Partly Free
PR Political Rights 14 40
CL Civil Liberties 31 60
Last Year's Score & Status
51 100 Partly Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

The ruling party’s unbroken incumbency before and since the introduction of multiparty elections in 1994 has allowed it to establish significant control over state institutions. The opposition has disputed the results of recent elections, and its armed wing fought a low-level conflict against government forces that persisted until a truce was signed in December 2016. Mozambique also struggles with corruption, and journalists who report on it and other sensitive issues risk violent attacks.

header2 Key Developments in 2019

  • In August, President Filipe Nyusi of the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), and Ossufo Momade, the leader of the Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO), signed a formal peace accord that paved the way for the year’s elections in October. However, clashes between the national army and what police say were dissident RENAMO groups took place during the year, with at least seven deaths reported.
  • Presidential, legislative, and provincial elections were held in October. After a campaign marred by violence that mostly targeted opposition candidates and supporters, and which saw the assassination of a prominent independent election observer, the ruling party overwhelmingly won the presidency and legislature and secured governorships in all 10 provinces.
  • Domestic and international election observers and others decried the performance of the National Elections Commission (CNE). The body, whose members are effectively appointed by the government, was sharply criticized over its stewardship of the vote in Gaza Province, where CNE counted over 300,000 registered voters than voting-age adults counted there during 2017 census.
  • Islamic extremists continued to carry out attacks in the northern districts of Cabo Delgado Province, and voting was not possible in some areas there due to the lack of security.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 1.001 4.004

The president, who appoints the prime minister, is elected by popular vote for up to two five-year terms. President Filipe Nyusi of FRELIMO won the presidential contest in 2019 with 73 percent of the vote, an increase of 20 percentage points compared to his victory in the last polls in 2014. Additionally, because FRELIMO won the most votes in all provinces, it received the right to select all 10 of the country’s provincial governors. Turnout was reported at just over 50 percent.

The campaign period was marred by violence, much of which targeted opposition members or their supporters, and several politicians and activists were killed. Anastácio Matavel, a respected independent election observer, was shot and killed in October, with members of an elite police unit accused of carrying out the murder. Further violence was reported at dozens of polling stations on election day, as were instances of harassment of poll workers, notably those appointed by the opposition, with police taking part in the intimidation. Additionally, there were credible reports of ballot-box stuffing; interference with the registration of election observers, serious inaccuracies in the voting register, particularly in the Gaza Province, where the CNE’s records showed more than 300,000 more voters living there than did 2017 census records; and irregularities in vote-tabulation processes. As in past elections, FRELIMO enjoyed a strong advantage due to its use of state resources to fund campaign activities and secure media coverage. A number of opposition rallies were prevented by authorities.

Opposition parties denounced the election as fraudulent, while a coalition of civil society organizations issued a sharp denunciation of the polls, saying they were neither free, fair, nor transparent; that the ruling party had captured the electoral machinery through the CNE’s appointment process; and that the polls were the worst since the introduction of multiparty democracy in 1994.

International observers from the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (known as the CPLP, or Lusophone Commonwealth), the European Union (EU), and the US embassy expressed concern about the reports of irregularities and election-related violence, but ultimately recognized the presidential election’s outcome.

Score Change: The score declined from 2 to 1 because the year’s presidential election was marred by violence and irregularities.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 1.001 4.004

Members of the 250-seat unicameral Assembly of the Republic are elected to five-year terms. The 2019 legislative elections were held concurrently with the presidential election. FRELIMO took 184 seats, up from 144 previously. RENAMO won 60 seats, down from 89 previously, and MDM took 6 seats, down from 17 previously.

The legislative polls were marred by the same violence, irregularities, and fraud allegations as the presidential election. Similarly, international observers objected to their conduct but accepted the results, while opposition parties rejected the elections, and a coalition of civil society groups called them patently flawed.

Score Change: The score declined from 2 to 1 because the year’s parliamentary elections were marred by violence and irregularities.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 1.001 4.004

Elections are administered by the CNE and a support body, the Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration (STAE). FRELIMO controls the process by which the CNE members are appointed, and both domestic and international observers have long argued that this structure has led to the politicization of the body, and deeply undermines stakeholder confidence in its operations.

The CNE’s administration of the 2019 elections drew sharp domestic and international criticism. Among other issues—including irregularities in distribution of campaign finance funding and ballot printing, and general opacity of operations—large discrepancies emerged between the CNE’s voter rolls and records kept by the National Institute of Statistics, notably in Gaza Province, a FRELIMO stronghold. CNE records showed more than 300,000 more registered voters in Gaza than voting-age adults counted there during 2017 census.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 2.002 4.004

The right to form political parties is largely respected. A preponderance of parties compete, although most lack resources to campaign effectively and build a public following. Opposition leaders face harassment and threats for speaking out against the government. Figures within FRELIMO perceived as acting in conflict with the aims of the party can encounter obstacles, including intraparty disciplinary measures.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 1.001 4.004

FRELIMO first took power in 1975, upon Mozambique’s independence, and has remained in power since the 1992 agreement that ended the country’s 1977–92 civil war and since the introduction of multiparty elections in 1994. Since then, FRELIMO’s use of public resources to fund campaign activities has provided it with an unfair electoral advantage.

