Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Rioting spreads in Mozambique

Late last week, Mozambique had rioting in the streets over increased prices. Bread prices increased over 30 percent as well as increased tariffs on electricity and water. While the riots began in the nations capital, it spread to other cities on Monday.

From the Voice of America, writer Peter Clottey reports on the uneasy calm in the Mozambique capital that may not last.

The head of news and current affairs at Mozambique television told VOA an uneasy calm has returned to the capital, Maputo, and surrounding areas hit last week by violent protests over rising prices that left at least 13 dead and hundreds injured.

Police dispersed demonstrators Monday in the northern town of Tete.

Simeao Pongoane said it will be difficult for the security agencies to arrest the allege organizers of the violent protests since he said they used disposable cell phones to call for the strike.

“The latest information we have here is that the situation is calm in Maputo and Matola, the two cities (that) were affected by riots last week. The only problem is that transport is very scarce. Only the public transports were in the streets trying to help people who are going to their places of work. And, the students are also having this problem because of (a) lack of transport,” he said.

Following a cabinet meeting last Friday, President Armando Guebuza’s government called for calm. Authorities have arrested more than 140 people in connection with last week’s unrest.

The protesters were unhappy about what they described as intolerably high food, water and electricity prices. Local media reports that a section of the population stayed home for fear of violence with police on high alert.

Authorities say they are still searching for the ringleaders who sent the first messages. Pongoane said the use of cell phones has made it difficult for police to arrest the organizers of the violent protests.

“It is very difficult to track down the people who initiated the text messages through mobile phones because, in Mozambique, you can get, or buy, from any outlet (phone chips) with untraceable numbers when you use it and then throw it away. So, I find it very difficult for them (police) to trace,” Pongoane said.

He further said that, apart from issuing a press statement calling for calm after a cabinet meeting last Friday, the government is yet to come up with solutions to resolve the concerns of the protesters.

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