Mozambique: Rights groups dismayed by dismissal of corruption fighter
21 septembre 2005, IRIN News
The surprise axing of the head of Mozambique's Anti-Corruption Unit, Isabel Rupia, has been sharply criticised by human rights groups as undermining the government's anti-graft message.
"We need to know the reason why Isabel Rupia was removed - it is people's right to know. When they don't know, then it leads to speculation," said Carimo Abdul of the anti-corruption NGO, Etica Mozambique.
Government officials were unavailable for comment.
Rupia's agency was wound up last week and replaced by a new Central Office for Combating Corruption (GCCC). But while that move was expected - the unit was a stopgap measure - her removal was not. Rupia's assistant, Rafael Sebastião, has been made chief of the GCCC.
The Portuguese news agency, Lusa, reported that under Rupia's leadership the Anti-Corruption Unit had carried out a number of investigations into former and current senior state officials, including the head of the state power utility and the management of Maputo's international airport.
Many of the high-profile cases were thwarted and failed to result in criminal charges, and Rupia was also the victim of an assassination attempt, said Lusa.
"I think the creation of a new office shows commitment to deal with corruption, but what is strange is that someone who is perceived to be doing a good job has been technically removed from her job," Fernando Lima of the weekly Independent Savana newspaper told IRIN.
"There has been no adequate explanation. They seemed to have solved a political matter through a bureaucratic nicety," he commented.
Corruption in Mozambique has been in the spotlight in recent years. The most prominent case was the trial of the murderers of investigative journalist Carlos Cardoso, in which Nyimpine Chissano, the son of former president Joaquim Chissano, was implicated.
Cardoso was investigating the disappearance in 2000 of US $14 million from BCM, then Mozambique's largest bank, when he was shot in his car in the middle of the capital, Maputo. The trial was televised live and became compulsive viewing for Mozambicans shocked by the previously unknown scale of malfeasance.
The current speculation surrounding Rupia's dismissal comes at a time when the new government of President Armando Guebuza has been widely praised for pledging a tough line against corruption. Fighting graft was central to his presidential campaign, and highlighted in his inaugural speech early this year.