In May 2018, the parliament overwhelmingly approved constitutional reforms that in coming years would allow the indirect election of provincial governors, district administrators, and mayors. The changes were viewed as beneficial to RENAMO and a step toward greater decentralization and political stability. However, FRELIMO harnessed pressure tactics, the advantages of incumbency, and apparent fraud to secure an overwhelming victory in the 2019 elections. Because the party won the most votes in all provinces, it may select all of the country’s provincial governors, effectively making the previous year’s constitutional reforms moot. Many analysts have expressed concern that the failure to balance the share of power through the 2018 reforms threatens the precarious peace in Mozambique.

Score Change: The score declined from 2 to 1 because despite the recent approval of constitutional reforms that were seen as beneficial to the main opposition party, the ruling party harnessed pressure tactics, the advantages of incumbency, and outright fraud to win the 2019 elections.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 2.002 4.004

Unelected elites in FRELIMO, including military members and powerful business figures, retain great influence and play a large role in shaping the party’s platform. Civil servants face acute pressure to campaign and vote for the ruling party, and to make financial contributions to it. Those who openly support opposition candidates face intimidation by elements of the party embedded in state administration, and by police.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, religious, gender, LGBT, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 2.002 4.004

Ethnic minorities are generally able to participate fully in political life, and people from various ethnic groups hold high-level government positions. However, FRELIMO’s support base lies in the extreme north and extreme south, and ethnic groups concentrated in other regions, such as the Ndau and Macua, are underrepresented.

In 2019, three districts affected by the regional conflict in Cabo Delgado Province could not vote, for security reasons. The decision effectively disenfranchised the many ethnic-minority voters who live there, notably members of the Makonde and Mwani ethnic groups that are concentrated in the region.

Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 due to the disenfranchisement of many minority voters in northern districts where voting was not held due to security concerns.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 1.001 4.004

Power remains generally centralized in the executive branch, which dominates the parliament and all other branches of government. The 2018 constitutional reforms introduced some measures to reduce centralization, but these reforms were in effect overridden by FRELIMO’s victory in the year’s severely flawed elections.

Foreign donors have significant influence on policymaking, specifically as it relates to economic policy and public-sector reform. Business elites connected to FRELIMO have a strong impact on government decisions, particularly on those related to foreign investment in the oil, gas, and agriculture sectors.

Score Change: The score declined from 2 to 1 because the current government’s democratic legitimacy was undermined by the year’s severely flawed elections.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 1.001 4.004

Corruption remains widespread at the highest levels of government. Patronage networks are deeply entrenched, with various groupings competing for state resources. The anticorruption legal framework is undermined by a variety of loopholes: for example, embezzlement is not included in the Anti-Corruption Law. A judiciary susceptible to pressure from the executive branch further complicates attempts to enforce anticorruption laws.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 2.002 4.004

Despite the passage of a freedom of information law in 2014, it is difficult to obtain government information in practice.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 2.002 4.004

State-run outlets dominate Mozambique’s media sector, and authorities often direct such outlets to provide coverage favorable to the government. However, a number of smaller independent outlets provide important coverage.

Journalists frequently experience government pressure, harassment, and intimidation, which encourages self-censorship. The government is known to retaliate against journalists who criticize it by cancelling public advertising contracts. Journalists and political commentators appearing on television programs have been the targets of attacks and kidnappings in recent years. In late December there was an attempted kidnapping of Matias Guente, the editor of the newspaper Canal de Moçambique. He escaped, but was severely beaten.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 3.003 4.004

Religious freedom is generally respected, but government responses to attacks by armed Islamists have involved closing mosques and detaining Muslim leaders, alarming human rights activists.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 2.002 4.004

There are no legal restrictions on academic freedom. However since 2015, when law professor Gilles Cistac was murdered after supporting RENAMO in a televised appearance, academics have been more hesitant to criticize the government. Indoctrination at primary schools has been reported, particularly in Gaza Province, where some teachers have added FRELIMO propaganda to their curricula.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 2.002 4.004

Civil society groups claim that authorities monitor criticism of the government posted online. There have been reports of government intelligence agents monitoring the e-mails of opposition party members.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 2.002 4.004

Freedom of assembly is constitutionally guaranteed, but the right to assemble is subject to notification and timing restrictions. The government frequently disallows protests on the basis of errors in the organizers’ official applications. In July 2018, one person was killed and two were injured when police responded with disproportionate violence to a protest against a mining company in Inhassunge District, whose activities had reportedly forced local residents to relocate.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 2.002 4.004

Most NGOs operate without significant legal restriction. However, rights defenders and members of groups perceived as critical of the government continue to report acts of intimidation, and these increased ahead of the 2019 election. NGOs involved in election-monitoring activity reported significant obstruction and harassment, including death threats. Separately, Fátima Mimbire, a researcher with Centre for Public Integrity (CIP), was the target of severe online harassment after CIP issued a report on corrupt government loan practices.

