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Mozambique: On the City of Quelimane, New Epicenter of Politics

[All links lead to Portuguese language pages except when otherwise noted.]

The announcement of the candidacy of Manuel de Araújo for the  by-elections of last December 7 [en] in Quelimane, Mozambique, provoked a range of opinions. After the resignation of the mayors of Cuamba, Pemba and Quelimane nobody expected that the ex-member of Renamo [en], historical opposition party, and well-respected academic would “fight” for a two year term.

A first reaction was offered up by historian and analyst Egídio Guilherme Vaz Raposo:

Manuel de Araújo é de facto um novo penteado na política Moçambicana. Activista nato, político e académico com créditos firmados, surpreendeu-me e acredito a outros também, ao ter anunciado a sua candidatura pelo MDM [Movimento Democrático de Moçambique, partido formado em 2009, a partir de um ramo da Renamo]. A novidade em mim não é necessariamente da sua candidatura e sim do partido com o qual alinha.

A minha opinião sobre o MDM é publicamente conhecida. Pela forma como conheço o Manuel, dificilmente pensei que pudesse um dia aliar-se ao MDM seja para que missão fosse. Isso, prova mais uma vez que (1) em política vale tudo; (2) nós conhecemos muito pouco os nossos amigos e (3) motivos conjunturais devem ter “empurrado” Manuel Araujo a candidatar-se ao município, avaliadas as condições e possibilidades para a vitória…

Manuel de Araújo is in fact a “new look” in Mozambican politics. Born activist, politician and academic with strong credentials, he surprised me and I believe others as well, on announcing his candidacy for MDM [Democratic Movement of Mozambique [en], party formed in 2009, from an offshoot of Renamo.] The news for me is not necessarily his candidacy but instead the party to which he aligns himself.

My opinion on MDM is publicly known. In the way that I know Manuel, I hardly would have thought that he could one day ally himself to MDM whatever the mission. This proves again that (1) in politics anything goes (2) we do not know our friends very well and (3) and circumstantial reasons must have “pushed” Manuel  Araujo to run for mayor, taking into account the conditions and possibilities for victory…

"Bem-Vindo Mercado do MDM" - No Mercado do Akima (Quelimane). Foto de Dercio Taveira no Facebook

"Welcome to the market of MDM" – In Akima Market (Quelimane). Photo by Dercio Taveira on Facebook

Egídio claims in his text that an independent candidacy would bring together more support, but let it be known that de Araújo's allying himself with MDM was not completely disinterested:

Porém, a sua decisão não é tão inocente quanto parece, do meu ponto de vista. É que concorrer como independente implica muitos recursos financeiros, humanos, etc, coisas que, a avaliar pela “urgência”, seriam difíceis de mobilizar em tão pouco tempo. Pelos meus cálculos, ele precisaria mais ou menos de US$ 3000 000, 00 (três milhões de dólares) para organizar uma campanha de 15 dias; e um movimento cívico suficientemente vibrante que num espaço muito reduzido de tempo, nascer e consolidar-se muito antes da data. Assim, concorrer pelo MDM conferiu a ele o acesso à toda infraestrutura já montada para o efeito…

However, his decision is not so innocent as it seems, from my point of view. Running as an independent implies many financial and human resources, etc, things that, taking into account the “urgency”, would be difficult to mobilize in such a short time. By my calculations, he would need about US$3 million to organize a campaign in 15 days; and a civic movement sufficiently vibrant to be born and consolidate itself in a very short time well before the date. Thus, running with MDM gave him access to all the infrastructure already set up for this…

After the debate generated on Facebook , that had more than 111 comments, the issue ended up on blogs.

On the blog Moçambique para todos (Mozambique for all) the debate was lively. José Carlos Cruz wrote in the comments section:

Ninguém mais vai entrar nestas eleições intercalares além de Frelimo e MDM. Porquê?

