AJCR | 2014/1

Mozambique’s peace decades since the end of the conflict

Inclusive or managed democracy?


The article analyses Mozambique’s post-conflict democratisation and argues that Mozambique has become a ‘managed democracy’ in the new period. Mozambique is viewed by the donor community and multilateral institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as a success story of post-war reconstruction and used as a model to be emulated. The article traces the trajectory of democratisation under the auspices of a liberal peace theoretical framework which was agreed upon in the General Peace Agreement ending the conflict in 1992. Secondary quantitative data were made available from leading International Organisations such as the World Bank and the Mo Ibrahim Governance Index. The article found that, despite Mozambique’s commitments to build an inclusive democracy, corruption unmasks Mozambique’s success story. The authors conclude that democratic consolidation has been accompanied by extractive political and economic institutions leading to a disgruntled citizenry. The country’s peace agreement remains fragile, and faces the reality that political stability has not been accompanied by social justice, equity and deepening democratisation.


Since the signing of the General Peace Agreement (GPA) in 1992, which ended conflict1 and tumult, Mozambique has gone through convoluted political trajectories casting doubt on whether democracy has been salvaged. This article asks the question whether democratic reforms in Mozambique’s post-conflict period, since the end of the civil war in 1992, have led to an inclusive democracy. The article suggests that Mozambique has become a ‘managed democracy’2 cognizant of the manipulation of political, economic and social institutions by Mozambique’s governing elite. Scholars like Hanlon (2008) and Pitcher (2002) have argued that Mozambique has struggled to salvage nascent democratic institutions that promote inclusive political and economic institutions as envisaged by international stakeholders since the signing of the GPA. The negotiations that led to the end of the conflict in the post-Cold War period, under the auspices of a liberal agenda, coincided with the Third Democratic Wave (Bratton and Van de Walle 1997; Huntington 1991). According to Huntington (1991:15), a wave of democratisation refers to ‘a group of transitions from nondemocratic to democratic regimes that occur  within a specified period of time and that significantly outnumber transitions in the opposite direction during that period’.

Mozambique’s transition towards democracy occurred in parallel with regional and global trends towards a quest for a ‘New African Democracy’ across the continent to define the socio-political reality of most Africans. At the regional level, the end of protracted regional conflicts in South Africa and Namibia instilled hope that democracy was a viable option in post-conflict settlements. While the international community marvelled at these transitions, fault lines and limitations in peacekeeping became evident in Rwanda and Somalia: enmity and mass atrocities, genocide and ethnic cleansing of millions of people (Zartman 1995; Dallaire 2004; Melvern 2000; Desforges 1999). In addition, the horrors of Srebrenica in the Balkans further highlighted institutional limitations in post Second World War ‘peace’ decades (Zartman 1995; Huntington 1991). Mozambique’s democratic transition was agreed upon in a century that most commentators have labelled as the bloodiest. Undoubtedly, the agreement of peace by conflicting parties sought to restore a belief in democratic institutions and the relevance of the United Nations (UN).

The signing of the GPA between FRELIMO (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique, or Front for the Liberation of Mozambique) and RENAMO (Resistência Nacional Moçambicana, or Mozambican National Resistance) in 1992, heralded a new era in Mozambican politics, from pariah under Scientific Socialism to ‘successful’ peace agreement as observed by international policy makers (Phiri 2012). Similarly, scholars and practitioners labelled Mozambique a ‘beacon of hope’ and a ‘model’ that can be emulated in post-conflict societies across the world for building constitutional democracies after a peace agreement (Collier et al. 2005; Paris 2004), and to show evidence of upholding human rights, gender equality, free market economics, rule of law, fair political process – bringing succour to the poor and excluded. These suggestions have been made after experimentation with political and economic reforms under the auspices of international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (Collier et al. 2005; Paris 2004; Phiri 2012). The results of these reforms are also noted by several unilateral and multilateral agencies and organisations (World Bank 2014; UNICEF 2010). This article critically discusses the challenges, and contestations of inclusive democratic governance in post-conflict Mozambique.

The article adopts different conceptual frameworks to Mozambique’s democratic transition, cognizant that one framework is not adequate to explain the characterisation of Mozambique as a ‘managed democracy’. The article firstly discusses democratic peace as expounded by the father of Peace Studies, Johan Galtung, to contextualise the quest for peace when conflict raged in Mozambique. The article alternates emphasis between the conceptualisation of a ‘New Democracy in Africa’ as articulated by the Pan-Africanist Archie Mafeje, locating Mozambique’s quest for inclusive democracy within continental debates; and Acemoglu and Robinson’s take on inclusive political institutions or lack thereof as a sine qua non to intrinsic freedom that promotes inclusive democracy. It also provides a brief discussion of a managed democracy. What emerges is the narrative of a country that has risen from the ravages of civil war to attain respectable economic growth and governance levels. The article argues that Mozambique still has a fragile peace agreement and a questionable democracy which has to cope with the rise of public discontent and outrage over election results and issues pertaining to the improvement of the socio-economic condition of ordinary Mozambicans. Factors, such as FRELIMO’s dominance over state affairs, its little openness to dialogue with the opposition, and the non-existent distinction between the ruling party and state apparatus, debilitate the salvaging of democratic institutions and the development of an inclusive democracy.

