Partly Free
PR Political Rights 14 40
CL Civil Liberties 29 60
Last Year's Score & Status
45 100 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 2016. Hundreds of thousands of people have since been internally displaced due to an ongoing Islamist insurgency. Mozambique also struggles with corruption, and journalists who report on it and other sensitive issues risk violent attacks.

header2 Key Developments in 2020

  • The Mozambican government declared a COVID-19-related state of emergency in late March, instituting restrictions on assembly and movement. A new state of emergency was introduced in August and was lifted in September, though some restrictions remained in force afterwards. The World Health Organization reported nearly 18,400 COVID-19 cases at the end of the year, along with 163 deaths.
  • The ongoing Islamist insurgency in Cabo Delgado Province intensified during the year, with insurgents notably capturing the port town of Moçimboa da Praia in August. In December, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that over 530,000 people were internally displaced, most of them due to the conflict.

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 the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) won the presidential contest in 2019 with 73 percent of the vote, an increase of 20 percentage points over his 2014 victory. 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 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 killed that 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 voting-register inaccuracies, particularly in Gaza Province; and tabulation irregularities. 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 civil society organizations denounced the polls, saying they were neither free, fair, nor transparent; that the ruling party had captured the electoral machinery through the National Elections Commission’s (CNE) 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, the European Union, and the US embassy expressed concern about the reports of irregularities and election-related violence, but ultimately recognized the presidential election’s outcome.

In January 2020, President Nyusi reappointed incumbent Carlos Agostinho do Rosário to the prime ministership.

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. The Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO) won 60 seats, down from 89 previously, and the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (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.

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. While the CNE’s members hail from FRELIMO, RENAMO, the MDM, and civil society, FRELIMO effectively controls the selection process. 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. Seven new CNE members were selected by the FRELIMO-controlled parliament in December 2020.

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 in the 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. While many parties compete, 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 when Mozambique gained independence in 1975, and has remained in power since the 1992 agreement that ended the country’s 1977–92 civil war and 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 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.

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, racial, 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.

Women hold 42.4 percent of the parliament’s seats as of July 2020. Women were appointed to notable cabinet roles in a January reshuffle, including the foreign affairs and education posts, though key positions were maintained by male politicians.

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.

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.

In August 2020, Center for Public Integrity (CIP), a Mozambican nongovernmental organization (NGO), warned that the government’s COVID-19-related procurement processes allowed for the possibility of overcharging and conflicts of interest.

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. The government is especially opaque regarding the Islamist insurgency in Cabo Delgado Province. In September 2020, Amnesty International called on the government to investigate acts of murder and torture committed by security forces in the province, but the authorities called the related evidence false.

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 the Mozambican 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 April 2020, radio journalist Ibraimo Abú Mbaruco was forcibly disappeared in Cabo Delgado Province, and has not been heard from since. In June, Omardine Omar, a reporter for news site Carta de Moçambique, was convicted of civil disobedience and received a 15-day sentence that was converted to a fine. Omar, who was engaged in an extortion investigation for the news site when he was arrested, had been accused of violating COVID-19-related measures. In late August, the Maputo offices of newspaper Canal de Moçambique were destroyed in a fire; the newspaper had been investigating accusations of corruption within the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy.

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, academics have been hesitant to criticize the government since law professor Gilles Cistac was murdered after supporting RENAMO in a televised appearance in 2015. 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.

Despite these restrictions, protests did occur during 2020. In March, Maputo street vendors protested in response to official instructions to halt the sale of goods, and clashed with security forces. In April, taxi drivers in Nacala-a-Velha held a protest over COVID-19 measures, and also clashed with the authorities.

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.

The Mozambican Association for the Defense of Sexual Minorities (LAMBDA) applied for registration in 2008, but had no success attaining registration in subsequent years, even after multiple resubmissions. While LAMBDA has operated with the occasional cooperation of local authorities, its legal status remained unresolved as recently as 2019.

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.

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. While former president Armando Guebuza and members of his administration have been implicated in fraud and embezzlement, prosecutions were not promptly launched against them, though Guebuza-era finance minister Manuel Chang was eventually charged for corruption in November 2020. Observers claim that this historical 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? 0.000 4.004

Fighting between RENAMO and FRELIMO lasted for over a year before the parties agreed to a truce in late 2016. While a formal agreement was reached in August 2019, a dissident group of RENAMO fighters resisted demobilization. In August and September 2020, this group reportedly launched several attacks against civilians in central Mozambique, leading to several dozen deaths.

Residents of Cabo Delgado Province continue to suffer from violence and displacement as a result of an ongoing Islamist insurgency. Insurgents made progress capturing towns in the north during the year, notably capturing the port town of Moçimboa da Praia in August. In October, insurgents captured the village of Muatide and reportedly executed at least 50 residents. Security forces deployed to fight the insurgents have also been accused of extrajudicial killings, kidnappings, and other abuses.

Score Change: The score declined from 1 to 0 due the effects of an escalating Islamist insurgency in Cabo Delgado Province.

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.

Members of the Mwani ethnic group, many of whom practice Islam, face employment discrimination, and have sometimes been subjected to the expropriation of the land they occupy.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 2.002 4.004

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.

Hundreds of thousands of Mozambicans have been displaced from their residences due to the ongoing insurgency in Cabo Delgado Province, which grew more intense in 2020. In December, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) counted over 530,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Mozambique, most of them from Cabo Delgado. As many as 130,000 IDPs resided in the provincial capital of Pemba that same month.

Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 because the insurgency in Cabo Delgado Province has impaired freedom of movement in the area and caused the forced displacement of many residents.

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. However, businesspeople do face kidnappings and extortion.

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.

Mozambique has historically possessed one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage, though the government passed legislation closing a loophole that previously allowed the practice in 2019.

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, which also stated that the authorities did not proactively identify survivors outside of criminal cases and have not enacted an action plan or legislation that would better support them.

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 a 2017 Ministry of Labor report, 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