Mozambique Attacking Opposition, Press and Church

83 Inmates Died Under Suspicious Circumstances in Prison

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MAPUTO, Mozambique, DEC. 17, 2000 (
Mozambique seems peaceful and prosperous on the surface. But recent events indicate there are strong tensions between the state and the internal opposition, the press and the Church.

The international news agency Fides reported that on the night of Nov. 21-22, 83 of 96 imprisoned political opponents died suspiciously in the Montepuez prison, in the Pemba Diocese. Most were members of the opposition party Mozambican National Resistance, or Renamo.

They had been arrested sometime after Nov. 9, following anti-governmental demonstrations organized by Renamo, which caused the death of seven policemen and more than 40 supporters of minorities, and led to 100 arrests.

According to survivors at the prison, the victims were killed by asphyxiation from the toxic gas of a stove placed in a cell measuring «7 by 3 meters, with an armor-plated door and small window,» Fides reported. Cellmates said that the prison authorities, still irritated by the deaths of the seven policemen, refused to intervene.

Meanwhile, journalist Carlos Cardoso, editor and owner of the financial newspaper Metical, and the best-known critic of corruption in the government in this southern African nation, was killed by terrorists Nov. 22. His car was blocked by the vehicles of two killers who riddled him with machine-gun bullets in the city center.

Cardoso was investigating alleged swindles involving government officials, following the privatization of a state bank. One week before his death, Cardoso had started a campaign against the «gangster faction» of the ruling party Frelimo, which he regarded as responsible for the country´s recent political violence.

The night of Cardoso´s murder, a Radio Mozambique reporter, who announced the journalist´s death, was stopped by a band of assailants who cut off his tongue «for having talked too much,» Fides said.

Archbishop Jaime Goncalves of Beira was accused by Felipe Paunde, Frelimo´s first secretary of Sofala central province, of having supported the country´s division. The archbishop´s homilies, Paunde claimed, were «photocopies of the Renamo leader´s statements.»

Archbishop Goncalves denied having made such statements. He said he has limited himself to saying that «there had been problems connected to the 1999 elections,» emphasizing that «he condemns and will continue to condemn any idea to divide the country.»

Renamo had requested the invalidation of the results of the last election, which gave victory to Frelimo (Mozambican
Liberation Front), the party of President Joachim Chissano. But the Supreme Court rejected the appeal. Renamo is politically powerless, though it has almost half the seats in Parliament, in this nation of 19 million.

John Paul II expressed profound consternation over the death of the 83 political prisoners. In a telegram to the bishop of Pemba, the Holy Father «appeals to the authorities for greater efforts so that such tragic episodes will not be repeated, confident that the living forces of Mozambique will find the way for the nation´s future in dialogue and reciprocal respect.»

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