Mozambique | Freedom House

Freedom in the World



Freedom in the World 2010

2010 Scores


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Freedom Rating
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Civil Liberties
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Political Rights
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

Ratings Change: 

Mozambique’s political rights rating declined from 3 to 4 due to significant irregularities and a lack of transparency pertaining to the registration of candidates and the tabulation of votes in the October 2009 presidential, legislative, and provincial elections.

President Armando Guebuza and the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) party won sweeping victories in the October 2009 national and provincial elections. International observers found that the overall outcome reflected the will of the people, but significant problems pertaining to the registration of candidates and the tabulation of results underscored the crucial need for greater transparency in the electoral process. Endemic corruption and weak judicial institutions also pointed to the broader challenge of securing transparency and accountability.

Mozambique achieved independence from Portugal in 1975. The Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), a guerrilla group that had long fought to oust the Portuguese, subsequently installed itself as the sole legal political party of a Marxist-style state. Independence was followed by a 16-year civil war that pitted the Soviet-allied FRELIMO against the Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO), a force sponsored by the white-minority governments of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and South Africa. The war resulted in nearly a million deaths and the displacement of several million people. President Samora Machel, the FRELIMO leader, was killed in a suspicious plane crash in 1986; he was succeeded by Joachim Chissano, a reform-minded FRELIMO moderate. A new constitution was enacted, calling for a multiparty political system, a market-based economy, and free elections. A peace accord signed in 1992 brought an end to the war, and a 7,500-strong UN peacekeeping force oversaw a disarmament and demobilization program and the transition to democratic government.
Mozambique held its first democratic elections in 1994. Chissano retained the presidency, and FRELIMO secured a majority of seats in the National Assembly. RENAMO accepted the outcome and transformed itself into a peaceful opposition political movement. Chissano was reelected in 1999, and FRELIMO once again won a majority of parliamentary seats. These results were deemed credible by the international community, despite technical difficulties and irregularities in the tabulation process. RENAMO nonetheless accused the government of fraud and at one point threatened to form its own government in the six northern and central provinces it controlled.
Chissano announced that he would step down as president upon completion of his second elected term. In 2002, FRELIMO leaders chose Armando Guebuza, a hard liner, to lead the party. Pledging to address corruption, crime, and poverty, Guebuza and FRELIMO won the 2004 presidential and legislative elections with a wide margin of victory, but RENAMO cited evidence of “massive fraud” and initially rejected the results announced by the National Electoral Commission (CNE). The commission subsequently admitted that 1,400 vote-summary sheets favoring RENAMO had been stolen, accounting for 5 percent of the total vote. It transferred one parliamentary seat from FRELIMO to RENAMO as compensation. International election observers expressed concerns about the CNE’s conduct during the tabulation process, but ultimately determined that the abuses did not affect the overall outcome.
Guebuza’s government has largely continued the liberal economic reforms and poverty-reduction policies of his predecessor. He has been criticized, however, for his heavy-handed management of FRELIMO and his uncompromising and confrontational stance toward the opposition.
Mozambique held presidential, legislative, and—for the first time—provincial elections in October 2009. Guebuza was reelected by a landslide, securing 75 percent of the vote. His opponents, Afonso Dhlakama of RENAMO and Daviz Simango of the newly formed Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM), received 16.4 percent and 8.6 percent, respectively. In the parliamentary contest, FRELIMO captured 191 of 250 seats, while RENAMO won 51 and the MDM won eight. FRELIMO also won absolute majorities in all 10 of the country’s provincial assemblies.
RENAMO and MDM both alleged fraud. The European Union and other international observer groups reported that voting was conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner, though they were highly critical of many preelection and election-day processes. They noted that the CNE’s rejection of party lists for ostensibly technical reasons—including the disqualification of MDM candidates’ nomination papers in 9 of the country’s 13 parliamentaryconstituencies—substantially restricted voter choice. The observers also documented irregularities that indicated ballot stuffing and tabulation fraud at some polling stations, though such distortions were considered insufficient to have impacted the overall result of the election.

