Mozambique peace deal at risk over poll fraud claims

Sunday November 3 2019

Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi, Renamo

Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi (left) and Renamo leader Ossufo Momade display the documents after signing a ceasefire agreement in Gorongosa on August 1, 2019. President Nyusi and Renamo opposition leader Momade signed a landmark agreement aimed at formally ending decades of military hostilities. PHOTO | AFP  

ARNALDO VIEIRA
By ARNALDO VIEIRA
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Mozambique’s electoral commission has admitted that there were irregularities in the October 15 elections, which saw President Filipe Nyusi win a second five-year term.

The country’s largest opposition party Renamo filed a suit on Wednesday calling for the election results to be annulled due to “massive electoral fraud.”
The opposition submitted an official complaint to the National Electoral Commission (CNE) for a ruling by the constitutional council.

Renamo has accused the government of “massive electoral fraud” and breaching the country’s peace deal by using violence and intimidation on voting day.

Rather than defend itself against the anomalies, the CNE said it would leave the judgement on how it conducted the elections and the validity of the results to the country’s Constitutional Court.

“When we announced the results, no one heard us saying that the elections were free, fair and transparent,” CNE head Abdul Carimo said on Tuesday, October 29.

Mr Carimo made the comments while handing over the election results and the poll body’s observations to the Constitutional Court, which has until December to analyse and validate the results.

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“We leave the judgement to the Constitutional Court,” he said.

President Nyusi won the elections with 73 per cent of the votes followed by Renamo’s Ossufo Momade with 21.8 per cent. Frelimo will have 184 MPs, Renamo 60 and MDM 6 MPs in parliament.

The commission’s admission partially plays into grievances raised by leading opposition parties about the voters’ roll being tampered with, observers intimidated out of polling stations, voters harassed away from polling stations and the tallying compromised by fraud.

As a result, the main opposition party Renamo—which signed a peace deal with the ruling Frelimo Party in June—together with MDM rejected the election outcome and called for the presidential poll to be repeated.

Some complaints related to damage to election materials, disturbances at polling stations and ballot stuffing have already been filed at the Supreme Court. These are some of the key grievances raised by Renamo presidential candidate Ossufo Momade.

“We have received 272 complaints over damage to electoral material, 72 incidents of polling station harassment and 21 claims of illicit introduction of ballot papers into ballot boxes,” said Supreme Court spokesman Pedro Natitima.

Venâncio Mondlane, Renamo’s representative at CNE said the party had filed a petition at the Constitutional Court demanding the elections be annulled “if we want to save our democracy, if we still want to give some credibility to our state.”

Its petition is backed by eight political parties including MDM, New Democracy, AMUSI and the Ecologist Party. Renamo had also submitted evidence of electoral fraud in 155 cases at the district courts.

Alberto Ferreira, the head of Mozambique’s Public University of Philosophy said Frelimo’s control of most political and economic resources was a key threat to democracy.

“We are living in a dictatorship, in a totalitarianism,” said Mr Ferreira.

Civil society organisations have also questioned the credibility of the polls as they have a direct bearing on the implementation of the peace deal.

The Public Integrity Centre (CIP), a Mozambican NGO that observed elections, said the rejection of the election results could unleash a new political crisis.

In a joint statement released last week, CIP and other civil society organisations concluded that the October 15 general elections were not free, just and transparent.

They accused the ruling party of manipulating electoral processes in its favour, alleging evidence of serious electoral fraud, which they did not specify.

“If the Constitutional Court validates the polls it would pave the way for a political crisis, which would prevent the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process already inked from progressing,” CIP said.

In particular, the organisation feared Renamo and MDM could refuse to take their place in the opposition; reopening the armed conflict that has dogged the country since its independence from Portugal in 1975.

President Nyusi’s foremost challenges include healing divisions widened after the election, integrating Renamo’s army personnel in defence and security agencies, fighting insurgents in Cabo Delgado province and reconstructing an economy that was already struggling before consecutive hits from hurricanes Idai and Kenneth.

Analysts do not consider a splinter Renamo wing led by Mariano Nhongo’s, which staged attacks in central Mozambique in the run up to the polls, as a major threat to stability in the short to medium-term.

“Mr Momade has shown that he does not want to make war, he wants to be reintegrated and collaborate with the government,” said Gustavo Mave, a political analyst.

The attacks in central Mozambique intensified after the poll results were announced, leaving three police officers dead and two Frelimo members kidnapped in separate incidents in Sofala province.

The police say they have evidence of a Renamo armed group attacking the Metuchira police post where two of the officers died.

However, Mr Momade said he did not know about the attacks and challenged the government to investigate them. He said the insurgents had no resources to sustain a bush war.

“Renamo has not carried out any attacks and it will not go back to guns. After the peace deal for national reconciliation in August Renamo has a commitment to defend the Mozambican people,” said Mr Momade on October 29.

Media reports said 20 members from the state security and defence forces were killed along with five Russian nationals in Cabo Delgado province, in an ambush by insurgents at Namala region in Miangalewa, Muidumbe district.

The five Russian nationals belonged to Wagner Group, which supports the Mozambique government in neutralising bases controlled by rebels and jihadists.

The Wagner Group also works with governments in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central Africa Republic in protecting senior officials and installations.

Political risk has already started affecting the economy with India stopping an investment of $2.4 billion at Rovuma basin in Cabo Delgado province for natural gas exploration. However, India said the decision was based on a decline in oil and gas prices in international markets.

The conflict-hit Cabo Delgado, about 1,700km north of Maputo, is rich in minerals such as gold, grenadines, aquamarines, tourmalines, blue topaz and green tourmalines and attracts many foreigners.

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