Mozambique: Presidential campaign online

Mozambique will vote to elect a President on October 28. Even before this year’s Presidential campaign officially began in Mozambique, new opposition party Movimento Democrático de Moçambique (Democratic Movement of Mozambique, or MDM) signaled it would take from the “Obama” model of online mobilization. The party set up a Wiki site and a tweet, began putting videos on Youtube, and began using the Hi-5 social network. We reported earlier this year how MDM tweeted an attack on Daviz Simango in Nacala.

Then ruling party Frelimo joined in, creating a group on Facebook, using Youtube, and creating a tweet. (Frelimo also has a Hi-5 group.)

Blogger Elísio Leonardo of InfoMoz recapped [pt]

[No Hi-5] Daviz Simango – 1580 amigos e 250 comentários sobre o perfil […]

Frelimo – Tem um grupo no Hi5, com 440 membros […]

O Partido Frelimo possui vários grupos no Facebook, sendo que o primeiro retornado possui 134 membros. Além disso, o perfil do Partido Frelimo possui 142 amigos, e o evento campanha eleitoral da Frelimo possui 67 presenças confirmadas.

Não encontrei nenhum grupo reelevante referente ao Partido MDM, mas encontrei o perfil do MDMWIKI, que possui 19 amigos. Nenhum evento reelevante relacionado ao Partido MDM foi retornado.

[On Hi-5] Daviz Simango – 1580 friends and 250 comments on his profile […]

Frelimo – has a group on Hi-5, with 440 members […]

Frelimo party has a number of groups on Facebook, the first coming up with 134 members. Beyond this, the profile of Frelimo has 142 friends, and the electoral campaign event has 67 confirmed attendees.

I did not find any group relative to the Party MDM, but I did find the profile of MDMWIKI, which has 19 friends. No events related to the Party MDM came up.

Frelimo also created a professional site called “Frelimo online” that includes text of speeches, photos, and even a chat section. Interestingly, Frelimo’s blog “A Voz da Revolução” (”The Voice of the Revolution”) includes links to critical blogs and even opposition bloggers.

Also new in the Mozambican online world is the blog of President Armando Guebuza, who is running for a second term. His party Frelimo has ruled Mozambique since independence in 1975. Hosted on Blogspot, in the header image of the blog, Guebuza appears dressed informally, without a suit a tie.

The blog so far has two entries, the first entitled “Exploring other forms of consolidating citizenship” and the second “Employment: a crosscutting problem requiring multisectoral interventions”. The blog has open comments, with over 50 comments on the first entry and at least half that on the second, including signed comments by public intellectuals like Edígio Vaz [pt].

Photo by Flickr user Maanskyn

Photo by Flickr user Maanskyn

Quoting from Guebuza’s first entry [pt]

No âmbito da Presidência Aberta e Inclusiva, visitei os Centros Multimédia Comunitários de Chitima, na Província, de Tete, de Chokwe, na Província de Gaza e da Catembe, na Cidade de Maputo. Os jovens gestores e beneficiários destes Centros, interpretando o sentimento de outros compatriotas nossos, pediram-me, na altura para fazer o uso das tecnologias de informação e comunicação para com eles e com outros compatriotas interagir.

[…] Na verdade, para além daqueles jovens, o nosso belo Moçambique orgulha-se hoje de possuir já uma massa crítica de internautas que, entre si, trocam informações e escalpelizam a Nação nas suas diferentes dimensões. Este é um grupo que dá conteúdo à grande capacidade crítica e analítica do heróico Povo Moçambicano.

Decidi pois avançar já em dar expressão ao conselho que me foi dado por aqueles jovens e juntar-me ao cada vez mais crescente círculo de debate virtual sobre esta Pérola do Índico. Sei que esta é uma forma de interagir também com internautas de todo o mundo que se interessam por Moçambique e pelo seu progresso e paz.

As a part of the Open and Inclusive Presidency, I visited the Multimedia Centers of Chitima, in the province of Tete, of Chokwe in the province of Gaza and of Catembe in the city of Maputo. The young managers and users of these Centers, interpreting the feelings of our compatriots, asked me at the time to make greater use of information and communication technology to better interact with them and their compatriots.

