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Mozambicans Mourn Democracy After Constitutional Lawyer Murdered

People gathering for a vigil in memory of Giles Cistac murdered by three gunshots. Photo: Dercio Tsandzana

People gathering for a vigil in memory of Giles Cistac murdered by three gunshots. Photo: Dercio Tsandzana

Gilles Cistac, professor of Constitutional Law and co-director of the Law Investigative Department of Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) was murdered on the morning of March 3, on one of the main avenues of Maputo, capital of Mozambique.

The murder caused thousands to protest in Maputo and another major city, Beira, on March 7.

The lawyer, a naturalised Mozambican of French origin, was famous for defending a bill that would allow the opposition party, Renamo, autonomy in those provinces where it received most votes in last year's elections. The ruling Frelimo party believe that the move would threaten national unity. 

Supporters of Renamo and Frelimo were engaged in a civil conflict from 1977-1992. Renamo supporters took up arms again as recently as 2013 but laid them down prior to presidential elections that saw Frelimo continue to dominate national politics under new President Filipe Nyusi. The bill supported by Cistac was seen by many as a way to promote local governance and maintain peace between the government and the country's largest opposition party.

Although Cistac had offered his services to the ruling party in the past, relations had soured. Frelimo spokesperson Damião José referred to Cistac as an “ingrate” in the run up to his death.

Emotions ran quickly through the networks following his death. Erick Charas, owner of the newspaper @Verdade in Mozambique said:

E assim progredimos de assassinato de caracter (G40) para assassinato das pessoas que simplesmente falam as verdades como elas sao (G40 plus)… enfim Quo vadis ‪#‎Mocambique‪#‎Viva a Liberdade de expressao!! ‪#‎naotemosmedo

This is how we move from slandering people´s reputation to murder, just because they simply speak the truth (…) Quo vadis [Where are you heading?] Mozambique… Up with freedom of speech!!

The Canal de Moçambique, an independent newspaper, was the first to break the news on their Facebook page:

Constitutional Lawyer, Giles Cistac. Photo: DR

Constitutional Lawyer, Giles Cistac. Photo: Mozambican Government

Última Hora*Última Hora*Última Hora*

Gilles Cistac baleado em Maputo (‪#‎canalmoz)

…Está neste momento entre a vida e a morte no Hospital Central de Maputo

Maputo (Canalmoz) – Acaba de ser baleado em plena Avenida Eduardo Mondlane, no Café ABC, antigo Wimbe o constitucionalista Gilles Cistac, o homem que descobriu a brecha constitucional das regiões autónomas. Gilles Cistac um dos juristas mais incómodos ao sistema há muito que vinha a ser combatido e desde que apresentou publicamente a possibilidade constitucional da criação de regiões autónomas o ódio do sistema à sua pessoa aumentou. Cistac que é um dos mais reputados constitucionalistas foi baleado por indivíduos que se faziam transportar numa viatura que passou pelo café. Neste momento Cistac está entre a vida e a morte no Hospital Central de Maputo. Ainda não temos detalhes sobre quantos tiros e as regiões do corpo alvejadas. Estamos em contacto com familiares directos que nos prometeram actualizar o seu estado que consideraram de “muito grave”.

O constitucionalista vinha recebendo ameaças de pessoas que se diziam do partido Frelimo e que o acusavam de ser assessor jurídico da Renamo. Na semana passada um cidadão que nas redes sociais se identifica como Calado Kalashnikov pôs a circular mensagens no Facebook com teor racista a acusar Gilles Cistac, Fernando Veloso, director do Canal de Moçambique, Fernando Lima e Castel Branco todos de raça branca de estarem a patrocinar a subversão no País.

Em consequência disso Gilles Cistac apresentou uma queixa à Procuradoria Geral da República, informando a PGR que estava a ser vítima de intolerância política.

Não é a primeira vez que tais mensagens circulam. Num passado recente, a TVM e a Rádio Moçambique e a Agência de Informação de Moçambique todos controlados pelo partido Frelimo também acusaram sem provas os mesmos cidadãos de estarem a reunir-se com o embaixador dos Estados Unidos da América Douglas Grifiths.

Hoje as ameaças concretizaram-se e Gilles Cistac acaba de ser baleado em plena avenida Eduardo Mondlane. (Redacção)”

Breaking News*Breaking News*Breaking News*

 Gilles Cistac gunned down in Maputo (‪#‎canalmoz)

 …He's at this moment fighting for his life at Maputo's Central Hospital

 Maputo (Canalmoz) – Constitutionalist Gilles Cistac has been shot at Cafe ABC, ex-Wimbe, on Eduardo Mondlane Avenue. The man that unveiled the existence of a constitutional gap by supporting a decentralising power proposition made by opposition party has become one of the most inconvenient rights lawyers for the central government. Since then, the system has raised hate towards his person. Cistac, a prominent constitutionalist was gunned down by individuals driving a car nearby the cafe. Cistac is now between life and death at Maputo’s Central Hospital. Still no details about the shots and where on his body he was hit. We are in contact with his relatives who have promised to provide more updates of his “serious condition”.

The lawyer has been previously receiving threats from people saying they were from Frelimo party and accusing him of being Renamo’s legal brain. Last week, a citizen using the nickname Calado Kalashnikov posted some racist messages on Facebook against Gilles Cistac, Fernando Veloso (director of Canal Moçambique newspaper), Fernando Lima and Castel Branco — all white people — accusing them of sponsoring the downfall of the country.

As a result Gilles Cistac complained to the Attorney General’s Office, stating that he was being a victim of political intolerance.