Democratic Peace and New African Democracy: Conceptual frameworks

With the end of the Cold War, military threats that polarised the world, predicating a cataclysmic end, had diminished. The narrow view of security of the Cold War was replaced by a number of proposals for an extended security concept. Security no longer encompassed only territorial contestation and a Machiavellian notion of the survival of states in the international order, but all threats to humanity. Democratic governance and human security gained momentum, becoming relevant in a number of fields, including: terrorism, systemic violations of human rights, organised crime, violence against women, epidemics, food supplies, natural disasters and environmental disasters (Akerlund 2001:34).

Johan Galtung made a seminal contribution in the field by maintaining an emphasis on human security and further differentiating direct and structural violence. He suggests that the ideas of citizenship, equality, freedom, and justice are more directed against structural violence, at the expense of or in addition to being directed against direct violence (Galtung 1986:4). Mozambique’s conflict bequeathed a legacy of blight, neglect and poverty as a result of direct and structural violence by the perpetrators. Any conceptual framework that seeks to explain Mozambique’s governance challenges needs to be cognizant of a commitment to building democratic institutions in the post-conflict era in an African context, with the absence of violence. As Galtung (1986:7) suggests:

Liberal theory with its political expression as democracy and its economic expression as capitalism claims peace as an automatic consequence once that theory has been implemented in all societies in the world, with the human rights approach as one special case. Correspondingly, Marxist theory with its political expression in democratic centralism and economic expression in socialism has the same claim, as does also anarchist theory with its emphasis on the withering away of the state, today.

For this newly emerged post-conflict state, paying attention to the realities of poverty, inequality and social exclusion could not be divorced from building new institutions to salvage an inclusive democracy. The conundrum is: Why, under the auspices of a liberal peace agreement in Mozambique, was the expected outcome of a liberal democracy not attained? In this context, Archie Mafeje, the renowned South African Pan-Africanist, argued that while liberal democracy upholds the principle of equality of all citizens before the law, it does not address the question of social equity (Mafeje 2002:11). The ideals best expressed to suit the African condition, social reality and psyche should be rooted in the democratic contestations seeking to address the human conditions of most citizens in Mozambique. In this paper, therefore, Mafeje’s emphasis compensates where Galtung views only a peace agreement accompanied by a liberal democracy. As Mafeje (2002:11) further argues, liberal democracy is severely handicapped because the theory of laissez-faire on which it is founded obliges it to accept such phenomena as poverty and social inequality among citizens and nations as a natural outcome of the right of the individual to choose.

Mafeje’s lenses of a ‘New African Democracy’ could potentially shape a progressive debate and dialogue on the quest of inclusive democracy in Mozambique. Mafeje had the following principles in mind in his articulation of a ‘New African Democracy’: firstly, the sovereignty of the people should be recognised as both a basic necessity and a fundamental right. Secondly, social justice, not simply formal rights, should constitute the foundation of the new democracy. Thirdly, the livelihood of citizens should not be contingent on ownership of property but on equitable access to productive resources (Mafeje 2002:12).

In retrospect, Mafeje’s concept of a ‘sovereign democracy’ could be misconstrued to tolerate implicit and explicit human rights abuses that pseudo-democracies and authoritarian governments across the continent have championed. ‘Managed democracy’ can better be understood in light of the evolution of a ‘sovereign democracy’ in contemporary global politics and more specifically Russian politics.3 Sovereign democracy can be the negative brand name for managed and centralised political development, and can be considered to be the highest (and last?) stage of a managed democracy (Petrov 2005:181). In the African context for example, while post-genocide Rwanda has witnessed the building of stable institutions, civil liberties are curtailed, and opposition  politics deem suspicious, challenging the narrative of an inclusive democracy. In a similar vein, while voters have chosen preferred candidates in Zimbabwean elections since 2000, media abuse and a clientelistic government have justified the use of force and curtailed press freedoms in the name of ‘sovereign democracy’. This approach does not move away from the wave of post-independence authoritarian regimes that championed the toothless Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which sought to safeguard the ‘sovereignty of nations’ over the human rights discourse across the African continent (Cooper 2002; Phiri 2014).

