Mozambicans Protest in Capital Against Kidnappings

More than 2,000 demonstrators marched in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, to protest against a wave of kidnappings and armed clashes between government forces and former rebels in central Sofala province.

The rally shut stores and halted traffic in a number of city center streets.

“We are here to say that’s enough,” Alice Mapote, president of Mozambique’s Human Rights League, told a crowd today at the city’s Independence Park. “We need peace and stability.”

Six people, including a member of an elite police unit that protects President Armando Guebuza and two other policemen, were jailed for 16 years on Oct. 28 for their role in abductions. The next day the police criminal investigations director in Maputo, Januario Cumbana, was fired. Fighting between the army and militia loyal to the opposition Mozambique National Resistance party, or Renamo, has also stoked public outrage.

“More than 20 people were kidnapped in two years,” Momed Ibrahim, a member of Maputo’s Muslim community, told the protestors. “Four people are still in those bandits’ hands and we feel that we are unprotected.”

Fifty-eight people died in clashes between government forces and Renamo in Maringue in Sofala this week, according to a military official who asked not to be identified because the death toll hasn’t been released.

Both the government and Renamo said they couldn’t confirm any casualties.

Transportation Attacks

The army attacked Renamo’s main base on Oct. 21 after a series of attacks on public transportation and a government arms depot this year led to the disruption of rail lines used by Rio Tinto Plc and Vale SA to export coal. Renamo said a peace agreement signed in 1992 was void following the attack on its headquarters.

Rio Tinto today advised families of foreign employees to return temporarily to their home countries because of the rising military tensions, according to an e-mailed statement. Operations at coal mines in Tete province will continue as planned, it said.

Renamo, once backed by the white-minority governments of Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe, and South Africa, fought a 17-year civil war against the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, or Frelimo. It has served as the main opposition party for two decades. The clashes are the worst since the signing of the peace agreement.

“We need our sons and brothers back from that unnecessary war in Sofala,” the demonstrators in Maputo sang today. “We want it to end immediately.”

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