Freedom in the World
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Mozambique received a downward trend arrow due to an increase in political tensions and violence, including the abuse of civilian populations by security forces, which caused thousands of people to flee to Malawi.
Mozambique has been governed by the same political party since its 1975 independence, and the ruling party’s unbroken incumbency has allowed it to establish significant control over state institutions. The opposition has disputed the results of recent elections, and its armed wing has fought a low-level conflict against government forces for the last several years. Mozambique also struggles with corruption, and journalists who report on it and other sensitive issues risk violent attacks.
- Armed conflict continued between government security forces and the opposition Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO). Government forces were implicated in human rights abuses against civilians, and the ongoing violence has driven thousands of refugees into Malawi and Zimbabwe.
- While no deal was achieved in several rounds of internationally mediated peace negotiations, President Filipe Nyusi of the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) and RENAMO leader Alfonso Dhlakama agreed to a seven-day ceasefire in late December.
- In October, Jeremias Pondeca, a senior RENAMO negotiator, was assassinated while jogging in Maputo.
- In April, the government was revealed to have taken out nearly $2 billion in secret loans in 2013 and 2014. In December, a parliamentary committee ruled that the government had broken the law by failing to seek parliament’s approval for the loans. In the scandal’s wake, major donors, including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), suspended budget assistance to the country.
Ongoing, low-level fighting between government security forces and RENAMO in the country’s central and northwestern regions resulted in the deaths of dozens of people and forced thousands of refugees into neighboring Malawi and Zimbabwe in 2016. Acts of violence against civilians, including summary executions and acts of sexual violence, were reported; most documented attacks were found to have been committed by government security forces, with many abuses apparently based on perceived or actual political affiliation. In addition, officials from both FRELIMO and RENAMO have been targeted in violent attacks, with at least 10 apparent political assassinations having occurred since 2015. In October 2016, Jeremias Pondeca, a senior RENAMO negotiator, was assassinated while jogging in Maputo.
Internationally mediated peace talks that opened in 2015 took place throughout the year, with participants attempting to negotiate agreements on RENAMO’s calls for decentralization and for its fighters to be integrated into the national security forces, among other issues. In late December, President Nyusi and Dhlakama, RENAMO’s leader, agreed to a 7-day ceasefire.
There were numerous instances of attacks against and intimidation of journalists in 2016. In May, political analyst José Jaime Macuane, a regular commentator on the independent television station STV and a critic of government policies and organized crime, was kidnapped and shot in the legs by unknown attackers. In December, in the conflict-affected Manica province, men claiming to be police officers raided the home of John Chekwa, a community radio journalist and @Verdade correspondent known for his reporting on the ongoing conflict and citizens’ grievances. The assailants confiscated items of value and abducted and threatened to kill Chekwa’s son, who later escaped. Several journalists also faced dubious defamation cases during the year.
In April 2016, it emerged that the Mozambican government had taken out almost $2 billion in secret loans in 2013 and 2014. The revelation outraged the Mozambican public, exacerbated an existing economic crisis, prompted the World Bank and IMF to suspend budget assistance to the country, and generally called into question the ruling party’s commitment to transparency and its ability to manage the economy. In December, a parliamentary commission of inquiry concluded that the government had acted illegally by failing to acquire permission from the legislature before taking on the loans, which contributed to a national debt amounting to more than 80 percent of gross domestic product as of September. President Nyusi, who served as defense minister at the time the loans were agreed, claimed that his staff had known nothing about the issue.
This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Mozambique, see Freedom in the World 2016.