Managed democracies however, contradict the principles of both a liberal and a social democracy (Wolin 2008). They feature a strong presidency with weak institutions, state control of the media, control over elections in order to prevent elites from delegitimising their decisions, visible short-term effectiveness and long-term inefficiency (Petrov 2005:182). In this light inclusive democracy as presented in a linear liberal or social democratic framework should not be understood as a universal value, which feeds into the Western narrative of bravado and triumphalism after the end of the Cold War (Fukuyama 1992). Mafeje’s theoretical framework helps to imagine pluralversalism, which is reflected in decoloniality. In decoloniality, African democracies are given the chance to give meaning to their future political trajectories without being burdened by the West’s conceptualisation of what an inclusive democracy should be – cognizant of the paralysis and/or opportunities that exist in the modern or postmodern narrative of building institutions. Further, in striving for social justice, Mafeje proposes the development of strong democratic institutions to safeguard pluralism and democratic citizenship when these are distortedly conceptualised and truncated in emerging African democracies, including Mozambique. Mafeje’s ideas, though located in a different theoretical tradition, are not much different from what Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson’s (2012) seminal work concludes – that political and economic institutions are a sine qua non for progress towards pluralistic societies.

Acemoglu and Robinson (2012:81) argue that ‘extractive political institutions concentrate power in the hands of a narrow elite and place few constraints on the exercise of this power’. Following Robert Michels’ (1962) thesis on ‘the iron law of oligarchy’, Acemoglu and Robinson build on this argument by further stating that ‘economic institutions are often structured by the elite to extract resources from the rest of society. Crucial to point out, these extractive economic institutions naturally accompany extractive political institutions’ (Acemoglu and Robinson 2012:81). Mafeje’s ideas converge with Acemoglu and Robinson as they stress the importance of democratic centralism to foster inclusive democratic polities. Though from different theoretical traditions, these theorists agree that the monopoly of power and force by the state and state institutions debilitate the intrinsic values of freedom that work toward inclusive governance and democratic polities. In this light, these conceptual frameworks cannot be divorced from each other and the paper will analyse Mozambique’s democratic trajectory.

Mozambique’s quest for inclusive democracy from the conflict to the post-conflict phase

Mozambique emerged from a protracted liberation war (1964-74) that was fought to oust Portuguese colonialism, and was immediately plunged into a civil war in 1977. The first attacks by RENAMO were reported soon after independence in 1977, the year when FRELIMO transitioned from a liberation movement to a Marxist-Leninist party (Manning 2002). Under Samora Machel’s leadership, Mozambique implemented scientific socialism to modernise the society, but the war debilitated socio-economic progress (Hanlon and Smart 1990; Vines 1994, 1991). Politically, FRELIMO maintained a monopoly of power and force in state and society, as Giovanni Carbone (2003:4) importantly highlights:

The Leninist notion of a vanguard single party, with restricted membership and party primacy over the state, implied a decision to do away with opposition political organizations and thus the latter’s repression.

The war, coupled with economic collapse internally, led to the demise of the Socialist project, particularly in the second half of the 1980s.What was even more pressing than restoring socialism was the need for peace, as repeatedly stressed by Samora Machel (Arndt 1999:6; Abrahamsson and Nilsson 1995). The conflict led to the destruction of infrastructure and fundamental pillars of development such as schools, hospitals and farmland, which opened the doors to food insecurity, widespread disease, illiteracy and hunger (Hanlon 1990). Poverty also deepened during the armed conflict years. Under dire circumstances, Mozambique sought support from international financial institutions (IFIs), which marked a gradual abandonment of FRELIMO’s initial Marxist-Leninist ideology. Between 1984 and 1990 the FRELIMO government was in talks with RENAMO to end the conflict, and also embarked on constitutional reforms working towards Mozambique’s democratisation (Macuane 2009). The year 2012 marked the 20th anniversary of the GPA that was signed between FRELIMO led by Joaquim Chissano and RENAMO leader Afonso Dhlakama. The same year held a great deal of importance for FRELIMO and the future of Mozambican politics as it signalled the 50th anniversary of the country’s sole liberation movement and the occurrence of its 10th Congress. RENAMO and the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (locally known as Movimento Democratico de Moçambique or MDM),4 an important emerging political party that has gained momentum in the Mozambican political scene since its inception in March of 2009, are the only significant challengers of FRELIMO’s electoral dominance and are therefore in a position to strengthen nascent democratic institutions.

