Police used excessive force during demonstrations and to apprehend suspects. Thirteen detainees died of asphyxiation in an overcrowded police cell; two police officers were held responsible for the deaths. A senior police officer was convicted of murder for an extrajudicial execution committed in 2007.
At least 120 people died as a result of cholera between January and March. In March, the Red Cross suspended its activities in Mongicual district in the northern province of Nampula after three Red Cross workers and two police officers were killed by residents in a violent protest over cholera treatment. Residents accused the Red Cross workers, who were putting chlorine in wells, of contaminating their water supplies with cholera.
A new political party, the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (Movimento Democrático de Moçambique, MDM), was formed in March when the Mayor of Beira city, Daviz Simango, split from the main opposition party, the Mozambique National Resistance (Resistência Nacional Moçambicana, RENAMO). Daviz Simango was one of three presidential candidates in elections held in October, which were won by the incumbent, President Armando Guebuza, and the ruling party, the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frente da Libertação de Moçambique, FRELIMO). There were sporadic acts of violence during the election campaign, most involving the destruction by party activists of their opponents’ campaign material. Two police officers were fined by the Murrupula District Court for destroying election posters belonging to RENAMO, and police were criticized for failing to respond to acts of violence by members of FRELIMO. International and national election observers noted irregularities during the elections, including incidents of ballot box stuffing and invalidation of votes cast for opposition candidates. The European Union observer mission, however, believed this did not significantly affect the results.
One of the country’s biggest corruption trials started in November. The former Minister of Transport and four former officials of the Mozambique Airports Company, ADM, were accused of stealing nearly US$2 million from the company between 2005 and October 2008.
- In June, the Maputo Provincial Court in Matola city convicted a senior police officer of the murder of Abranches Penicelo in August 2007. The police officer was sentenced to 22 years’ imprisonment and ordered to pay compensation of 500,000Mtn (about US$19,000) to Abranches Penicelo’s five children. However, five other officers accused of involvement in the killing were neither charged nor tried. Two other police officers allegedly involved had since died. Following years of police harassment, Abranches Penicelo had been beaten, injected with a toxic substance, shot in the neck, set on fire and left for dead by eight police officers.
There were reports of police officers co-operating with criminals, including by providing them with firearms and police uniforms.
- Two convicted murderers who escaped from Maputo city police cells in December 2008 were rearrested. Samuel Januário “Samito” Nhare was rearrested in January and Aníbal “Anibalzinho” dos Santos Júnior in August. A third, Luís “Todinho” de Jesus Tomás, who had escaped with the others, was found shot dead in Matola city, Maputo, in January. “Anibalzinho” alleged that their escape had been facilitated by the police.
- In February, three police officers were arrested on suspicion of collaborating with criminals.
Excessive use of force
Police continued to use excessive force, especially when apprehending suspects and when controlling demonstrations.
- In January, plain-clothed police shot at four unnamed men who were reportedly attempting to rob a shop selling electrical appliances in the Baixa area of Maputo. The police officers opened fire on two of the suspects as they emerged from the shop, killing one instantly and injuring the other in the leg. The two other suspects reportedly escaped. Police authorities told Amnesty International that the police officers acted in self-defence when the alleged robbers shot at them. However, they also stated that it was agents of the private security company guarding the shop who had opened fire. No investigation was carried out.
- In April, a police officer shot and wounded two striking workers at the construction site of the Mozambique national stadium. About 700 workers were striking over low wages, lack of overtime pay and mistreatment by the project’s managers. The Maputo city police stated that an investigation would be carried out, but no further information had been released by the end of the year.
- In September, police fired live ammunition while trying to disperse demonstrations at a sugar plantation in the Marromeu district of Sofala province, injuring two workers. The demonstrations reportedly turned violent when strikers destroyed an ambulance and motorbike, put up barricades and burned part of the sugar plantation. Workers at the sugar plantation were striking over wages. No investigation was known to have been carried out by the end of the year.
Deaths in custody
In March, 13 people died of asphyxiation in an overcrowded police cell in Mongicual. The detainees had been arrested along with others following riots over cholera treatment in the district. In August, the Angoche District Court convicted the officer on duty at the time and the district police commander of manslaughter and sentenced them both to one year’s imprisonment. The court acquitted the district head of the criminal investigation police due to lack of evidence.
Amnesty International visit/reports
- Amnesty International delegates visited Mozambique in May.
- Briefing to the Parliament (assembly) of Mozambique
- “I can’t believe in justice any more”: Obstacles to justice for unlawful killings by police in Mozambique