In truth, beyond those young people, our beautiful Mozambique prides itself today in having a critical mass of internet users who, among themselves, trade information and dig deep into the Nation in its different dimensions. This is a group which adds content to the great critical and analytical capacity of the heroic Mozambican people.

So I decided to go ahead now and bring alive the advice that was given to my by those young people and join the ever-growing circle of virtual debate on this Pearl of the Indian Ocean. I know that this is a form of interacting with internet users of the whole world who are interested in Mozambique and in its peace and progress.

Comments on the blog, overwhelmingly enthusiastic, reflect what for some might seem a certain formality, with writers addressing the President as “Your Excellence”, “Mr. President of the Republic”, “Illustrious Mr. Guebuza”. Others opt for “Comrade President”, alluding to the socialist roots of Guebuza’s party.

Blogger Nelson Livingstone at Meu Mundo writes in a rather tongue-in-cheek way [pt]

Alguns dos comentários não tem nada a ver com nada. Uma auténtica “graxa”. Não se trata aqui de “proibir” que as pessoas opinem. Não se trata de concordar ou discordar com seja oque for ou seja lá quem for mas fazê-lo na “medida certa”. […]

Seria bom, muito bom que quem fosse lá(blog do Senhor Presidente) não o fizesse pura e simplesmente para “engraxar”, mas para estimular e amadurecer as ideias do Senhor Presidente que muitas vezes virão em forma de “raw material”.

Some comments are not about anything in particular. It is a genuine “suck up”. It has nothing to do with “prohibiting” people from sharing their opinion. It’s also not about agreeing or disagreeing with whatever or with whoever but to do in just “the right way”.

It would be good, very good, if people who went there (to the blog of Mr President) would do it not just to “suck up”, but to stimulate and mature the ideas of Mr President that will often come in the form of “raw material”.

It does appear that comments are indeed quite open, as one anonymous commenter attacked the use of funds for decentralization, and commenter Artur Matavele challenges Frelimo’s policy on sanitation and water [pt]

O combate a pobreza pressupõe a satisfação das necessidades mais elementares das pessoas, em primeiro lugar, o acesso a água potável e saneamento adequado são parte desses serviços básicos. Sem água não há vida.

Todavia o manifesto do Partido não põe a devida ênfase neste elemento. Como combater a pobreza dos nossos compatriotas sem se satisfazer estas necessidades básicas? Como reter as raparigas na escola sem que elas tenham fácil acesso a água potável? Como dignificar as nossas mães, esposas, irmãs e filhas com o fecalismo a céu aberto-Saneamento inadequado?

The combat of poverty supposes the meeting of peoples’ basic necessities, in first place, access to clean water and adequate sanitation are part of these basic services. Without water there is no life.

However in the manifesto of the Party there is not due emphasis on this element. How to combat poverty of our compatriots without meeting basic necessities? How do we retain girls in school if they do not have access to clean water? How do we dignify our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters with feces exposed in open drains – inadequate sanitation?

Guebuza seems to have responded to certain comments on his blog, saying that he awaits more “interventions, teachings and advice” from readers.

Aside from the beginnings of debate online, the campaign on the ground has seen various moments of tension and conflict as documented by the Centro de Integridade Pública (Center for Public Integrity).

Another online monitoring project was set up by the weekly free paper A Verdade, using Ushahidi crowd-sourcing software [pt]. The tag line of the site reads “VOCÊ pode ajudar seja um CIDADÃO REPÓRTER!” (”You can help, be a CITIZEN REPORTER!”) With four weeks to go before the vote, the site has already received nearly 200 reports of intimidation from all over the country, the majority of which are deemed to be “confirmed”.

The real question about all of this online activity is whether it can impact the results of the election, in a country where in 2007, only 9-10 out of 1000 people had internet access according to the World Bank.

One thing is certain, the Mozambican appetite for interaction with politicians is undeniable, and bloggers and internet users will continue to demand this well after the Presidential vote. As commenter Maguezzi writes [pt]

Entrar na Internet é bom. Vai sempre encontrar gente aqui. Mas mais do que encontrar gente, é como responde a essas pessoas; é dar respostas aos anseios desses compatriotas.

Entering the internet is good. You will always meet people here. But more than meeting people, it is how you respond to these people; it is about responding to the yearnings of these compatriots.