Various explanations are given on how Mozambique was able to move from a bitter conflict to democratisation. Some scholars and practitioners point to the international context and the role played by United Nations Operations in Mozambique (ONUMOZ). This position credits the United Nations (UN) with having played a central role because it was willing to contribute a large number of peacekeeping troops and financial resources to manage demobilisation and elections in Mozambique. The UN operation in Mozambique cost $700 million and involved 6 239 troops. Barbara Walter (1999), in particular, writes that the presence of a large UN force presented a credible commitment that the provisions of the peace accord would be held. Yet focusing solely on the United Nations ignores the complexities that made the GPA a fragile agreement. As Walter (1999:150) points out: ‘The political guarantees gave RENAMO confidence that it would challenge the government, the military guarantee made RENAMO feel safe, and the territorial guarantees of a dual administration prevented RENAMO’s obsolescence’. Dennis Jett, former United States ambassador to Mozambique during the implementation period, reflects that a more complete operation would entail that the UN remains behind to build political institutions.5

Other scholars and practitioners suggest that weak internal and external resources and support for Mozambique’s conflict at the time helped to bring the war to an end and cause a political settlement to ensue (Zartman 1995; Msabaha 1995; Paris 2004). On the other hand, David Hume (1994:144) argues that ‘[t]he international factors affecting the conflict became favourable to a settlement, and President Mugabe, once FRELIMO’s comrade-in-arms, eventually became the senior statesman supporting the peace process’. Yet this view also widens a chasm which prevents understanding the transition. Dorina Bekoe (2008:26) argues differently, trying to bridge the gap and offering a new perspective on the Mozambican political settlement. She notes that both positions miss the essence of the implementation period in Mozambique by not drawing out the mechanisms by which the parties continued to negotiate with each other in the absence or weakness of institutions.

If a peaceful political settlement was a quintessential position that both parties were aspiring towards, this merits close examination with particular reference to post-conflict democratisation. Indeed, how did RENAMO, a guerrilla movement best known both inside and outside of Mozambique as an organisation ‘without a political program’,6 sustained by external support and an army of captives, complete its transformations into a political party in time for the country’s first multiparty elections and agree to a negotiated settlement? While Hume (1994:144) marvels at the fact that the conflicting parties ‘throughout the peace process, emphasised that their goal was reconciliation among Mozambicans as peace could not be built on the basis of a victory of one party over the other’, this position is contested. Hume (1994:144) notes that ‘RENAMO showed dissatisfaction on a number of critical points’. The nature of dissatisfaction is articulated by Brazão Mazula, who notes that despite the desire of peace from both FRELIMO and RENAMO, it was marked by mistrust that was:

… [e]normous and reciprocal, but it came very strongly from RENAMO which did not want to fall into the trap of integration … the strategy through which FRELIMO had wanted for years to assimilate RENAMO [offering amnesty to those subduing to the government] not giving it any political worth (Mazula 1996:30).

Dhlakama, the RENAMO leader, pushed to create a government of national unity highlighting how losers would be treated in the new system. Bekoe (2008:28) further suggests that it was one thing for the GPA to state that Mozambique would use a system of proportional representation or permit RENAMO to hold on to some of its territory, however, this did not mean that RENAMO would be able both to influence policy and prevent adverse policies. Bekoe disagrees with the position that asserts that democratisation was simply influenced by international factors and internal weak structures. She suggests that this position ‘takes the provisions of the GPA for granted and does not assess the degree of mutual political and military vulnerability that characterized the implementation period’ (Bekoe 2008:28).

The peace agreement provided a platform where democratic contestations could be forged. The strength of the GPA, as Bekoe (2008:29) suggests, ‘lies in the political reform that recognizes RENAMO as a legitimate political party and the adoption of electoral and administrative rules that allow it to exist as an effective political party’. However, as Chris Alden (2006:156) has argued, this has resulted in democratic elections being tied to a structure that favours the ruling party in power and, as has become clearer with each election, allowed FRELIMO to conduct domestic and foreign policy without any reference to opposition concerns. As Carbone (2005:428) highlighted, although ‘a formal separation of state and party structures was introduced in 1990–91’, the state apparatus remains largely controlled by FRELIMO. Carbone (2005:429) succinctly substantiates this notion by asserting that the majority of state personnel still belong to FRELIMO and thus, while state and party structures are now parallel rather than overlapping, the separation is largely an artificial one: to become real, it will have to wait until a different party takes power.

The Peace Agreement in Mozambique opened a new opportunity for democratic governance to be enhanced. During the Cold War period, Western governments supported authoritarian regimes that repressed people in order to promote geo-strategic interests (Klein 2007; Zartman 1995; Msabaha 1995; Huntington 1991). Hanlon and Smart (2008:96) have argued that ‘FRELIMO is almost unique in its post-independence ability to stay totally organizationally united and yet remain so diverse on key issues’. This is a move that can be traced to the succession of leadership within FRELIMO party structures. After Mondlane’s death, Samora Machel legitimately ascended to power. In 1986, when Samora Machel died, Joaquim Chissano came to power in a move that ensured that party structures were open to the fluidity and mobility of leadership within FRELIMO. According to Hanlon and Smart (2008:96), corruption and nepotism are deeply entrenched in party structures. They suggest the following:

During elections, party workers are always shocked at the way corruption antagonizes voters and traditional FRELIMO supporters. Honest members and leaders stayed within the party and opted for internal reform, which led to Chissano being ousted as party leader and presidential candidate …. Yet Chissano remains in the party, on the Political Commission, and powerful. The other side of the coin is that some of Chissano’s notoriously corrupt allies also remain in the party, in some cases with well-paid sinecures, and with the justice system manipulated to ensure that they are never prosecuted.

