Mozambique police on Tuesday denied that they used force against participants in peaceful marches in honour of the country’s late rapper Azagaia in several cities after they was forced to repress it saying there was a risk of violence.
Mozambican youth were participating in authorised nationwide peaceful demonstrations in five provinces, including Maputo, to remember the fallen artiste.
Edson da Luz, known as “Azagaia,” who died on March 9 from complications of a sudden illness, was known for his criticism of the Mozambican government.
On March 14, a large crowd joined a procession following the official funeral ceremony in Maputo.
Azagaia, who inspired many with his music, sang about injustice, including mistreatment of people by the Mozambican authorities, poverty and social injustice. He also urged Mozambicans to hold their authorities accountable.
His death was marked across Portuguese-speaking countries, with vigils in Angola, Mozambique and Portugal.
In videos widely circulating on social media, Mozambican police officers were on Saturday seen beating up protesters, teargassing and targeting organisers for their role in the rallies.
Amnesty International (AI) accused Mozambique police of violently repressing a nationwide peaceful march to remember the fallen musician.
Mozambique Police Deputy Commander Fernando Tsucana on Tuesday said they were forced to repress the demonstrations because there was a danger that they could turn violent.
"Noting strong indications of a transition from a peaceful to violent demonstration, it was decided [we] take police measures and deploy forces to the gathering places where it was advised and urged the demonstrators not to hold the marches," Tsucana said.
Mr Zacarias Nacute, a police spokesman in Nampula Province, on Tuesday said that the arrested protesters were taken to police stations for causing disturbance and to safeguard the interest of the majority which is to guarantee public order and tranquillity.
HRW urges investigations
Last week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Mozambican authorities to promptly and impartially investigate the use of tear gas by police on the funeral procession of the fallen musician.
“Mozambique police is responsible for safety and security at funeral processions or other public gatherings. They should always abide by human rights standards if use of force is required,” Ashwanee Budoo-Scholtz, HRW deputy director for Africa, said.
“An impartial investigation is needed to determine whether officials unnecessarily rushed to use tear gas and be held accountable if found guilty. For many Mozambicans, Azagaia’s death was a sad enough event that shouldn’t have been made more tragic by the authorities’ excessive use of force,” Budoo-Scholtz said.
In Angola’s capital Luanda, activists said that a gathering in honour of the fallen rapper was dispersed by the police.
Activists and citizens who also marched in Sagrada Familia Square also complained of violation of their right to assembly and demonstration.
Reacting, Mozambique’s national director of human rights at the country’s justice ministry, Mr Yanick Bernardo, said that his institution was not officially notified about the march in honour of the late musician.