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Police should serve the citizens

Mozambican civil society is concerned about the human rights violations committed by the police.
Mário Machimbene
6.6.2013

The Mozambican Human Rights League (LDH) has been reporting cases in which police has executed citizens justifying that they are fugitives.

The strange thing is that these criminals are never reached in the legs, but in the most vital areas of the body which raises questions about intentional killings. According to information provided by LDH only from January to August 2008  in total of 15 people were shot by the police.

One of the cases which caused great indignation was the death of Alfredo Tivane, father of two children, whom was killed by an agent serving the Police of the Republic of Mozambique (PRM). The incident happened on the 19th of March this year in a neighborhood of the capital city Maputo.

Another case happened in the neighborhood that falls under the area of the Maputo City Police. There a young man called Manuel Bernardo Cumbula was accused of stealing side windows of a car, and was for this reason taken into custody. In the station three members of the police forces were torturing Cumbula in order to force him to confess the crime.

The residents in many areas are now demanding for justice. In some areas people no longer want the police station. The citinzens don't know whether to be more afraid of the police or the criminals.

The situation has lead to establishment of community police which is a service provided by ordinary members of communities. The community police's duty is to inform about dubious conduct and take the criminals to the police station. Lately there has been problems with the community police as well.

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Concerned about these atrocities LDH organized a conference that joined civil society, police officers, academics, political parties, and international partners to discuss together about the role of police in a democratic state of law. The purpose of the meeting was focused on seeking guidelines that may assist in improving the legal framework and the values that guide the actions of the police.

One of the points focused by civil society is the lack of legislation for police forces, including a code of conduct. Civil society is very concerned about the reprehensible nature of the behaviour of members of police forces that missuse their postion, as well as the gap between the police and the local communities. Above all the civil society calls for more dialogue.

The Interior Ministry recognizes the problem and says that the police should be a public service to support the citizens and to respect and guarantee the rights of the citizens. According to police representatives at the conference, working conditions of the police contributes to poor performance as well as the loss of the value of police work.

According to the salary adjustment made by the government in the last month,  police wage minimum is about 60 Euros per month. Members of the police forces are also earning an allowance for risk that about 26 euros, and and operating subsidy for 0.9 euros.

The police also works in inadequate conditions. Many stations don't have for example enough cars or then the vehicles are often without a fuel. In streets we can see the police working without nameplates.

One big problem is that in order to support themselves, policemen used to demand money from citizens for everything and for nothing. For example just for the fact that a person doesn't bring his or hers identity document gives the police an opportunity to blackmail people in order to receive some money.
On the other hand the big question is: How the police can perform working in bad conditions and with salary humbling?

At this time especially the police obviously lacks of infrastructure, trained human resources, legislation and leaders that committed to work for Mozambicans as a whole.

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Other issue discussed in the conference was brought out by the second largest political party the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM). MDM expressed its concern about the police partiality: police defends more the interests of the largest and the ruling party Frelimo.

During the previous elections there have been a strong presence of the rapid intervention forces which largely intimidated the electorate influencing the results negatively.

Now people are waiting for the upcoming elections with concern. The presidential election is scheluded for 2014, and the local elections for November this year. The civil society sees that there should be a code of conduct that guides the behavior of the police during the elections process.

Mozambique needs an executable law against torture. The country needs to have a policy of inclusive and participatory public safety because the behavior of the police and the persistence of a government that shows as undemocratic state. The institutions should be at the service of all citizens.

The writer works as Kepa's Development Policy Officer in Mozambique.