This does not, however, mean that democratic practice has been entrenched. Party members called for reform in the 2004 election, which led to Joaquim Chissano being replaced as party leader and presidential candidate. This was manifested in debates in which the old guard has been highly critical of FRELIMO as a corrupt political party. As previously pointed out, in Mozambique, however, there was distrust mixed with uncertainty about the political future being agreed upon. Whereas the philosophy that underpinned the peace deal was conciliatory, Brazão Mazula (1996:32) argues that the ‘GPA sought to avoid the re-establishment of authoritarian regimes which tend to forget history and distort its analysis’.

Initial prospect of inclusive democracy turned into a myth

The theoretical contexts in this paper have revolved around Democratic Peace and the quest for a ‘New Democracy in Africa’ committed to social justice and equality as articulated by Mafeje. These frameworks push us further to imagine an inclusive democracy which exists to serve the interests of citizens. In the Mozambican case, both Cabaço and Mazula suggest that the Assembly of the Republic is the only possible forum for sharing power with the opposition. However with FRELIMO holding two-thirds of the seats in parliament, RENAMO and MDM remain too politically weak to influence the legislature. FRELIMO’s political supremacy at the Assembly of the Republic accentuates its grip on policy processes and guarantees that the ruling party continues to have substantial discretionary power over state affairs. To the detriment of the opposition, all top public officials are from the ruling party. In fact, in order to get promotions in the public service or rise up to influential positions in government, one must be politically affiliated with FRELIMO and show loyalty towards the party (Macuane 2012a). Therefore, at all levels of the state apparatus, decision making must be in alignment with the political agenda of FRELIMO (Macuane 2012a). In the same vein, Manning (2002) notes that Mozambique’s governance structures are dominated by ruling oligarchs.

Constitutional advancements have also allowed for the emergence of civil society organisations, which remain substantially deficient due to dominant party control and lack of funds (Forquilha and Orre 2011). Although civil society organisations participate in formal consultation processes, their limited technical capacity to operate as a solid network and relevant actors in policy-making processes further weaken their role as contributors to political inclusiveness (Macuane 2012b). According to Instituto Nacional de Estatí­stica de Moçambique (National Institute of Statistics of Mozambique 2004/2005:61), 71.2% of funds received by civil society were sourced from foreign donors. Similarly to the state, civil society organisations in Mozambique depend tremendously on foreign assistance for their daily operations, creating a great deal of susceptibility towards their donors’ agendas. In addition, much of the leadership in Mozambican associations and non-governmental organisations either comes from the public sector or is directly linked to FRELIMO (AfriMAP 2009). This shows that civil society continues to face serious challenges in promoting real participation of the citizenry in the formulation of public policies that will ultimately affect the masses.

The results produced by MDM at the polls during the 2013 municipal elections are worthy of mention. As of early 2014, the MDM is leading four municipalities, including three of the most populated and most important cities in the country, namely Beira, Quelimane and Nampula. The MDM candidate for the capital city Maputo obtained 42% of the vote next to FRELIMO’s 58%. These are significant changes reinforcing the idea that the MDM is gaining momentum as an opposition party and causing some shifts in power dynamics, particularly at the local level. MDM announced that Daviz Simango, the mayor of Beira, will, once more, be the candidate for the October presidential elections. MDM’s victories in the municipal elections boosted the party’s credibility as a strong opposition and will be potentially translated into more votes for the presidential elections. In spite of these important changes, FRELIMO continues to be the dominant political force on the national stage.

Managed democracy and absence of social justice?

Party domination over state affairs has always been the Achilles’ heel of Mozambican democratisation. According to theorists on party domination, the tendency of such systems is to allow the ruling party to spread its wings to the extent that opposition parties get weaker from election to election; thereby creating a certain degree of arrogance from the party, and oftentimes reducing voter turnout (Rønning 2010:8). In Mozambique, since the first elections in 1994, voter turnout has been decreasing significantly. It went from 87% in 1994, to 67% in 1999 and 40% in 2004 (AfriMAP 2009). This may be partly attributed to a few factors such as the distance from certain rural settlements to electoral posts, and also the general elections coinciding with floods which impeded many rural communities from participating. There is, nonetheless, dissatisfaction from the citizenry over the fact that power, and therefore control over policy as well as economic and political institutions, lies in the hands of a few. According to a report on democracy and political participation in Mozambique by AfriMAP, a programme of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), (2009), calling Mozambique a stable democratic government is a grave misjudgement so long as power continues to be increasingly exercised by one dominant party.

