By Arnaldo Cuamba
Mozambican woman human rights defender Fátima Mimbire has been receiving intimidating messages on social media from unknown people since 18 January, a situation that began after she took up an active role in the Centre for Public Integrity’s (CIP) campaign against the Mozambique government seeking to repay loans it acquired illegally and secretly.
There has also been a smear campaign on social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp to delegitimize her and her work, according to a report released on wednesday by Amnesty International and seen by PanAfricans Visions.
One of the Facebook’s post said “CIP is instigating and promoting tension between the State and the Mozambican society. Take care of Fatima Mimbire.”
Another Facebook user said, “Fatima Mimbire should feel shame of your attitude. She is sexually used by American and Portuguese people to earn money and still shows on social media to destabilize the country. Why don’t you take care of your family that needs you? You should enjoy your life while you still alive”.
Between 2013 and 2014, the Mozambican Government obtained loans of over two billion dollars without parliamentary approval to set up three state-owned companies: Proindicus, Mozambique Tuna Company (Ematum) and Mozambique Asset Management (MAM). The loans were arranged by Credit Suisse and a Russian investment bank. The discovery of these secret loans in 2016 led the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and international donors to halt financial support to Mozambique resulting in the collapse of its economy.
CIP has been distributing T-shirts to the public brandishing the message “I won’t pay for hidden debts”. From 21 to 24 January, the Police of the Republic of Mozambique (PRM) surrounded CIP’s office in Maputo and ordered people to remove the T-shirts which they then confiscated. They also ordered CIP to stop distributing the T-shirts.
Amnesty International wrote in a letter to Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi that is concerned that the online intimidation and smear campaign against Fátima Mimbire is solely because of her work as a woman human rights defender and the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression.
They called to Nyusi to ensure the authorities promptly investigate in an independent and impartial manner the threats and intimidation against Fátima Mimbire and also ensure that Fátima Mimbire and other CIP employees are provided with adequate protection, in accordance to their wishes, so that they can continue their work freely without fear of reprisals;
The London-based non-governmental organization focused on human rights also called to Nyusi to ensure that the right to freedom of expression is respected and protected in Mozambique.
On 25 January, the Political Committee of the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO), the ruling party, in a press release called on the general public to remain vigilant of behavior leading to “incitement against public order andtranquility”. For Amnesty International this appeal can increase the risks for human rights defenders who have spoken publicly against corruption.