August 17, 2004

Concern ahead of polls / Voter registration exceeds target

Recent reports of political skirmishes between the ruling FRELIMO party and the main opposition, RENAMO, ahead of Mozambique's general elections in December, are a cause for concern, say analysts with the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA). RENAMO has accused the government of moving police units to Maringue in the central province of Sofala, a RENAMO stronghold where its leader Afonso Dhlakama is based, after clashes between the political rivals in the neighbouring town of Inhaminga. Last month beatings, housebreaking and random shootings which had allegedly been committed by former RENAMO guerrillas in Maringue were reported. "The cause for concern is that the reported incidents of violence serve to highlight both the ongoing distrust between the two main political parties and the need for continuing efforts to establish a culture of political tolerance in Mozambique," EISA's Heidi Brooks and Sydney Letsholo said about the unrest in Sofala.

According to them, there were several reports which indicated that RENAMO's "illegal security force" in Maringue was allegedly involved in the unrest. Despite the demobilisation of RENAMO troops after the 1992 peace agreement, the party has retained a force of 150 men in Maringue, 150 km northwest of the port city of Beira, on the grounds that it guards Dhlakama's houses. Eduard Namburete, RENAMO's election manager said that Dhlakama had announced that he would only demobilise his security force when he was elected president. According of David Monyae of Witwatersrand University, incidents of political intimidation were likely to continue in the run-up to the elections but he did not expect full-blown violence, as the Southern African Development Community's new charter on conducting free and fair elections should ensure that the Mozambican polls went relatively smoothly.

In the meantime it has become known that the updating of Mozambique's electoral registers, between 28 June and 15 July, resulted in the registration of over 50 per cent more people than initially targeted. It turned out that the 2.494 registration brigades had registered 1.245.809 voters, as against a target of 777.077. (IRIN / Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, Maputo)

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