In what concerns access to the media and other channels of social communication in the public domain, opposition parties face significant restrictions and there is still some censorship over debates about Mozambique’s political life (AfriMAP2009). Mozambique’s civil society does not yet play an important role in discussions between the government and the donor community due to its lack of substantial funding and coordinating capacity to address such issues. Lack of access to the press and a conveniently dormant civil society reinforce the ruling party’s dominance, hamper Mozambique’s democratisation and disable important processes aimed at achieving social justice and equality as highlighted by Mafeje’s ‘New Democracy in Africa’.

Democratic Peace since the GPA is another questionable issue that deserves particular attention. In the post-GPA period, Mozambique was often portrayed as an exceptional African story where political violence did not occur and where the overall population did not demonstrate any hostility towards its government. There have been a series of incidents that counter this narrative of peaceful post-conflict democratisation. In 2000, RENAMO supporters who protested against FRELIMO and the 1999 election results died of asphyxiation in a state police cell in the Cabo Delgado district of Montepuez (AfriMAP 2009). The FRELIMO government was not held accountable for these atrocious acts. In 2005, citizens were killed, injured and houses destroyed during a protest on the outcome of the 2005 municipal elections in Mocimboa da Praia (AfriMAP 2009). In September of 2010, Maputo and Matola city were home to massive protests due to increases in food and transportation costs. Protestors were shot and beaten by state police. A year later, a large group of marginalised ex-combatants protested before the Council of Ministers for pension reviews and social justice. No substantial attention was given to their plight. In January of 2012, populations resettled by the government and the coal mining giant Vale, a novel player in Mozambique’s resource battle, blocked the railway that connected the coal mining plant to the Beira port as a protest for the dire conditions in which they were left. The protestors were brutally battered and removed by state forces.

In 2012, Dhlakama relocated to ‘Saturjira’, RENAMO’s former wartime headquarters in Gorongosa, and threatened to return to violence, claiming that the government was ‘robbing’ Mozambique’s resources ( 2012). The Mozambican armed forces surrounded the headquarters, which led to accusations by RENAMO that FRELIMO leaders were planning to assassinate Dhlakama. This resulted in a wave of retaliatory attacks between the Mozambique armed forces and RENAMO armed forces, and a bold statement by the RENAMO leader openly declaring the end of the 1992 Peace Accord. There have been several rounds of talks between the FRELIMO-led government and RENAMO, which have not been successful in halting the politico-military tension in the country as the violence was not on the agenda of the discussions (Green and Otto 2014).

Retrospectively, the FRELIMO government used the platform to discuss issues revolving around RENAMO’s concerns over electoral reform and its desire to be represented in electoral bodies such as the National Electoral Commission (Green and Otto 2014). These talks did not deter RENAMO’s tactic of political isolation in the 2013 municipal elections and all other government processes as a protest against FRELIMO’s monopoly over Mozambique politics and the management of natural resources (Green and Otto 2014). The response of the government to the aforementioned crises accentuates the notion of a ‘managed democracy’, and further distances Mozambique’s democratisation from the inclusive democracy that it has come to embody ever since the GPA. In a ‘managed democracy’ there is a huge dissonance between the theoretical underpinnings of a democratic society on paper; and the rhetoric of social change that is supposed to safeguard citizens’ rights and promote social justice, pluralism and equality as articulated by Mafeje, Galtung, and Acemoglu and Robinson.

Extractive political and economic institutions: Corruption, nepotism and residual forces in a pseudo-democracy

The legal successions between presidents have certainly reinforced democratic practice in Mozambique. Nevertheless, FRELIMO has been highly criticised as a corrupt political party; which further culminated in the assassination of journalist Carlos Cardoso in 2001. Cardoso had been a fierce critique of Chissano’s privatisation policies, and exposed murky dealings with FRELIMO’s ruling elite and the private banking sector (Hanlon and Mosse 2010; Hanlon 2001). According to Hanlon (2008), corruption and nepotism are deeply entrenched in party structures. In spite of having experienced the first decade of ‘successful’ peace and pluralistic politics, this relatively unruffled surface of Mozambican politics masks serious weaknesses. In light of this, Manning (2002:13) asserts:

For FRELIMO, over the years a weakened emphasis on ideology has facilitated the spread of corruption within the party and has hurt the party’s image in the eyes of the Mozambican citizens. With the creep of corruption the party has lost one of the things that made it distinctive in the eyes of the Mozambican citizens, whether party supporters or not.

