Freedom in the World
You are here
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
In October 2012, President Armando Guebuza replaced several key government figures, including the prime minister. The economy continued to grow during the year, as the country tapped into its large coal and natural gas reserves, though much of Mozambique’s population remained impoverished.
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 the 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, though 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 with 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 elections.
Guebuza’s government has largely continued the liberal economic reforms and poverty-reduction policies of its predecessor. However, Guebuza has been criticized for his confrontational stance toward opposition parties and heavy-handed management of FRELIMO. In October 2012, he dismissed Prime Minister Aires Ali, replacing him with Alberto Vaquina. Several other cabinet members were reappointed to other positions in the executive, with the exceptions of Ali and the former ministers of Youth and Sport, Education, and Science and Technology. Governor Carvalho Muaria was promoted to Minister of Tourism.
Mozambique’s macroeconomic performance remained among the strongest in sub-Saharan Africa in 2012, although gross domestic product (GDP) growth, at almost 7 percent, was almost 1 percent lower than its 2011 rate, largely because of the ongoing global economic turmoil. Inflation continued to decline, reaching an all-time low of 3 percent in mid-2012.
Nevertheless, most of the population lives in severe poverty. Mozambique was rated 184 out of 187 countries on the UN Development Program’s 2012 Human Development Index. The government has begun to implement its 2011 Poverty Reduction Strategy—intended to cut poverty from its 2009 level of 55 percent to 42 percent in 2014—by starting to overhaul social protection programs. The antipoverty program nevertheless faces enormous challenges, and administrative capacity and coordination need to be improved.
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 was planned for late 2012 but postponed until 2013. A revised oil law was introduced in the summer of 2012 but has yet to be approved. The law has been met with resistance by civil society groups, which regard it as too favorable to the interests of oil companies.
Mozambique has long enjoyed close relations with donors, whose support has accounted for roughly half of the country’s 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. Net aid flows declined significantly from 14.5 percent of GDP in 2009 to 10 percent of GDP in 2012.
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.
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 October 2012, RENAMO leaders called for national peaceful demonstrations to protest FRELIMO’s unwillingness to negotiate with opposition groups and force it to accept a “new political order.”
Corruption in government and business remains pervasive. In March 2012, former interior minister Almerino Manhenje was convicted of illegal budgetary decisions and mismanagement of expenses in 2004; the former director and deputy director of the financial department were also found guilty in the same case. In August, the government dismissed the president of the National Social Security Institute after the institution lost $100,000 in a failed attempt to acquire a building without a public tender, as required by law. In response to international pressure from countries and institutions that financially support Mozambique’s government, the National Assembly passed a new anticorruption law in August 2012 and granted new powers to the Central Office for Combating Corruption. Mozambique was ranked 123 out of 176 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index.
While press freedom is 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.
Religious freedoms are well respected, and academic freedoms are generally upheld. In 2012 the Islamic community of Nampula declared its intention to cut all ties with the central government, demanding that it apologize for prohibiting the use of veils in schools in 2011. They also seek permission for the wearing of veils in pictures used for ID cards. The Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for religious policy, has since begun negotiations on the issue with the Islamic community.
Associational and organizational rights are broadly guaranteed, but with substantial regulations. By law, the right to assemble 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. Nongovernmental organizations (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.
Corruption, scarce resources, and poor training undermine judicial independence. The judicial system is further challenged by a dearth of qualified judges and a backlog of cases. In September 2012, 25 judges were selected for the newly established Superior Appeals Courts, designed to relieve the Supreme Court that was previously the only court of appeal. The new courts were still not functioning as of the end of 2012.
Despite the government’s public committment in 2011 to investigating all cases of arbitrary detention, ill-treatment and torture of prisoners, and excessive force by the police, abuses continue to occur. Amnesty International in 2012 cited several cases of excessive use of force, torture, and unlawful killings, including the death of two prisoners at the Quinta do Girassol detention center after being beaten by a prision guard.
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. Witch hunts continue to be a major problem in Mozambique, particularly in the south, where the elderly are killed in high numbers after being accused of witchcraft.