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Mozambique: As disputed municipal elections lead to protests, Bishops urge peace and coexistence.

On Thursday this week, the Bishops of Mozambique issued a Pastoral Statement on the occasion of recent municipal elections marred by “illicit acts and irregularities” that have led to post-election demonstrations led by the opposition.

Bernardo Suate and Vatican News – Vatican City.

Demonstrations took place in Mozambique on Tuesday. The opposition called the protests to denounce fraud in recent municipal elections held last week. Mozambican Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds in the capital, Maputo. Opposition party Renamo President Ossufo Momade called for more demonstrations. 

Even as results were released from last Wednesday’s municipal vote, Frelimo, the ruling party, had been declared the winner in most towns where counting had ended. 

Electoral crimes and irregularities

At a press conference to present the Pastoral Statement of the Conferência Episcopal de Moçambique (CEM), the Archbishop of Maputo and spokesperson for CEM, Archbishop João Carlos Hatoa Nunes, told the media that the Bishops of Mozambique salute all who were involved in the preparation and holding of the elections, which the Bishops accompanied and followed by accrediting observers composed of persons from the Church’s Justice and Peace Commission.

Unfortunately, say the Bishops, the municipal elections were characterised by “illicit acts and irregularities, some more serious than others.” The Mozambican prelates say some malpractices “were reported on occasionally by electoral observers.” These illicit acts and irregularities “have generated a high degree of mistrust in Mozambican society and have the risk of causing instability and continued social tensions throughout the nation,” Archbishop João Carlos told the media in Maputo.

The Bishops give examples of some of the electoral malpractices. These include destroying campaign material belonging to rivals, “violent clashes, people unjustly imprisoned, questionable actions by those supposed to guarantee order and the safety of the people, and irregularities in the voting, counting and fairness of the results.”

There is no legitimacy without truth

Archbishop João Carlos said that faced with this reality, the Mozambican Bishops appeal to all men and women of goodwill to maintain peace, a supreme value needed for coexistence and citizenship. The Bishops further call for urgent dialogue between the government, the electoral management bodies, political parties, civil society and all other protagonists. Such talks must be characterised by sincerity and “clarity of positions.”

The Mozambican prelates further suggest “a return to legality, knowing that there is no legitimacy without truth, and ensuring that the force of the law is what curbs and helps overcome any possible manipulation of results or electoral fraud.” They add that peace is also maintained through prayers for one another and through reason and ethical behaviour “so that any possibility of bloodshed between brothers will be avoided by all means.”

Demonstrations this week by Renamo supporters denouncing fraud in the municipal elections.

Demonstrations this week by Renamo supporters denouncing fraud in the municipal elections.

Demonstrate peacefully and without violence

Mozambique’s electoral bodies have been challenged by the Bishops to act “responsibly and fairly review the entire process of tabulation of the results that are still to be released” to the leaderships of the various political parties.

The Bishops appeal to Mozambique’s opposition parties protesting the results “to call their members and sympathisers to reason, to protest peacefully, legally and without violence”.

The Thursday Pastoral Statement is signed by the Archbishop of Nampula and President of the CEM, Archbishop Inácio Saúre, together with the Archbishop of Maputo and spokesperson for the Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop João Carlos.

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