LONDON - Mozambican police used excessive and lethal force against peaceful protesters and bystanders, including firing live ammunition and teargas, following disputed local elections in October, said Amnesty International.

The Police of the Republic of Mozambique’s (PRM) response to widespread unrest that broke out on 12 October left at least 5 civilians dead, including three children, and a further 27 injured so far.

“The use of excessive force by the PRM, which resulted in deaths, serious injuries and the arbitrary detention of protesters and bystanders, amounts to clear violations of the country’s Constitution and international human rights obligations,” said Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.

“Mozambican authorities must comply with international standards governing the conduct of law enforcement officials and the use of force and firearms. They must also conduct prompt, thorough, impartial, independent, transparent and effective investigations into these allegations including the case of the officers who shot and killed protesters, including minors, as well as all other incidents of excessive use of force, and ensure that those suspected to be responsible are brought to justice in fair trials. Victims must be provided with access to justice and effective remedies.”

The three minors killed were a 16-year-old boy, in Chiúre, Cabo Delgado province, a 14-year-old boy, Atipo Ajuma, killed on the street while selling “maheu”, (a local non-alcoholic drink), and a 17-year-old boy, killed while he was hiding from the police with his father.

On 26 October, the Mozambican Electoral Commission (CNE) announced the ruling Frelimo party’s victory in 64 out of 65 municipalities. Contrary to expectations, the main opposition party, Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo), lost everywhere, with the Movimento Democrático de Moçambique (MDM) winning one municipality, Beira, in Sofala province. The announcement of Frelimo’s victory intensified the unrest, which started from 12 October when initial results were displayed by the technical electoral body, STAE. Thousands of protesters took to the street in the Maputo, Matola, Vilanculos, Quelimane, Gurué, Nampula, Nacala, Angoche, Cuamba, Chiúre. Police violently dispersed protesters and bystanders, including killing, injuring and detaining them. On 27 October, police broke into Renamo’s district office, in Maputo, and detained dozens of supporters and bystanders who fled to Renamo’s office. Many other protesters, including bystanders, were detained in other municipalities across the country. Hundreds are still detained in police custody, under degrading conditions, and without being formally charged.

Amnesty International is calling for the immediate release of all those detained solely for taking part in peaceful protests, including supporters and members of the opposition Renamo party.

Family members reported being denied access to their relatives. Ana Alberto, a mother of three detainees told RTP, the Portuguese TV and Radio Station:

“I have three sons who were detained while they were selling in downtown Maputo. As there were many people protesting, when police arrived, they detained with no distinction between the ones protesting and those selling around. That is how my sons have been detained. Since they were detained, I did not speak to them yet”.


Background


On 11 October 2023, Mozambique held municipal elections in 65 municipalities. Following peaceful protests and celebrations of unconfirmed victories by members and supporters from the main opposition party, Renamo, police responded violently, targeting opposition strongholds.

Law enforcement officials from PRM were deployed in the municipalities contested by Renamo, from 12 October, in clear anticipation of the reaction to the announcement of the disputed election results by the electoral management body, STAE and the National Electoral Commission, CNE.