Freedom in the World
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President Joachim Chissano had announced in 2001 that he would not run for president in the next elections, scheduled for 2004. This year Armando Guebeza, a former interior minister and hardline Marxist, was named secretary general of the ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) party and its nominee for president in the 2004 elections. The opposition party, the Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO), led by Alphonse Dhlakama, has resumed its participation in the parliament, although it faces some internal dissension.
In late 2002 the trial of six men arrested for the murder of a leading Mozambican journalist, Carlos Cardoso, began; the murder and subsequent investigation have highlighted the growing corruption in one of Africa's best-performing economies. Cardoso was investigating banking scandals two years ago when he was assassinated. The presiding judge has said he will question a former government minister and President Chissano's son in connection with the case, although he has not yet decided to charge them.
Portuguese traders and settlers arrived in Mozambique in the late fifteenth century, but full-scale colonization did not begin until the seventeenth century. In 1962 FRELIMO was established; it launched a military campaign to drive out the Portuguese. In 1975 Mozambique gained independence. A one-party system was implemented, with FRELIMO as the sole legal party and the party leader, Samora Machel, as president of the republic. Independence was followed by 16 years of civil war against the rebels of RENAMO, which had its origins as a guerrilla movement supported first by Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and later by South Africa.
In 1986 President Machel was killed in an airplane crash and Chissano became president. In 1989 FRELIMO formally abandoned Marxism-Leninism in favor of democratic socialism and a market economy. In 1992 a ceasefire was signed; it was followed by a full peace agreement. RENAMO recognized the government's legitimacy and agreed to begin operating as the opposition political party.
In 1994 the first multiparty elections were held. The elections attracted a 90 percent turnout and were judged a resounding success by Mozambicans and the international community, despite a last-minute pre-election boycott call by RENAMO, which accused FRELIMO of fraud. In response in large part to pressure from its international sponsors, RENAMO decided to participate in the process. Dhaklama captured 33.7 percent of the presidential vote, against 53.3 percent for the incumbent, Chissano. The parliamentary vote was much closer, as FRELIMO won a narrow, but workable, majority.
The next round of presidential and legislative elections took place in December 1999. Chissano and the ruling FRELIMO were reelected, despite a strong showing by the opposition in both elections. The U.S.-based Carter Center, which observed the elections, determined that there were signs of a maturing political system, although RENAMO complained vociferously of fraud, and resultant political unrest continued throughout much of 2000.
During 2000-2001 a series of major floods seriously affected the Mozambican economy. More than 650 people died and more than 500,000 were forced to flee from their homes. In addition, economic dislocation resulting in part from its postindependence civil war continued.
In December 2000, President Chissano and RENAMO'S Dhlakama began an inconclusive series of meetings which continued sporadically into 2001, raising hopes that the political impasse could be lessened. A key disagreement has been over the appointment of provincial governors, with Dhlakama insisting that RENAMO nominate governors for the six provinces where RENAMO won a majority of votes in the 1999 general elections.
Deep political divisions continue to characterize the country 6 years after negotiations ended 20 years of anti-colonial and civil wars. FRELIMO maintains its dominance of government institutions. RENAMO, its former guerrilla foe and now primary parliamentary opponent, has continued to complain bitterly of official manipulation of elections and the use of international aid to secure the ruling party's position. Nevertheless, in 2002 RENAMO did participate in parliament.
Abuses by myriad security forces and bandits are endemic. An antigovernment demonstration in November 2000 resulted in the deaths of more than 40 RENAMO supporters; approximately 80 prisoners, mostly RENAMO backers, were suffocated under mysterious circumstances at about the same time. In April 2001, parliament decided to extend the mandate of a commission set up to investigate the killings.
While economic growth has continued with extensive foreign aid, widespread corruption has damaged the government's standing.
Mozambicans are able to select their president and parliament through competitive electoral processes, although this freedom is constrained by the social, political, and economic ravages of years of civil war, in addition to a lack of familiarity with democratic practices. Democratic consolidation remains tenuous, but dialogue and conflict are largely channeled through the country's democratic institutions. The 1999 polls were marred by logistical and administrative difficulties, but were viewed by many Mozambicans and the international community as expressing the will of the people. These national elections were just the second since Mozambique adopted a pluralist multiparty system. In addition, President Joachim Chissano's announcement that he would not run again in 2004 out of respect for the democratic process, both nationally and within FRELIMO, appears to reflect a willingness to accept the principles of democratic practice, including alternance in power.
