Good afternoon. News reports about people being shot by police are all too familiar in Mozambique, and they have become especially common since the disputed local elections in October, which have sparked opposition demonstrations complaining about electoral fraud. Today brings news, and some distressing videos and photos, that a man was shot dead yesterday during a protest in the town of Marromeu (see below). The protest was to dispute the results of the repeated local election held on Sunday, an election that, as we reported on Monday, was ruined by the same kind of fraud that led to the first election result being invalidated. Also in the news is the wounding of protesters who were attacking the site of a mining company in Zambézia province.
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Two problems seem to be behind the high incidence of police shootings. The first is that the police seek to suppress opposition demonstrations at all. Marches usually only turn violent when the police try to break them up and attack demonstrators. With some exceptions, the national police force can be counted on to act in support of ruling party Frelimo and to harass opposition parties: hence their attempt to intimidate Venâncio Mondlane, the senior politician of opposition party Renamo (see below). This bias was clear during voting in the local elections, both the original elections in October and the repeat elections on Sunday. During the latter, five people were shot and wounded by police in the town of Gurué. Police chief Bernardino Rafael makes no secret of his political affiliation to Frelimo.
The second problem is that, when police are responding to a demonstration, they often lack the resources or training to do so properly. Riot police only exist in big cities and are not available to police protests like that in Pebane yesterday. In smaller settlements, police have only automatic rifles with which to respond, and no training in crowd control. Thus they fire bullets to spread fear. The problem is compounded by the military background of senior police officers, who have no background in policing and do not understand how to pacify and contain violent protests, only how to kill.