At least 10 people were killed and 85 others injured in a stampede during an election rally held by President Filipe Nyusi, police said on Thursday.
National Police spokesman Orlando Mudumane told dpa that the stampede broke out while the president addressed crowds inside a stadium in the north-eastern city of Nampula on Wednesday, ahead of the Oct. 15 general elections.
Two of the injured were receiving intensive care, according to Mudumane.
The cause of the stampede remained unknown on Thursday, with the city’s police chief being suspended until the outcome of the investigation, said Mudumane.
“We ordered an inquiry into the tragedy and will provide more information soon,” he added.
The atmosphere in Mozambique has been tense in the run-up to the polls, with growing concerns about renewed violence.
The southern African nation is beset by sporadic violence between the ruling party Frelimo and the main opposition party, the former rebel group Renamo.
The two groups fought against each other in a 15-year civil war that ended in 1992.
Mozambique will hold presidential, legislative and provincial elections on Oct. 15 2019.
The date was unveiled amid negotiations on consolidating peace between the government and former rebels, the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo).
Four presidential candidates and 26 parties started campaigning for the general election on Saturday, the first contest without historic Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, and the first to elect provincial governors.
The four hoping to inhabit the Ponta Vermelha, official residence of the head of state are: the current President of the Republic and Frelimo leader, Filipe Nyusi, and the current leader of Renamo, Ossufo Momade.
The other two candidates are: the leader of the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM), Daviz Simango, and the candidate of the Extraparliamentary Action Party of the United Movement for Integral Salvation (AMUSI), Mario Albino.
There are 26 political formations competing for the legislatures and provinces, but the Mozambican Liberation Front (Frelimo), Renamo and the MDM are believed to be the better prepared to withstand the harsh 45-day electoral campaign across the 11 constituencies of the vast national territory, plus the diaspora.
The general elections on October 15 will, for the first time, choose the governors of 10 provinces of the country from among the heads of list of the competing parties.
The election of the provincial governors is a novelty resulting from the approval of a new decentralisation package in the context of negotiations for the Maputo Peace and National Reconciliation Agreement, signed on the 6th of August.
Also, for the first time since the introduction of a multiparty system in Mozambique by the 1990 constitution, the general elections will take place without Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, who died on May 3, 2018.
Afonso Dhlakama ran unsuccessfully in the 1994, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014 presidential elections, without accepting defeat in any of them.
Renamo says the way the general elections take place will be a measure of the success or failure of the Peace and National Reconciliation Agreement.
It has demanded that they be free, fair and transparent, so that the country does not slip into instability, as has happened several times after elections in the past.
“Let us be honest, the success of this agreement will depend on the integrity, freedom, justice and transparency with which the next general elections will be held on Oct. 15,” Renamo whip in the Assembly of the Republic, Ivone Soares, said on the 21st of August, at the end of the legislature.
The main opposition party goes to the election campaign overshadowed by an internal crisis provoked by a challenge to the party leadership from the self-proclaimed Military Junta, comprising a faction of the organisation’s armed wing.
Mariano Nhongo, Renamo general and leader of the Military Junta, has threatened to derail the electoral process through armed violence if the group’s claims are not met.
“There will be no elections” if the Mozambican government does not negotiate peace agreements with the group before the Oct. 15 general elections, Mariano Nhongo said in an interview with Lusa the day before the election campaign began.
“If they insist on campaigning, a lot of people will die,” he warned.
Another controversy accompanying the campaigning is that fuelled by differences between the number of voters registered by the electoral bodies and those projected by the National Statistics Institute (INE).
The National Election Commission (CNE) of Mozambique announced in June that it had registered 1.1 million voters in Gaza province, which is to say that 80% of the population is over 18, when INE data indicate that there are 836,000 people of electoral age, or 329,000 fewer than those who registered to vote.
Following the controversy, head of state and Frelimo candidate Filipe Nyusi reprimanded the INE, prompting the head of the statistical entity to resign.
The CNE estimates the cost of the election process at 14.6 billion meticais, of which the government has so far secured 56%.
CNE spokesman Paulo Cuinica told Lusa recently that it had approved the disbursement of 180 million meticais for the 26 competing parties, to be handed out in stages on condition of presentation of justifications of genuine electoral expenses. (dpa/NAN)