Figure 1 below, illustrates that corruption in Mozambique has been on the increase when aggregated sectorally. Although the figure positively shows that accountability and transparency in the public sector may have been improving between 2000 and 2011 as the value stood slightly over 60, there are questionable results. This is unmasked by the fluctuation of values between 25 and 43 in the ‘Corruption and bureaucracy’ label between 2000 and 2011. No change is noticed in the sector ‘Corruption in the rural areas’ culminating in an ‘Accountability’ value that has averaged a meagre 41 between 2000 and 2011. Corruption has been the result of governance malaise, challenging the narrative of Mozambique as a successful democratiser. Mozambique’s overall governance score was 53 on the IIAG (Mo Ibrahim Foundation 2012) and ranked 21st which put it in the upper quintile of performance. When clustered with Southern African countries, which according to the IIAG (Mo Ibrahim Foundation 2012) are the least corrupt, then Mozambique’s corruption is well camouflaged. In the IIAG 2013 (Mo Ibrahim Foundation 2013) overall governance performance stands at number 20 and slightly worse off than neighbouring countries Malawi (16th), Tanzania (17th) and Zambia (12th). The only regional neighbour that is worse off is the ‘inverted totalitarianism’ Swaziland, ranked 26th. South Africa is ranked the highest at number 5. What the overall score does is to conceal its sectoral performance in terms of accountability and transparency as shown in the table below.

Figure 1: Mozambique’s corruption indexes 2000–2011

Source: Mo Ibrahim Foundation 2012

The anatomy of corruption in Mozambique can be traced to extractive political and economic institutions that emerged in the colonial era and the transition from authoritarian rule to democratic rule (Hanlon 2001). Democratic governments have a mandate to serve their constituencies. Corruption, however, undermines the promotion of democratic citizenship and inclusivity, thereby reducing accountability and transparency in the political constituency. The poor and marginalised in society trust public institutions, such as health and financial institutions, to serve their interests. When trust is undermined, democratic participation is curtailed, thereby instilling fear in citizens to participate. Corrupt governments become sources of insecurity to their citizens and hurt the development of nascent democratic institutions. Political elites can therefore buy justice, as judicial institutions become accountable to the interests of the dominant elite. Mozambique’s governance trajectory as a result of political and economic reforms has become aid-dependent and has paved avenues where corruption has become endemic. Aid-dependency has meant that Mozambican officials are accountable to donors, more than to their constituencies (Phiri 2012). It can be argued then that aid has an endemic character of undermining the very same constituencies and political and economic institutions it purports to build.

There are deficiencies when governments become predatory and fail to reduce corruption. Social change and progress take place in societies that uphold the rule of law, allowing space for the nascent development of inclusive political and economic institutions that, over time, do not exclude the citizenry (Mafeje 2002; Acemoglu and Robinson 2012). In Mozambique, corruption is a complex problem. This can be attributed to a parasitic relationship that involves donors, the government, and the people. At the height of neo-liberal reforms, FRELIMO’s relinquishment of its socialist experiment accompanied by its accession into the aid-for-development domain has not only fostered opportunity for corruption, but also resulted in western policy dominance, which intensified the role of the ruling elites in Mozambique (Phiri 2012). In addition, acknowledging the simple premise that aid is typically released from one government to another government or from an international institution to a government, the ruling elite from the recipient country has a fictitious control over the ‘contribution’. The donor has a considerable degree of political manoeuvre over the country’s policy, and the people ultimately suffer the consequences.

Paolo di Renzio and Joseph Hanlon echo this sentiment as they assert that the government and the donor community arrived at a modus vivendi where state policy was guided by IFIs and donors with little to no sensibility towards national development. This has led to what di Renzio and Hanlon (2007:5) have termed ‘pathological equilibrium as large-scale corruption is unchecked’. Plank (1993:413) poignantly pointed out that this pumping of funds into Mozambique, accompanied by a proliferation of a fairly new private sector primarily led by political elites, opened the doors for public officials and ex-combatants who were not content with their earnings to collect ‘rents’. Whereas effective policies to reduce social ills are supposed to be carried out by the state, the parasitic relationship becomes more apparent as public and social institutions are incapacitated to make social change possible. Corruption thus unmasks Mozambique’s success story.