Porque já ninguém acredita na Comissão Nacional de Eleições e respectivas Comissões Provinciais e Distritais de Eleições. Ninguém acredita no STAE, Serviço Técnico da Administração Eleitoral.

Estes são órgãos especializados para realizarem as eleições, mas completamente viciados para sempre dar a vitória à Frelimo ou a quem a Frelimo quiser que vença…

No one else is going to enter these by-elections but Frelimo and MDM. Why?

Because nobody believes in the Comissão Nacional de Eleições [National Elections Commission] and respective Provincial and District Commissions. Nobody believes in STAE [Technical Services of Electoral Administration].

These are institutions specialized in putting on elections, but completely addicted to giving victory to Frelimo or whoever Frelimo wants to win…

The electoral process in Quelimane had as a dominant theme the imbalance of strength between the two political structures that supported Manuel de Araújo and Abubacar Bico, the candidate of Frelimo.

Campanha eleitoral em Quelimane. Foto de Rui Lamarques (cortesia do Jornal @Verdade)

Campanha eleitoral em Quelimane. Foto de Rui Lamarques (cortesia do Jornal @Verdade)

Sociologist Carlos Serra concluded that Quelimane, as Araújo had predicted, had become the political capital of the country:

A velha cidade de Quelimane parece ter-se tornado na placa giratória das eleições locais, mesmo ao nível da internet. Por ela têm passado figuras séniores da Frelimo, mas também do Estado, numa frente estratégica enorme para fazer face a Manuel de Araújo do MDM, com a sua corte de jovens a pé e em táxis-bicicletas. É uma autêntica luta entre duas concepções de mobilização: a do desfile motorizado/comício e a da porta-a-porta pedestre e bicicleteira…

The old city of Quelimane seems to have turned itself into the epicenter of the local elections, even on the internet. Senior figures of Frelimo and also of the State have passed through the city, in an enormous strategic front to head off Manuel de Araújo of MDM, with his court of young people on foot and on bicycle taxis. It is an authentic battle between two concepts of mobilization: that of the motorized rally and that of the door-to-door on foot and by bicycle.

Never was an electoral campaign so followed on the internet than that of Quelimane. The advisers of Lourenço Abubacar [candidate of Frelimo, the party in power] created a profile on Facebook to try and head off the popularity of Manuel de Araújo who had opinion formers on social networks like Edgar Barroso, Palmeirim Chongo as supporters.

The former, as Global Voices reported, wrote a letter to the people of Quelimane and the latter was a true reporter in the service of change and citizenship.

Palmeirim went around to voting tables as they were counting votes. He received threats, but never gave up. It was via his Facebook profile that many outside of Quelimane stayed informed:

Hoje por duas vezes fui “aconselhado” pela policia a estar longe dos postos de votacao, primeiro no benfica e depois namuinho, tenho 2 criancas para cuidar…vou acatar o conselho…estou a trabalhar com fontes alternativas

Today two times I was “advised” by the police to stay far away from voting stations, first at Benfica and then at Namuinho, I have two children to take care of… I will comply with the advice… I am working with alternative sources

At the end of the process, Palmeirim announced the victory of Araújo and reported on the party. Edgar Barroso also revealed his contentment and wrote on Facebook:

Bom dia! Viram as imagens passando na TVM, mostrando o povo de Quelimane a proclamar e a festejar efusivamente a sua vitória nas eleiçoes intercalares de ontem?

É só o início. Deus que nos dê inteligência, saúde e determinação para PROSSEGUIR COM A LUTA DE LIBERTAÇÃO DE MOÇAMBIQUE! Sem armas nem pedras ou paus, apenas votando e protegendo o voto. Chega de dormir.

Good morning! Did you see the images on TVM [State TV], showing the people of Quelimane proclaiming and effusively celebrating the victory in the by-elections yesterday?

It is only the beginning. God give us intelligence, health and determination to PROCEED WITH THE BATTLE OF LIBERATION OF MOZAMBIQUE! Without arms, or rocks or sticks, just voting and protecting the vote. Enough of sleeping.

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