Mozambique | Freedom House

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Freedom in the World 2012

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Mozambique’s economy continued to grow at an impressive rate in 2011, though the country still suffered from double-digit inflation and high unemployment. In May, the government introduced a new plan aimed at making significant reductions in poverty by 2014.

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, installed itself as the sole legal political party in a Marxist-style state. A 16-year civil war followed, pitting 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 others. President Samora Machel, the FRELIMO leader, was killed in a suspicious plane crash in 1986; he was succeeded by Joaquim 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 a 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, transforming itself into a peaceful opposition political movement. Chissano and FRELIMO were again victorious in 1999 elections, which were deemed credible by the international community, despite technical difficulties and irregularities in the tabulation process. However, RENAMO 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 presidential and legislative elections in 2004 with a wide margin of victory, but RENAMO cited evidence of fraud. The National Electoral Commission (CNE) later admitted that 1,400 vote-summary sheets favoring RENAMO had been stolen—accounting for 5 percent of the total vote—and 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 had not altered the overall outcome.

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 took 8. FRELIMO also won absolute majorities in all 10 of the country’s provincial assemblies. RENAMO and the MDM both alleged fraud, and international observer groups were highly critical of many pre-election processes. Observers also documented irregularities that indicated ballot stuffing and tabulation fraud at some polling stations, though they concluded that the distortions were not significant enough to have impacted the overall result of the election.

Guebuza’s government has largely continued the liberal economic reforms and poverty-reduction policies of his predecessor. However, he has been criticized for his heavy-handed management of FRELIMO and his confrontational stance toward opposition parties. His government suffered an embarrassing blow in September 2010 when riots erupted in the capital, Maputo, and in the northern city of Chimoio in response to rising food, transport, and utility prices.

In December 2010, Mozambique’s legislature created an ad-hoc commission to draft constitutional amendments, though RENAMO has refused to take part in the revision. FRELIMO has said it will push forward with the constitutional review with or without RENAMO’s participation; the review is scheduled to be completed by May 2013.

Economic growth in Mozambique remains among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa; the economy grew by 6.5 percent in 2010 and accelerated to 7.2 percent in 2011. Rising commodity prices, as well as well as an increase in public investment and the commencement of new projects in the mining and energy sectors, are expected to bring Mozambique back to the average 8 percent annual growth rate it enjoyed before the global economic downturn of 2009.

Nevertheless, most of the population lives in severe poverty. Mozambique was rated 184 out of 187 countries on the UN Development Programme’s 2011 Human Development Index. Inflation reached 13 percent in April 2011, and rising international food and fuel prices, combined with high levels of unemployment, have threatened social stability. In May, the government launched a new Poverty Reduction Strategy to cut poverty from its 2009 level of 55 percent to 42 percent in 2014. This strategy promotes poverty alleviation through equitable economic growth. To encourage such growth, the strategy calls for the government to increase agricultural and fishing productivity, promote job creation, support human and social development, and encourage good governance and solid budget, macroeconomic, and fiscal management.

Following the discovery of large quantities of natural gas by U.S.-based Anadarko and Italy’s ENI, Mozambique in November 2011 held a tender for the acquisition of seismic, gravity, and magnetic data of Mozambique’s onshore and offshore basins. A new licensing round for offshore blocks in the Rovuma basin is planned for late 2012. Analysts believe the country has the potential to become a large natural gas exporter, as it is particularly well-suited to supply gas to Asian countries due to its location and large port.

Mozambique has long enjoyed close relations with donors, whose support has accounted for roughly half of its budget in recent years. However, in an effort to communicate disapproval of FRELIMO’s problematic handling of the 2009 elections and its increasing dominance over the state and economy, Western donors withheld aid in 2010 until late March of that year, when the government agreed to reform the electoral system and introduce new legislation to address rampant corruption. Mozambique has been able to secure the support of other donors, including the African Development Bank, which announced in October 2011 that it would disburse $90 million to support Mozambique’s budget between 2011 and 2013.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 

Mozambique is not an electoral democracy. While international observers have deemed that the overall outcomes of Mozambique’s national elections reflected the will of the people, electoral processes have repeatedly been riddled with problems. The 2009 elections were particularly criticized for the widespread rejection of party lists and for 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, Maputo. Despite the introduction of elected provincial assemblies and municipal governments, power remains highly centralized, particularly in the hands of the president. In December 2011, Mozambique held by-elections in three municipalities. FRELIMO candidates won mayoral races in Pemba and Cuamba, while an MDM candidate won the mayorship of Quelimane. RENAMO boycotted the elections, alleging electoral manipulation by FRELIMO.

Political parties are governed by a law that expressly prohibits them from identifying exclusively with any religious or ethnic group. Although RENAMO and the 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 the CNE’s disqualification of MDM candidates in 7 of the country’s 11 parliamentary constituencies. Elements within FRELIMO are also believed to have instigated several violent attacks against opposition candidates and their supporters during the campaign. In 2011, RENAMO leaders appealed to the population for a revolution reminiscent of the popular uprisings in the Arab world to topple the government without returning the country to a state of civil war.

Corruption in government and business remains pervasive. In May 2011, the country’s attorney general, Augusto Paulino, declared that the real estate boom in Maputo was being fueled by money laundering. 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. In June 2010, the U.S. Treasury named prominent businessman Mohamed Bachir Suleman, who is known to have close ties with FRELIMO, a drug kingpin. In June 2011, Paulino voiced concern about the lack of success in determining the groups behind the sharp increase in drug trafficking in the country. Mozambique was ranked 120 out of 183 countries in Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index.

 While press freedoms are legally protected, journalists are sometimes harassed or threatened and often practice self-censorship. Mozambique has a government-run daily, Noticias, and the privately owned Diario de Moçambique. There is also a state news agency and a state radio and television broadcaster. Independent media include several weeklies and the daily O País, a number of radio stations, and, more recently, news websites. These sources, however, face sustainability issues as a result of the state’s dominance over advertising. Although there are no official government restrictions on internet use, opposition leaders have claimed that government intelligence services monitor e-mail. The government suspended text messaging services for mobile phone users during the September 2010 riots.

Religious freedoms are well respected, and academic freedoms are generally upheld. However, there have been reports of teachers encountering pressure to support FRELIMO and being refused promotions if not party members.

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. In several instances, campaign rallies in the lead-up to the 2009 elections were violently disrupted by rival party activists, though most events proceeded peacefully. Security forces have at times broken up protests using disproportionate force. In September 2010, security forces opened fire on rioters in Maputo, killing 12 people, including 2 children, and injuring more than 400. 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 strike. In November 2011, 700 workers in the Xinavane sugar mill went on strike to demand a wage increase. The provincial government intervened but only as an intermediary. The Organization of Mozambican Workers is the country’s leading trade union confederation.

Judicial independence is undermined by corruption, scarce resources, and poor training. The judicial system is further challenged by a dearth of qualified judges and a backlog of cases. In March 2011, police officers killed a man in Nampula in what appeared to be an extrajudicial execution. Responding to international criticism, particularly from Amnesty International, the government in 2011 said it was committed to investigating all cases of arbitrary detention, ill-treatment and torture of prisoners, and excessive force by the police. Prison conditions are abysmal.

Women are fairly well represented politically, holding the premiership from 2004 to 2010 and comprising some 39 percent of the parliament. However, they continue to face societal discrimination and violence. Legal protections for women and children are rarely enforced. Human trafficking has been on the rise, with Mozambicans and Asian immigrants taken to South Africa and sexually exploited.