Mozambique ministers meet after riots

September 2, 2010 12:00 am

, MAPUTO, Sep 2 Mozambican police patrolled the streets of the tense capital on Thursday after President Armando Guebuza called for calm following protests over food and fuel prices that left four people dead.

Police were busy reopening roads and clearing debris from streets where demonstrators built barricades of burning tyres during violent protests on Wednesday.

Guebuza said he understood the anger of the people over rising prices in one of the continent\’s poorest countries but was upset at the violent methods employed to show it.

"It is sad that people used the right to demonstrate peacefully to turn it into violent protests," he said late Wednesday.

"The government is aware of the poverty of the people. Combating poverty is part of the government\’s five year plan."

The president called an emergency cabinet for Thursday to discuss the violence as some residents of the capital were said to be preparing for further demonstrations.

Alarmed residents told AFP that gunshots rang out throughout the night in the capital where officials said four people had died and dozens were injured as police moved in to break up Wednesday\’s demonstrations.

Police denied that they had used live rounds in quelling the unrest, despite witnesses\’ and doctors\’ assertions to the contrary. Police spokesman Pedro Cossa insisted: "our officers always use rubber bullets."

Doctors at Maputo Central hospital said victims of the protests streamed into the wards throughout the evening, most with gunshot wounds.

"We have treated over 100 people since the violence started yesterday, many patients had gunshot wounds," said Antonio Assis da Costa.

"The last patients came in around 1:00 am (2300 GMT), most of them were young boys," added the doctor.

Mozambique has seen prices climb in recent months as the value of its currency, the metical, slumped against the South African rand.

The falling currency has taken a toll on import-dependent Mozambique and resulting price rises have badly hurt the livelihoods of a large number of the country\’s 20 million people who live in poverty.

Television M, the country\’s public broadcaster, showed images of running battles between police and residents of shantytowns outside Maputo.

One resident told AFP that locals were in contact with each other through mobile phone text messages to plan future action.

"Yesterday I received an SMS saying the strike must continue for three more days," said Abel Salvador Bild, a street vendor in the capital

On Thursday morning, schoolchildren could be seen making their way to their classrooms and some workers were seen returning to work. Police were dispersing people standing in groups in a bid to stop further public gatherings.

In 2008, six people were killed in protests against a public transport fare increase.

South African Airways, which cancelled flights to Maputo on Wednesday due to the violence, resumed service to the Mozambican capital on Thursday.

"A decision to resume operations was taken this morning after we assessed the situation, but that will depend on the conditions in Maputo," said Fani Zulu, the SAA spokesman.


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