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Mozambique: Violent Unrest, Frustration in Maputo

The capital of Mozambique, Maputo, woke to uncertainty this morning, after yesterday's rioting resulted in a number of deaths. (The numbers reported by mainstream media vary between 4 and 10). Disturbing photos of one of the school children shot dead yesterday were posted on Facebook by newspaper A Verdade [The Truth, pt].

The site continues to be an excellent online source of information. Its “Citizen Reporter” site, using the Ushahidi crowdsourcing platform to receive SMS reports, has registered new incidents on what it is calling “Day 2″, including reports from the town Chokwé, north of the Capital.

Other newspapers and some alternative media were apparently out of circulation today, as Carlos Serra [pt] observes

Problemas com dois jornais: “Savana” e “Canal de Moçambique”, o primeiro a braços com falta de papel e dificuldades em fazer circular os camiões, o segundo impresso mas sem que seja possível transportá-lo e vendê-lo, acrescendo que poucos compradores há hoje na cidade e o seu portal está temporariamente inoperacional.

Problems with two newspapers: “Savana” and “Canal de Moçambique”, the first stuck with lack of paper and difficulty in circulating its trucks, the second printed but unable to transport or sell it, added that there are few buyers in the city and its [internet] portal is temporarily inoperational.

Used with CC license by Flickr user sharonpe

Early Thursday morning, residents like Sharon Peters, reported virtually no car traffic and little foot traffic on the streets of Maputo. She posted photos of empty streets from her rooftop.

It appears military patrolled the streets overnight, and police attempted to keep open major roads in the morning, but residents are reporting flare ups in the outlying poorer neighborhoods of Maputo. And there are reports of sporadic shooting from Twitter, like from freelancer Natstasya Tay

Out in Mafalala tyres are burning again. Gunshots this morning, heavy police presence. Ambulance sirens going crazy.

In the meantime, Amnesty International has issued a statement calling on the police to only use live ammunition in defense of human life.

Today, Maputo residents were waiting for another address by President Armando Guebuza. Many were not satisfied with the speech he read on television yesterday, such as @BeBe_da_DLimpo who yesterday wrote that “the President isn't understanding how serious the matter is” and @itzDenisse who criticizes the lack of spontaneity in his speech [pt]. Her appeal for #ResignMrPresident is being shouted on the streets, as Moçambique para Todos blog [Mozambique for All, pt] reports.

Editor Jeremias Langa boldly stated his view in his O País newspaper, reproduced on Reflectindo Sobre Moçambique blog [Reflecting on Mozambique, pt]

O Chefe de Estado é o farol orientador de um país, nos bons e nos maus momentos. É ele a voz apaziguadora e tranquilizadora das tensões sociais. Ontem, não o foi. Não soube sê-lo. Porque veio tarde demais a sua mensagem. Tudo porque, ontem, o nosso Presidente, no auge da crise, reuniu o partido no lugar do seu governo. Ou seja, mostrou que confia mais no partido que no próprio governo que lidera, quando se trata de encontrar soluções para o país.

The Head of State is the guiding light of a country, in good times and bad. He is the calming and reassuring voice to respond to social tensions. Yesterday, he was not. He did not know how to be this voice. Because his message came too late. All because, yesterday, our President, in the climax of the crisis, met the party at the place of his government. Which means that he trusts the party more than the government that he leads, when it comes to finding solutions for the country.

Bloggers are still working to digest and fully analyze the causes of the riots, which were triggered by increases in the cost of living. One thing is clear: it has caused a profound questioning of the country's political, social and economic situation.

On one hand the country is considered by many as a model for development in Africa. On the other hand, Mozambique has been living a sharp currency devaluation, which together with a policy that favors imports rather than the growth of the local economy, leads to huge social problems. As Vera comments [pt]:

Moçambique à semelhança de outros países de Áfica tem pessoas que vivem numa pobreza extrema e o comércio, indústria,exportações,importações estão nas mãos de uma elite ligada aos meios políticos, aos grandes senhores.
Moçambique importa quase tudo o que consome da África do Sul e isso faz pensar… que um país outrora próspero em alimentos, fruta, hoje não tenha nada.
Não tem porque as gerações que ficaram não sabem ou não podem cultivar a terra… porque a instabilidade e os roubos não lhes asseguram a colheita do que plantarem… não convêm aos grandes senhores que a população encontre formas de sobrevivência que não passem por eles.
Moçambique é um mundo de oportunidades… sim, mas de risco máximo da própria vida. Onde existem as oportunidades é aí mesmo que elas “findam” porque a vida de quem quer fazer alguma coisa fica comprometida pela insegurança.
É claro que a fome, a miséria geram a revolta. Estão em jogo as regras mais elementares de sobrevivência humana.

Mozambique as in other countries in Africa has people living in extreme poverty while trade, industry, exports, imports are in the hands of an elite linked to political means, the great masters.
Mozambique imports almost everything it consumes from South Africa and this makes you think … that a once prosperous country in food, fruit, today has nothing.
[It has] nothing because the generations who stayed don't know how to or cannot cultivate the land … because instability and theft does not guarantee them the harvest of what they plant … it is not convenient for the great masters that people find ways to survive that do not depend on them [the masters].
Mozambique is a world of opportunities … yes, but with highest risk to life itself. Where the opportunities meet their end because the lives of those who want to do something is compromised by insecurity.
Of course, hunger, misery generate revolt. At play are the most elementary rules of human survival.

As night falls, uncertainty remains in Maputo, as Bibiana Gomes writes in her blog [pt]

Escrevo este texto dia 2 de setembro, às 17horas aproximadamente…e acabo de ouvir mais tiros. Ainda não acabou, nem é possível prever quando ou como vai acabar. Talvez os tiros cessem, os focos de incêndios se apaguem, mas em um país onde o espírito da guerra ainda paira, infelizmente, parece que a violência é uma tentativa de ser ouvido, de clamar por liberdade. (…)
Espera-se que até amanhã, Maputo volte a normalidade, pelo menos aparentemente. Mas depois das manifestações, temos uma pista do que se passa na mente do povo, do grito reprimido e do potencial de mobilização dessa sociedade.

I write this on September 2, at approximately 5pm … and I just heard more shots. It is still not finished, nor is it possible to predict when or how it will end. Perhaps the shooting will cease, the fire will be extinguished, but in a country where the spirit of war still hangs, unfortunately, it seems that violence is an attempt to be heard, to call for freedom. (…)
It is expected that by tomorrow, Maputo goes back to normal, at least apparently. But after the unrest, we have a clue of what goes on in the minds of the people, the repressed shouting and the potential of this society to mobilize.
This post was co-authored by Sara Moreira.

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