Mozambique | Freedom House

Freedom in the World

Mozambique

Mozambique

Partly Free
51/100
Overview: 

The ruling party’s unbroken incumbency before, and since the introduction of multiparty elections in 1994 has allowed it to establish significant control over state institutions. The opposition has disputed the results of recent elections, and its armed wing fought a low-level conflict against government forces that persisted until a truce was signed in December 2016. Mozambique also struggles with corruption, and journalists who report on it and other sensitive issues risk violent attacks.

Key Developments: 

Key Developments in 2018:

  • In May, the parliament overwhelmingly approved constitutional reforms that will allow the indirect election of provincial governors, district administrators, and mayors. The changes were viewed as beneficial to the main opposition party, and a step toward greater decentralization and political stability.
  • In the fall, the National Election Commission (CNE) faced sharp criticism over its flawed stewardship of municipal polls in the Marromeu District.
  • In March, Ericino de Salema, a journalist and government critic, was abducted and beaten by unidentified assailants.
  • Islamic extremists continued to carry out attacks in the northern districts of Cabo Delgado. At least 10 people were killed in one of the bloodiest attacks, in September.
Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 

POLITICAL RIGHTS: 19 / 40 (−1)

A. ELECTORAL PROCESS: 5 / 12 (−1)

A1.      Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 2 / 4

The president, who appoints the prime minister, is elected by popular vote for up to two five-year terms. President Filipe Nyusi of the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) won the presidential contest in 2014 with 57 percent of the vote. Voting was marred by reported incidents of ballot box stuffing, inaccuracies in the voting register, and irregularities in the tabulation process in some precincts. Despite these flaws, international observers asserted that the election was largely credible. Afonso Dhlakama, the Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO) candidate and the party’s leader, denounced the results as fraudulent and called for new elections.

A2.      Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 2 / 4

Members of the 250-seat unicameral Assembly of the Republic are elected to five-year terms. The 2014 legislative elections were held concurrently with the presidential election. Incidents of ballot-box stuffing, inaccuracies in the voting register, and irregularities in the tabulation process marred the polls. International observers, while acknowledging these flaws, determined that overall, the election was conducted credibly.

Despite the death in May 2018 of Dhlakama, RENAMO saw increased support in 2018 municipal elections, especially in northern Mozambique and in the industrial city of Matola.

A3.      Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 1/ 4 (−1)

Elections are administered by the CNE. FRELIMO controls the process by which the CNE members are appointed, which critics contend affects the impartiality of the body. The CNE is supported by the Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration (STAE), which handles the technical details of elections. STAE performs well generally, but is viewed with distrust by opposition parties.

In 2018, the CNE faced sharp criticism over its stewardship of municipal polls in the Marromeu District, where the elections were partially rerun due to irregularities. FRELIMO-affiliated members of the CNE reportedly implemented rerun-related decisions without the support of RENAMO- and other opposition-affiliated members, including changing the number of reported voters in Marromeu, a move they failed to explain. RENAMO later alleged a litany of violations in the Marromeu rerun and vote count and attempted a legal challenge of the results, but the courts declined to hear the case. The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission and several Mozambican observer missions criticized the rerun’s conduct, while the US embassy in a December statement said it was “gravely concerned” that reports of irregularities in the Marromeu recount would “cast a shadow on the overall electoral contest.”

Separately, in May 2018, the parliament overwhelmingly approved constitutional reforms that in coming years would allow the indirect election of provincial governors, district administrators, and mayors. The changes were viewed as beneficial to RENAMO and a step toward greater decentralization and political stability.

Score Change: The score declined from 2 to 1 due to the CNE’s flawed stewardship of municipal elections in the Marromeu District.

B. POLITICAL PLURALISM AND PARTICIPATION: 9 / 16

B1.      Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 2 / 4

The right to form political parties is largely respected. A preponderance of parties compete, although most lack resources to campaign effectively and build a public following. Opposition leaders can face harassment and threats for speaking out against the government. Figures within FRELIMO perceived as acting in conflict with the aims of the party can encounter obstacles, including intraparty disciplinary measures.

B2.      Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 2 / 4

FRELIMO first took power in 1975, upon Mozambique’s independence, and has remained in power since the 1992 agreement that ended the country’s 1977–92 civil war and since the introduction of multiparty elections in 1994. However, opposition parties made major gains in the 2014 elections: FRELIMO lost 47 seats, while RENAMO gained 38 seats.