RENAMO's continued claims of election fraud, however, have resulted in a highly polarized political environment. In protest of alleged fraud, RENAMO deputies repeatedly walked out of parliament or otherwise interrupted its proceedings throughout 2000 and part of 2001. At the peak of the boycott, RENAMO threatened to form a government of its own in the six northern and central provinces where it had won the most votes in the December elections.
A parliamentary ad hoc committee was set up to revise the country's electoral law, and parliament agreed in late 2002 to changes to the electoral law's provisions on settling disputes, on deploying observers, and on naming members to the electoral commission.
Municipal elections are due in 2003, and RENAMO leader Dhlakama has indicated that his party will participate on the basis of the new revised electoral code. A number of procedural changes undertaken in 2001 within the parliament itself, including a strengthening of the committee system, have also resulted in that body's increased effectiveness and impact, although partisan tensions at times impede its work.
In 2002 the Mozambican parliament passed the first reading of a bill to set up the Constitutional Council, a body that will decide whether laws and governmental decisions are in accordance with the country's constitution. Although the Constitutional Council is a body whose powers are set forth in the 1990 constitution, it had never been established, and for the past 12 years its duties have been exercised on a temporary basis by the Supreme Court.
International assistance continues to play an important, but controversial, role in supporting Mozambique's democratization process. For example, more than 80 percent of those eligible were registered to vote in the 1999 elections as part of a $40 million election process largely funded by the European Union and other donors. More controversially, some political campaigns were supported by foreign money. The National Elections Commission was criticized by opposition parties and some independent observers for alleged pro-FRELIMO bias. Parliament is active and is an important player in the political process, although its power is overshadowed by that of the executive branch.
In 2002 Mozambique's attorney general, in his annual report to parliament, admitted that the entire legal system in the country is plagued by corruption; he cited incompetence, corruption, and abuse of power at all levels of the administration of justice, including police, attorneys, judges, lawyers, and prison personnel. Prosecuting attorneys were also blamed for failing to press charges against suspects when there was more than enough evidence to indict them.
Criminal suspects are usually detained for many months before appearing in court without any formal defense, and are tried only in the official language, Portuguese, which many Mozambicans speak very poorly. Mozambique has only 170 judges or magistrates and an estimated 200 defense lawyers for a population of almost 20 million. These problems are compounded by bureaucratic red tape. Bribery of judges by lawyers is alleged to be common practice; judges regularly set bail so low on serious crimes that suspects simply flee justice.
The 1990 constitution provides for press freedom. With the opening up of independent newspapers, the influence of government-run newspapers has fallen. The most important media company to arise is the cooperative Mediacoop, which owns the successful Mediafax (faxed to hundreds of direct subscribers but read very widely), the periodical Mozambique Interview and the weekly Savana.
The independent media have enjoyed moderate growth, but publications in Maputo have little influence in the largely illiterate rural population. Criminal libel laws are another important deterrent to open expression. The constitution protects media freedom, but the state controls nearly all broadcast media and owns or influences all of the largest newspapers. There are more than a dozen licensed private radio and television stations, which also exercise some degree of self-censorship. The opposition receives inadequate coverage in government-run media, especially radio and television.
Nongovernmental organizations, including the Mozambican Human Rights League, are free to operate openly and issue critical reports. International human rights and humanitarian groups are also allowed to operate in the country. There is no reported interference with free religious practice.
During the period of one-party rule, FRELIMO tightly controlled Mozambique's labor movement. The Organization of Mozambican Workers, the country's major trade confederation, is now nominally independent. The Organization of Free and Independent Unions, a more independent group, was formed in 1994. All workers in nonessential services have the right to strike. The right to bargain collectively is legally protected.
Freedom of assembly is broadly guaranteed, but limited by notification and timing restrictions. Women suffer from both legal and societal discrimination. Domestic violence is reportedly common, despite initiatives by the government and civic groups to reduce it. Despite some economic gains, the country remains among the world's poorest and suffers from one of the world's highest infant mortality rates.