Death of young man raises debate on police violence in Mozambique

Image edited from a screenshot of a YouTube video on the death of Massacar ‘Cebolinha’ Abacar by the author. Courtesy of Giovana Fleck/Global Voices.

On July 21, a news report circulated on WhatsApp and Facebook showing that a young man had died in the cells of the Police of the Republic of Mozambique (PRM).

Massacar Abacar, a dancer known as “Cebolinha,” died two days after being arrested by the PRM in the centre of the capital, Maputo. Some sources claim he was beaten by the police, an account that is denied by the Mozambican authorities.

Abacar was arrested when he went to a bar allegedly to demand payment of a debt owed to his father, an act that was seen by the managers of the establishment as an affront, and who in response called the police to intervene.

Local newspapers reported that after learning of the young man's arrest, Abacar's mother went to the police station, but was prevented from seeing her son.

Quando cheguei na esquadra perguntei se o meu filho estava detido, responderam positivamente, disse que queria ver o meu filho e não me deixaram ver o meu filho…

When I got to the police station I asked if my son was in custody, they said yes, I said I wanted to see my son and they wouldn't let me see my son…

The situation has created a wave of solidarity among Mozambicans, who are drawing attention to the escalating police violence in the country. On X (formerly Twitter), Valter Micas, a young activist, accused the President of the Republic of having ignored the case and instead travelled abroad on a work mission:

The President of the Republic has decided to go for a walk in the name of Mozambique and has once again left behind the departure of Bernardino Rafael from the PRM Command. The order of 18 March remains faceless. The order to torture Cebolinha, ditto. And the Attorney General's Office isn't saying anything either. Anyway.

On July 26, the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (CDD), a civil society organisation, organised a vigil in honour of Abacar, which was promptly stopped by the police.

Vigil in honour of Cebolinha, in Maputo. Location: 3rd police station, Av. Mao Tse Tung, nr 586. 🗓️ Today: 25 07 2023 // Time: 16.30

Police prevent vigil in honour of Cebolinha.

In a statement, the Mozambican Bar Association called on the competent authorities to hold the police officers involved in the young man's death accountable and to provide the family with the necessary assistance and reparations.

É também fundamental que sejam tomadas medidas para garantir que tais incidentes não se repitam no futuro e que a polícia esteja em conformidade com as normas internacionais de direitos humanos.

O direito à liberdade e vida é um dos pilares da democracia e deve ser respeitado pelas autoridades, que têm o dever de proteger e promover os direitos humanos dos cidadãos.

It is also essential that measures are taken to ensure that such incidents are not repeated in the future and that the police are in compliance with international human rights standards.

The right to liberty and life is one of the pillars of democracy and must be respected by the authorities, who have a duty to protect and promote the human rights of citizens.

A few days after the incident, another case occurred which caught the attention of Mozambicans. This time it was due to the circulation of a video in which a man is tied to the back of a police car and then made to crawl on the ground while being beaten by the same police.

The man did not die, but the video is horrific. In reaction, and once again through its director, the CDD called for an end to police violence in the country [sensitive video content]:

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.