should take into account.

U.S. Policy

Bilateral U.S.-Mozambican relations deteriorated in 1995 despite the fact that the peace process was regarded as a success. A prime reason for this was the United State's pressure, through its embassy in Maputo, to demand a power-sharing arrangement with RENAMO following the multiparty elections and the government's refusal to bow to this demand. A dispute over the style of tendering for a lucrative gas pipe-line contract in which U.S. companies had significant interest also contributed in late 1995 to keeping these already poor relations cool. The U.S. government presented a "non-paper" (aide memoire) to the Mozambican government on March 10. The paper was timed to coincide with the March 14-15 annual Consultative Group (donors') meeting in Paris. The paper was hard-hitting, and called for economic reform, a transparent budget, cuts in military expenditure, and efforts to curb corruption. It also called for greater efforts by the government to further reconciliation, particularly through funding for opposition parties and a halt to police harassment of RENAMO members. The Mozambican government did not respond to this non-paper; its ambassador in Washington even refused to accept a copy. U.S. policy was softer towards RENAMO, with little comment on its continued blocking of freedom of expression and movement in some of its zones.

U.S. policy after March was been aimed at keeping the Mozambican government to its commitments undertaken at the March Paris donors meeting. USAID shifted its strategy and resources from emergency relief toward longer-term development programs. Initiatives for mine-clearance, repatriation of refugees, and the re-integration of ex-combatants have featured prominently. Institutional support, especially for the new legislature, has also benefited from funds. U.S. assistance to Mozambique in 1995 stood at about $42.25 million, down from the previous year total of $70 million.

The Work of Human Rights Watch/Africa

Human Rights Watch's Mozambique program was aimed at following up recommendations made in Landmines in Mozambique, a report jointly produced by its Africa Division and Arms Project in 1994. The key objectives were lobbying the Mozambique government to sign and ratify the 1980 Landmines Protocol and to participate constructively in the 1995 Vienna Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). In late October, President Chissano indicated that Mozambique supported an international ban on the production of antipersonnel landmines.

On June 14, the thirtieth anniversary of the first recorded landmine incident in Mozambique, Human Rights Watch and the Faculty of Arts at Eduardo Mondlane University, Maputo, jointly hosted a one-day conference on landmines. The conference delegates called on the Mozambican government to ban the use and transfer of antipersonnel mines. A book based upon the conference proceedings was also launched in October as a joint Human Rights Watch and Mozambique National Archives initiative.

Human Rights Watch also met government and Renamo officials both in Mozambique and in Europe and the U.S. to discuss human rights issues. It also engaged in other forms of advocacy aimed at informing interested individuals and groups on the current human rights situation and conducted numerous press interviews.

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