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    23 September, 2009
Dhlakama launches presidential bid
 

Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Mozambique’s main opposition party Renamo, on 19 September rejected requests from participants at a rally in the northern district of Angoche to station members of Renamo’s own security force in Angoche, supposedly to protect the local people from the Mozambican police.

The rally, held in the locality of Johare, marked the launch of Dhlakama’s presidential election campaign. This is the fourth time the Renamo leader has stood for the presidency.

During the rally some Renamo supporters claimed that in previous elections they had been the victims of police violence, and had been forced by the police to vote for the ruling Frelimo Party.

One woman claimed that during elections “old women are pushed and prohibited from voting”. She added that during voter registration old men were told that they were bewitched “and so they cannot register otherwise the machine will die”.

They wanted protection from the force that Renamo calls its “Presidential Guard”. But Dhlakama replied that he could not meet this request. “I can’t accept what you have asked for, because the war ended in 1992”, he said. “This security is only to protect me”.

“You see those lads with the green uniform? They’re my security”, he continued. “They don’t play around. But I can’t leave them here as if there were a war going on”.

Instead, he would take the concerns expressed at the rally to the authorities. “I shall take your message”, he said. “These journalists are taping, they’re recording everything, and so the entire world will see today or tomorrow that the people of Angoche have asked Dhlakama’s security to confront the security of Frelimo, which is the police”,

Dhlakama declared that if there was the rule of law in Mozambique, then the ruling party would not use the police to intimidate the public, and prevent citizens from exercising their rights. “The police is a state institution, it doesn’t belong to a party”, he said.

However, the Angoche police deny the claims made by the Renamo supporters. The Angoche district police commander, Adriano Muianga, told AIM he had no knowledge of any threats made by the police during previous elections.

Furthermore there had been more than enough time for citizens to lodge complaints, if any abuses had really happened. “There are institutions responsible for problems associated with elections”, he said. “I think it’s up to these people to go to these institutions and present their problems in good time so that they can be solved”.

As district commander he had never received any complaints about supposed intimidation by his men during elections. The last elections were the municipal elections of November 2006. “A long time has passed since then, but nobody came to me, and I received no protests”, Muianga stressed. “So this is news to me”.

He said he had met, without any discrimination, with all the political parties in the district – namely Frelimo, Renamo, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), and the Independent Alliance of Mozambique (ALIMO). The Angoche police, he added, extended the same protection to all of them.

Following the rally half a dozen Renamo guards attacked people in a bar on the route taken by Dhlakama away from the rally in Johare, apparently because it was displaying posters of the ruling Frelimo Party.

The day after the assault, police arrested Mamur Saide Dias Assan. However, a group of armed men from the Renamo “Presidential Guard” surrounded the police command in the northern district of Angoche, demanding the release of their colleague.

The police refused. Assan had been arrested on suspicion of committing a crime, and the police fully intended to hand him over to the courts.

Renamo claims that Assan has immunity since he is a candidate in the election to the Nampula Provincial Assembly. According to Renamo’s Nampula provincial spokesperson, Arnaldo Chalaua, the police have arrested the wrong man. “The police have detained an innocent man”, he told AIM. “He wasn’t at the place. In any case, he enjoys immunity, since he’s a candidate for membership of the Provincial Assembly. So, by law, he can’t be detained”.

Chalaua said that candidates could only be arrested when caught in the act of committing a crime, which did not happen in this case. 

 
 
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