This is not the first time that such messages circulate. In the recent past, the Television of Mozambique (TVM), Radio Mozambique and the Mozambique News Agency all controlled by the Frelimo party, also accused, without proof, the same citizens of meeting with the Ambassador of the United States of America, Douglas Grifiths.

Today the threats have materialised and Gilles Cistac just been shot in broad daylight on the avenue Eduardo Mondlane.

Cistac later died from multiple gunshot wounds.

Commenting on the news, several people associated the murder with Cistac's public statements on the constitution:

Almeida Rui Almeida said:

Triste saber, só pra ver como a frelimo manda calar boca das pessoas que discobrem a verdad d moz,quando falam á publico a pessoa paga com a sua propria vida.

Sad to know, just to see how Frelimo shuts down people who uncover the truth of Mozambique. When they speak in public they pay with their own life. 

Others associated the shooting with the recent assassination of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, who died in similar circumstances:

Como eu disse, já estamos na Europa em particular na Rússia onde nao se pode criticar as barbaridades do Governo. E cá estamos nós.

As I said, we are already in Europe, in particular in Russia, where you cannot criticise the atrocities of the government. And here we are.

Other voices were more cautious, noting that accusations should not be made too early:

Deixem a policia trabalhar .nada de comentários sem evidencias .Aqui em Moçambique temos muita gente armada formal ou informalmente .pode ser um conluio

Let the police do their work. Refrain from comments without evidence. Here in Mozambique we have many people that are armed, legally and illegally. You can fall into a plot.

Arqui Tecto called it “an attack against democracy in Mozambique”:

Isso é mais um tiro contra a democracia que está morta há muito tempo. Das nossas entidades não espero muita coisa. O português q nao tinha a nacionalidade foi deportado, o francês q mudou de nacionalidade é baleado. Solução: 1- a Renamo tem de seguir a todo custo com o projecto de regiões autónomas e sem esperar acordos, para salvar a democracia. 2: as entidades francesas devem apurar a verdade e punir os culpados, mudou de nacionalidade mas ele é francês antes de tudo. 3- os que amam a democracia, devem banir os ditadores.

This is one more attack against democracy, which is long dead.We can´t expect much from our public bodies. The Portuguese who did not have citizenship was deported, the French man who naturalised is shot. 

Solution:

1- Renamo must push ahead at all costs with the draft for autonomous regions and without waiting for agreements to save democracy.

2: French entities shall establish the truth and punish the guilty — though he naturalised, he is French first of all.

3- dictators should be banned by those who love democracy.

Raúl Barata said on his Facebook wall:

Parece-me que a liberdade de expressao e’ ainda um grande desafio.Certas declaracoes sao vistas como oposicao ao sistema e certas pessoas sao vistas como dissidentes.Precisamos de mais anos de democracia para que possamos aprender alguns valores e principios democraticos.

It seems to me that freedom of expression is still a big challenge. Some declarations are still seen as opposition to the system, and some people are seen as dissidents. We need more years of democracy so we can learn some democratic values and principles. 

Adelson Rafael, commentator and political analyst, speaks of an “abuse of democracy”:

Armas democráticas ou democracia das armas?

A democracia é, por definição, um método pacífico de solucionar conflitos. O baleamento de Gilles Cistac, professor catedrático de Direito Constitucional , não foi apenas um gesto tresloucado depreciável, mas sim uma manifestação clara de rejeição da democracia enquanto método pacífico de solucionar conflitos. Diante do terror, todas as atitudes pacificadoras são inúteis. E continuará a sê-lo enquanto alguns cobardes acreditarem que a democracia resultará da imposição das armas, e não como fruto da justiça e do reconhecimento de que a diversidade de ideias e crenças é um direito — e merece respeito. Para todos os cidadãos de julgamento sóbrio, urge repensar o País, como condição sine qua non do que pretendemos ser.

Democratic weapons or weapons of democracy?

 Democracy is by definition a peaceful method of resolving conflicts. The shooting of Gilles Cistac, professor of constitutional law, was not only a depreciable insane gesture, but a clear manifestation of a rejection of democracy as a peaceful method of resolving conflicts. In the face of terror, all peaceful resolutions are useless, and will continue to be so as long as some cowards believe that democracy will result from the imposition of arms, rather than the fruits of justice and the recognition that the diversity of ideas and beliefs is a right – and deserves respect. For all citizens of sober judgment, I urge a rethink of the country, as a sine qua non of what we want to be.

DW (Portuguese for Africa) spoke of the case on Facebook:

Em Moçambique, foi baleado o constitucionalista Gilles Cistac. O conhecido constitucionalista está em estado crítico no Hospital Central de Maputo. Cistac foi o homem que, através da Constituição, mostrou que é possível ter em Moçambique uma governação provincial autónoma. Isto fortaleceu a posição da RENAMO de gestão autónoma na sua querela com o Governo da FRELIMO. O constitucionalista estaria a ser alvo de ameaças.

PERGUNTA DO DIA – O que acha deste crime? É de natureza política? Deixe ficar aqui a sua opinião.

Cistac was the man who, through the constitution, showed that it is possible to have autonomous provincial governance in Mozambique. This strengthened the position of RENAMO in its dispute with the Government run by the ruling FRELIMO party. The constitutionalist received threats to his person. QUESTION OF THE DAY – What do you think of this crime? Is it of a political nature? Leave your opinions here.

Notiço Henrique concluded that “both parties are similar in their actions”:

Semelhança entre Renamo e Frelimo: – ambos matam; Diferenças: A Renamo avisa e mata de frente, a Frelimo não avisa e mata camuflada.
Que Deus salve e proteja o Cistac!

The similarity between Renamo and Frelimo: both kill. The differences: Renamo warns and kills in the open, Frelimo does not warn and kills stealthily.

May God save and protect Cistac!

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