May 21, 2008

Guebuza hears complaints of tribalism

President Armando Guebuza has declared that the great secret of success in the struggle against hunger and poverty would be the unity of all Mozambicans, regardless of their ethnic origins, just as this had been key for victory over Portuguese colonialism. Guebuza was speaking at a rally in the town of Balama, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, after citizens had complained of tribalism among the local political leadership.

One local resident, named Candido, told Guebuza that tribal criteria had been used in allocating the fund for local initiatives (a fund of at least seven million meticais - about 280,000 US dollars - from the state budget granted to each of the 128 districts for projects that will increase food production and create jobs). He also alleged that anyone applying for money from this fund had to pay 600 meticais (24 dollars) first. "I don't understand why they're charging us this money", Candido said. He claimed that tribalism was also to be found in the appointment to leadership positions in Balama, and that the District Consultative Council was nothing more than "a club of friends", whose members had been appointed without any consultation with the local population. Candido claimed that no only was the district administrator from the neighbouring province of Nampula, but so were most of the other members of the district government.

Another citizen, Jose Mamudo, accused members of the police of stopping citizens on the streets for no good reason and extorting money from them. He also claimed that the concessionary companies that purchase cotton from peasant producers "swindle them" - which was why peasant were switching their efforts away from cotton to maize, groundnuts and sunflower.

In response, Guebuza stressed that people who take tribalist attitudes "are wasting their time", and that tribalism "in no way helps us to fight against hunger and poverty". He stressed that without national unity Mozambicans would have found it much more difficult to defeat colonialism and achieve their independence. He also stressed that people should always feel free to speak their minds about the problems they face, and no-one should feel intimidated.

Turning to the international food crisis, Guebuza declared that the solution must be to increase Mozambique's own food production. "Food is expensive and scarce", he said. "Unfortunately we are continuing to buy this food on the international market, even though we have sufficient land to produce for ourselves and even to export food". (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, Maputo)

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