Mozambique has achieved high levels of sustained economic growth since the end of the civil war, owing to relative political stability and the government’s commitment to donor-backed market reforms. The economy has shown resilience in the face of the recent global downturn, with the International Monetary Fund estimating average real gross domestic product growth at 4.5 percent for 2009. Mozambique enjoys close relations with donors, who have helped to finance high spending levels on priority social sectors and poverty-reduction programs. The government is working to increase the share of domestic revenue in government spending by expanding the tax base and increasing foreign investment. Donors have also put pressure on the government to enact “second generation” liberalizing structural reforms to maintain the country’s economic growth.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 

Mozambique is not an electoral democracy. While international observers have deemed the overall outcomes of Mozambique’s national elections to have reflected the will of the people, electoral processes have repeatedly been riddled with problems. The 2009 elections were particularly criticized for widespread rejection of party lists and for “numerous irregularities” in the tabulation of results.
The president, who appoints the prime minister, is elected by popular vote for up to two five-year terms. Members of the 250-seat, unicameral Assembly of the Republic are also elected for five-year terms. The national government appoints the governors of the 10 provinces and the capital city.Despite the introduction of elected provincial assemblies and municipal governments, power remains highly centralized, particularly in the hands of the president.
Political parties are governed by a law that expressly prohibits them from identifying exclusively with any religious or ethnic group. Although RENAMO and the upstart MDM have won representation as opposition parties in the parliament, FRELIMO is the only party to have held power nationally, and its unbroken incumbency has allowed it to acquire significant control over state institutions. In the lead-up to the 2009 elections, the government was heavily criticized for disqualifying candidates from the MDM and a number of smaller parties in a majority of the country’s constituencies on technical grounds that many saw as politically motivated. The campaign period was also marred by partisan violence. Three MDM campaign workers were injured when their offices were looted by a FRELIMO mob in Chokwe. Another was assaulted by RENAMO supporters in Nampula. RENAMO workers also suffered attacks by FRELIMO in Maputo, Sofala, and Nampula, as well as in Tete province, where RENAMO offices in Changara were burned and one RENAMO supporter was reportedly killed.
Corruption in government and business is pervasive. Mozambique was ranked 130 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index. Local journalists and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Center for Public Integrity have played a crucial monitoring role by investigating and exposing high-profile corruption cases. Under considerable pressure from donors, President Armando Guebuza has stepped up efforts to fight corruption. As of the end of 2009, former transport minister Antonio Munguambe and four other defendants were on trial for allegedly stealing nearly $2 million from Mozambique’s national airline. Former interior minister Almerino Manhenje, who was arrested in September 2008 for the alleged theft of about $8.3 million from his ministry, was still awaiting trial.
While press freedoms are legally protected, journalists are sometimes harassed or threatened and often practice self-censorship. In March 2009, Bernardo Carlos received death threats after publishing a series of critical articles about the administration of Governor Ildefonso Muananthatha in Tete province. Mozambique has two government-run dailies—Noticias and Diario de Mocambique. There is also a state news agency and a state radio and television broadcaster. Since the introduction of multiparty democracy in 1994, new independent media sources have proliferated. These include several weeklies and the daily O Pais, a number of independent and community radio stations, and more recently, news websites. Although there are no official government restrictions on internet use, opposition leaders have claimed that government intelligence services monitor e-mail. International media operate freely in the country.
Religious freedoms are well respected, and academic freedoms are generally upheld, though there have been reports of teachers encountering pressure to support FRELIMO.
Associational and organizational rights are broadly guaranteed, but with substantial regulations. By law, the right to assembly is subject to notification and timing restrictions, and in practice, it is also subject to governmental discretion. Public demonstrations have occasionally turned violent. In some cases, security forces have broken up protests using disproportionate force. In 2008, riots broke out in Maputo following a 50 percent increase in public transport fees, leaving four people dead and more than 100 injured. Campaign rallies prior to the 2009 elections were at times disrupted by security forces or rival party activists. NGOs operate openly but face bureaucratic hurdles in registering with the government, as required by law. Workers have the right to form and join unions and to go on strike. The law was changed in 2008 to extend such provisions to government workers. The Organization of Mozambican Workers, the country’s leading trade union confederation, is nominally independent and critical of the government’s market-based reforms.
Judicial independence is undermined by endemic corruption, scarce resources, and poor training. The judicial system is further challenged by a dearth of qualified judges and a backlog of cases. Despite recent improvements, suspects are routinely detained well beyond the preventive detention deadline. Prison conditions are abysmal. According to Amnesty International, 13 detainees died from overcrowding in a police cell in Nampula province in March 2009, while 22 reportedly died, mainly from disease, in a prison in Manica province in early 2009. Abuses by security forces—including unlawful killings, excessive use of force, and arbitrary detention—remain serious problems despite human rights training. Public dissatisfaction with the police has also led to a rise in deadly vigilante violence.
Excessive bureaucracy, pervasive corruption, and insufficient legal redress unduly hinder private enterprise, especially at the local level.
Women are fairly well represented politically, holding the premiership and some 39 percent of the parliament, but they continue to face societal discrimination and violence despite recent advances in the law. Trafficking in persons, including the trafficking of children, is a serious problem along the highway from Maputo to Johannesburg in South Africa. Legal protections for women and children are rarely enforced.