At the end of 2018, the registration of the Mozambican Association for the Defense of Sexual Minorities (LAMBDA) had still not been approved by the government. LAMBDA first applied for registration in 2008, and has had no success in attaining government approval despite multiple resubmissions. In 2019, it still remained in this sort of legal limbo, but in practice continues to operate, at times even in cooperation with local authorities.

Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 due to persistent harassment of civil society figures and rights activists.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 2.002 4.004

Workers have the right to form unions, but a number of restrictions impede the right to strike and make the practice rare. Public-sector workers are not allowed to strike. In 2017, administrative and technical staff at Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM) organized a strike to protest the nonpayment of a bonus. The university declared the strike illegal, and riot police broke up the picket line using tear gas and rubber bullets.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 2.002 4.004

Judicial independence is hampered by the dominance of the executive branch. The attorney general is directly appointed by the president, with no legislative confirmation process. Pressure from FRELIMO’s leadership often impedes investigations into corruption and fraud. Former president Armando Guebuza and members of his administration have been credibly implicated in fraud and embezzlement scandals, but there have been no prosecutions. Observers claim that this judicial inaction results from the influence of FRELIMO’s leadership.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 2.002 4.004

Although due process rights are constitutionally guaranteed, these rights are not always respected in practice. RENAMO leaders assert that the police arrest members of their party arbitrarily. Due to resource constraints and an understaffed judiciary, lengthy pretrial detentions are common.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 1.001 4.004

The December 2016 truce to halt more than a year of fighting between RENAMO and FRELIMO has held up since, though tensions between the leaders of both parties remain high. In August 2019, President Nyusi and RENAMO leader Ossufo Momade signed a formal peace accord that paved the way for the year’s elections. However, clashes between the national army and what police say are dissident RENAMO groups that rejected the accord took place in the central region in 2019, leading to at least seven deaths. No one has been held accountable for a number of high profile, apparently politically motivated attacks that took place in late 2015 and 2016.

Residents of Cabo Delgado continue to suffer from violence committed by Islamist insurgents, with numerous deadly and attacks against civilians reported in 2019. Security forces deployed to fight the militants have been accused of kidnappings and other abuses.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 2.002 4.004

Mozambican police reportedly discriminate against Zimbabwean, Somali, and Chinese immigrants. People with albinism continued to face discrimination, persecution, and violence. Government efforts to protect people with albinism have been inadequate.

Women experience discrimination in education and employment; on average, women are less educated and earn less than men. Sexual harassment in the workplace and at schools remains widespread.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in 2015, but LGBT+ people face significant discrimination. The LGBT+ advocacy group LAMBDA has held training sessions for police officers aimed at helping them to address discrimination, including instances in which community members demand the arrest of LGBT+ people under defunct antigay laws.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1. Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 3 / 4

Although Mozambicans face no formal restrictions on domestic or international travel, movement is hampered by the presence of checkpoints manned by corrupt police officials, who often harass and demand bribes from travelers.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 2.002 4.004

The law does not recognize private property outside urbanized areas; citizens instead obtain land use rights from the government. Many citizens are uninformed about the land law and fail to properly register their holdings. The government must approve all formal transfers of land use rights in an often opaque and protracted process. As a result, most land transactions occur on an extralegal market.

There is no legal restriction to private business.

Under customary law, women usually cannot inherit property. The government does not frequently intervene to protect women’s property rights when inheritance is denied.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 2.002 4.004

Domestic violence is pervasive in Mozambique and laws against it are infrequently enforced. Early and forced marriages remain common in rural areas. Many girls are married before age 18.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 2.002 4.004

Many women and girls from rural areas are at risk of becoming drawn into sex trafficking and domestic servitude. Government efforts to confront trafficking are improving but remain inadequate, according to the US State Department’s most recent Trafficking in Persons Report, but authorities have made increased efforts to investigate trafficking claims and prosecute traffickers.

Child labor is permitted for children between 15 and 17 years old with a government permit. However, children under 15 frequently labor in the agriculture, mining, and fishing sectors, where they often work long hours and do not attend school. According to an August 2017 report released by the Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security, more than one million children between the ages of 7 and 17 are actively employed.

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  • Global Freedom Score

    45 100 partly free