FRELIMO’s use of public resources to fund campaign activities has provided it with an unfair electoral advantage. Separately, during the 2014 campaign period, opposition parties had difficulty entering some FRELIMO strongholds due to hostile local crowds.

In October 2018, during the campaign period for local elections, the MDM office in Bilene was burned down.

B3.      Are the people’s political choices free from domination by the military, foreign powers, religious hierarchies, economic oligarchies, or any other powerful group that is not democratically accountable? 2 / 4

Unelected elites in FRELIMO, including former president Armando Guebuza, retain great influence and play a large role in shaping the party’s platform.

B4.      Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, religious, gender, LGBT, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 3 / 4

Ethnic minorities are generally able to participate fully in political life, and people from various ethnic groups hold high-level government positions. However, FRELIMO’s support base lies in the extreme north and extreme south, and ethnic groups from other regions, such as the Ndau and Macua, are underrepresented.

Women participate robustly in politics, both as voters and candidates for office. Of the 250 members of parliament in 2018, 40 percent were women, one of the highest rates in the world. However, cultural factors still inhibit the participation of many women, and women are underrepresented in local government positions.

C. FUNCTIONING OF GOVERNMENT: 5 / 12

C1.      Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 2 / 4

Power remains generally centralized in the executive branch, which dominates the parliament and all other branches of government—though the 2018 constitutional reforms introduced some measures to reduce centralization. Foreign donors have significant influence on policymaking, specifically as it relates to economic policy and public-sector reform. Business elites connected to FRELIMO have a strong impact on government decisions, particularly on foreign investment in the oil, gas, and agriculture sectors.

C2.      Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 1 / 4

Corruption remains widespread at the highest levels of government. Patronage networks are deeply entrenched, with various groupings competing for state resources. The anticorruption legal framework is undermined by a variety of loopholes: for example, embezzlement is not included in the Anti-Corruption Law. A judiciary susceptible to pressure from the executive branch further complicates attempts to enforce anticorruption laws.

In October 2018 it was reported that Helena Taipo, the former minister of labor and current ambassador to Angola, was under investigation in connection with the misdirection of over $1 million from the National Institute of Social Security (INSS). In December, former finance minister Manuel Chang was arrested in South Africa following an accusation of financial crimes by the United States, which is seeking his extradition.

C3.      Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 2 / 4

Despite the passage of a freedom of information law in 2014, it is difficult to attain government information in practice. In May 2017, two nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) released a report claiming that out of 49 government entities they contacted requesting information, only 18 percent responded within 21 days, as required by law.

CIVIL LIBERTIES: 32 / 60

D. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND BELIEF: 9 / 16

D1.      Are there free and independent media? 2 / 4

State-run outlets dominate Mozambique’s media sector, and authorities often direct such outlets to provide coverage favorable to the government. However, a number of smaller independent outlets provide important coverage.

Journalists frequently experience government pressure, harassment, and intimidation, which encourages self-censorship. The government is known to retaliate against journalists who criticize it by cancelling public advertising contracts.

Journalists and political commentators appearing on television programs have been the targets of attacks and kidnappings in recent years. In March 2018, Ericino de Salema, a journalist and political commentator who regularly expressed criticisms of the government on the television talk show Pontas de Vista, was abducted and attacked before being left on the side of a road in Maputo.

In August 2018, authorities introduced a set of media licensing fees for domestic and foreign journalists and outlets, ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars. The government postponed the measures, which were introduced in the absence of consultations with journalists’ groups, in the wake of an outcry from rights activists and journalists.

D2.      Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 3 / 4

Religious freedom is generally respected, but government responses to attacks by armed Islamists have alarmed human rights activists. In 2017, a group of Muslim extremists attacked police stations in Cabo Delgado, a northern province, killing at least two police officers. The government responded to the attacks by sending troops to the region; several Muslim leaders were among the more than 300 people subsequently detained, and several mosques were closed.

In 2018, Islamic insurgents reportedly killed a local Islamic religious figure and burned a mosque in Cabo Delgado’s Macomia District.

D3.      Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 2 / 4

There are no legal restrictions on academic freedom. However since 2015, when law professor Gilles Cistac was murdered after supporting RENAMO in a televised appearance, academics have been more hesitant to criticize the government and frequently practice self-censorship. Indoctrination at primary schools has been reported, particularly in Gaza, where some teachers have added FRELIMO propaganda to their curricula.             

D4.      Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 2 / 4

Civil society groups claim that authorities monitor criticism of the government posted online. There have been reports of government intelligence agents monitoring the e-mails of opposition party members.

E. ASSOCIATIONAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL RIGHTS: 7 / 12

E1.      Is there freedom of assembly? 2 / 4

Freedom of assembly is constitutionally guaranteed, but the right to assemble is subject to notification and timing restrictions. The government frequently disallows protests on the basis of errors in the organizers’ official applications. In July 2018, one person was killed and two were injured when police responded with disproportionate violence to a protest against a mining company in Inhassunge District, whose activities had reportedly forced local residents to relocate.

E2.      Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 3 / 4

Most NGOs operate without significant restrictions. However, rights defenders and members of groups perceived as critical of the government continue to report acts of intimidation.  

At the end of 2018, the registration of the Mozambican Association for the Defense of Sexual Minorities (LAMBDA) had still not been approved by the government. LAMBDA first applied for registration in 2008, and has had no success in attaining government approval despite multiple resubmissions.

E3.      Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 2 / 4

Workers have the right to form unions, but a number of restrictions impede the right to strike and make the practice rare. Public-sector workers are not allowed to strike. In 2017, administrative and technical staff at Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM) organized a strike to protest the nonpayment of a bonus. The university declared the strike illegal, and riot police broke up the picket line using tear gas and rubber bullets.

F. RULE OF LAW: 7 / 16

F1.       Is there an independent judiciary? 2 / 4

Judicial independence is hampered by the dominance of the executive branch. The attorney general is directly appointed by the president, with no legislative confirmation process. Pressure from FRELIMO’s leadership often impedes investigations into corruption and fraud. Former president Guebuza and members of his administration have been credibly implicated in fraud and embezzlement scandals, but there have been no prosecutions. Observers claim that this judicial inaction results from the influence of FRELIMO’s leadership.

F2.       Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 2 / 4

Although due process rights are constitutionally guaranteed, these rights are not always respected in practice. RENAMO leaders assert that the police arrest members of their party arbitrarily. Due to resource constraints and an understaffed judiciary, lengthy pretrial detentions are common.

F3.       Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 1 / 4

The December 2016 truce to halt more than a year of fighting between RENAMO and FRELIMO held up throughout 2018, though tensions between the leaders of both parties remained high.

No one has been held accountable for a number of high profile, apparently politically motivated attacks that took place in late 2015 and 2016.

Residents of Cabo Delgado continue to suffer from violence committed by Islamist insurgents.  In September, an attack in a village in Macomia District left at least 10 people dead. In November and December, attacks intensified in the northern districts of the province. Security forces deployed to fight the militants have been accused of kidnappings and other abuses.

F4.       Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 2 / 4

Mozambican police reportedly discriminate against Zimbabwean, Somali, and Chinese immigrants. People with albinism continued to face discrimination, persecution, and violence. Government efforts to protect people with albinism have been inadequate.

Women experience discrimination in education and employment; on average, women are less educated and earn less than men. Sexual harassment in the workplace and at schools remains widespread.

G. PERSONAL AUTONOMY AND INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS: 9 / 16

G1.      Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 3 / 4

Although Mozambicans face no formal restrictions on domestic or international travel, movement is hampered by the presence of checkpoints manned by corrupt police officials, who often harass and demand bribes from travelers.

G2.      Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 2 / 4

The law does not recognize private property outside urbanized areas; citizens instead obtain land use rights from the government. Many citizens are uninformed about the land law and fail to properly register their holdings. The government must approve all formal transfers of land use rights in an often opaque and protracted process. As a result, most land transactions occur on an extralegal market.

Under customary law, women usually cannot inherit property. The government does not frequently intervene to protect women’s property rights when inheritance is denied.

G3.      Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 2 / 4

Domestic violence is pervasive in Mozambique and laws against it are infrequently enforced. According to the Ministry of Women and Social Action, at least 54 percent of women will endure some form of physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. Early and forced marriages remain common in rural areas. The International Center for Research on Women reports that 56 percent of girls marry before reaching the age of 18.

G4.      Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 2 / 4

Many women and girls from rural areas are at risk of becoming drawn into sex trafficking and domestic servitude. Government efforts to confront trafficking are inadequate, according to the US State Department’s most recent Trafficking in Persons Report, but authorities have made increased efforts to investigate trafficking claims and prosecute traffickers.

Child labor is permitted for children between 15 and 17 years old with a government permit. However, children under 15 frequently labor in the agriculture, mining, and fishing sectors, where they often work long hours and do not attend school. According to an August 2017 report released by the Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security, more than one million children between the ages of 7 and 17 are actively employed.