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Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has repeated his enquiries into the case of the Portuguese citizen missing for months in Mozambique, this time in writing, reports Portuguese newspaper Público. To the disbelief of many, this has not changed the attitude of the Mozambican authorities, the same source adds.
Despite the special relationship between Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and Mozambique, his counterpart Filipe Nyusi has not deigned to respond to the Portuguese president.
For months, Portugal has been asking Maputo for information about the Portuguese citizen kidnapped in Mozambique last summer, but the only response it has obtained so far has been silence.
In the face of the long and unusual silence of the Mozambican authorities, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa sent a letter two weeks ago to his counterpart, President Filipe Nyusi, to press Maputo and, once again, to request information about the missing man, an agricultural entrepreneur who has worked for years in Beira, in the center of the country.
To the astonishment of diplomats and politicians following the case, President Nyusi has yet to respond to the letter from the Portuguese head of state – more than two weeks after it was sent.
At the request of the family of the missing businessman, the case has been handled in secrecy and with great discretion. But after seven months without information, without answers, with no signs of an ongoing investigation or even the diplomatic courtesy of a response to the Lisbon requests, there is clear of a development on the Portuguese side: what began as discomfort and disillusion is giving way to disbelief and disquiet.
The Portuguese contacts have been made at the highest level: the office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General’s Office and the Belém presidential palace have all made formal and informal contacts, both in writing and by telephone, direct and indirect. The result has been the same throughout: “Nothing at all,” a source close to the matter says.
Prime Minister António Costa has spoken with his counterpart Agostinho do Rosário about the case a few times and, at the end of last year, even offered the cooperation of the Portuguese Judicial Police in the investigation of the mysterious disappearance. But this proposal also fell on deaf eats. “There is no sign of life, there is no body, there is no openness to investigate,” another source who has followed the case for months complains.
This silence is not only unusual in relations between friendly countries; as it is seen as particular odd since Mozambique was the destination for Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa’s first state visit in May, two months after taking office. In addition, Filipe Nyusi was one of the few heads of state that Marcelo invited to his investiture. Everyone still remembers the photographs taken that day on the balcony of the Belém Palace: the king of Spain, the former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso and, at the center, smiling, President Nyusi. Marcelo’s relationship with Mozambique is special even at a private level. “It was the best period in the political life” of his father, Baltazar Rebelo de Sousa, Governor of Mozambique during the Estado Novo, the president wrote in a book he published a few years ago.
Contacted on Friday morning and again on Saturday, the Mozambican ambassador to Portugal did not respond to Público’s request to comment on the issue. The Portuguese Foreign Minister, Augusto Santos Silva, made a brief statement to Publico: “There are cases in which families prefer that official exchanges be carried out discreetly and not publicly. This is one such case, and I will, of course, respect that wish. So I have nothing else to say.”
Inside and outside the ministry, however, speculation about the reason for Mozambique’s silence is deepening. One of the most plausible scenarios is Maputo wanting to protect someone at the top of its own hierarchy, in the police or the administration itself. “In Mozambique, there are no decisions taken at the intermediate level,” a deep knowledge of the country’s suggests. “It’s all at the top level.”
The kidnapping of the Portuguese businessman, at the end of July 2016, is unusual in a variety of ways and does not follow the classic pattern. There was a first contact by the kidnappers but there was never a request for a ransom (as a rule, this happens in the first 48 hours, at most 72 hours after the disappearance of the victim), and the abduction did not occur in Maputo, but in Gorongoza, where Renamo has its bases.
There have been abductions in Mozambique for years and direct links between the kidnappers’ networks and the Mozambican police have been known for years. Between 2001 and 2013, there were more than 60 abductions in the country, but it was from 2011 that the problem intensified. At the end of 2013 alone, there were there 30 kidnappings in six weeks. At that time, a Maputo court sentenced three policemen to 16 years in prison for involvement in abductions, and shortly afterwards two more police officers were arrested on suspicion of the same crime. “There are police officers in court because of involvement in the kidnappings, but it’s always the small fry,” says a Portuguese businessman. “There are cases where people are kidnapped by the police and released by the police and it is clear that it is all the same people.”Source: Público