According to Hanlon (2009:1), ‘elite capitalism’, which he referred to as economic activities of certain Mozambican leaders, including current president Guebuza, has been discernible since the first decade of the 21st century. It certainly has a destructive effect on democratisation given its dependence on lack of transparency and lack of accountability for the citizenry. This system of elite capitalism is set to maintain its beneficiaries in the most privileged positions and ensure the eternal multiplication of trans-generational gains. As a result, inequalities are reproduced; the voices of the vast disadvantaged majority get put on mute as they hold little to no political or economic power, which hurts attempts to build an inclusive democracy. Hanlon (2009:7) substantiates the political and economic immortality of ruling elites when he reports:

Guebuza’s children and relatives have interests in various companies, often in participation with other children of the elite, and are involved in telecommunications, mining, construction, tourism, environmental issues, petrol stations, and a new grain terminal; several consultancy companies have also been established. Armando Guebuza is also a shareholder of some of them, particularly through the family company Focus 21.

Given this background, it is unsurprising that Guebuza has sought re-election in FRELIMO structures – mimicking Vladimir Putin’s return to the Russian presidency and further confirming the characterisation of Mozambique as a ‘managed democracy’. According to Africa Confidential (2012:10), ‘the expected pattern in FRELIMO is that changing the leadership involves a realignment of power inside the party and are distribution of the resulting benefits of patronage’. The Guebuza plan would leave many of those benefits where they are, in the hands of his family and associates, shutting out other FRELIMO members (Africa Confidential 2012:10). President Guebuza’s manipulation of political and economic institutions has cemented rebellion and battle for leadership succession as well as public discontent into his election. This further confirms what Acemoglu and Robinson (2012:430) have argued:

… the ability of those who dominate extractive institutions to benefit greatly at the expense of the rest of society implies that political power under extractive institutions is highly coveted, making many groups and individuals fight to obtain it. As a consequence there will be powerful forces pushing societies under extractive institutions toward political instability.

FRELIMO has maintained an iron grip on the succession battles within party structures, ensuring that the ruling politburo retains control of political and economic institutions and capital, policy initiatives and its own inside ‘dialogue’. Hanlon and Cunguara (2010) suggest that FRELIMO and the ruling oligarchs have strategically positioned themselves to benefit from the drivers of growth like Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), mega projects resulting from the natural resources boom and the mythology of donors promoting the ‘success story’. FRELIMO thereby runs a bifurcated state that maintains a parasitic relationship that feeds corruption, nepotism, clientelism and abuse of public funds. Hanlon further argues that ‘governance’ is presently seen as opening Mozambique to transnational corporations, while closing off domestic capital investment which has been important in all successful national developments, such as the Asian Tigers (Hanlon and Mosse 2010).


Post-conflict peace in Mozambique paved a way for democratisation, allowing the new government to champion political pluralism and a move toward building an inclusive society and social justice. International stakeholders played a crucial role in bringing peace, under the auspices of a liberal peace agenda. As a result of a negotiated democratic transition FRELIMO won the elections in 1994 and has subsequently continued to win, though with questionable results. The political space has been filled with the rhetoric of contestation, as RENAMO has attempted to position itself as a robust opposition. The new democratic movement, MDM, has asserted itself as a strong political contestant to FRELIMO, particularly at the local level. Also, the high level of dependency of civil society organisations on external financial and leadership assistance undermines efforts aimed at promoting political inclusiveness through the participation of the citizenry in policy processes. In the past decade, Mozambique’s political economy has depended on FDI and donors who in different ways have weakened the state apparatus. Internationally, this paints the picture of an increasingly democratic emerging economy opening its doors to business that multiply capital and eventually foster economic growth as prescribed by the policy dictates of Western governments, donors, and multilateral institutions.

Looking at Mozambique from the West, the idea of the ‘success story’ conveniently lives. In reality, the Mozambican democratic picture has a question mark as the dominant party and a considerable part of its members have distanced themselves from political, economic and strategic dialogue with other parties and the public, given the almost invisible line between FRELIMO and state apparatus. Elite capitalism and party dominance over state affairs caricature Mozambique as a ‘managed democracy’. To the detriment of ordinary citizens, the Mozambican post-conflict democratic government has maintained or reproduced extractive political and economic institutions that debilitate the development of an inclusive society and social justice. Political plurality has not been guarded in this new democracy. The analysis so far highlights that Mozambique has become a ‘managed democracy’. Mozambique’s peace agreement remains fragile, and the question is raised whether post-conflict democratisation has been inclusive for the poor and marginalised.


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  1. A ceasefire was agreed upon in 1992, which led to the holding of the 1994 democratic and peaceful elections and to FRELIMO’s victory. However, RENAMO has subsequently violated the terms of the GPA. In the 1999 presidential and parliamentary elections, disputes arose between FRELIMO and RENAMO. The ruling party was accused of manipulating votes and lacking transparency, leading RENAMO to complain about the ballot counting rules. Although electoral reforms emphasised transparency and allowed the participation of electoral observers, RENAMO felt that the reforms had been manipulated to suit the continued dominance of FRELIMO. This was preceded by RENAMO’s boycott of the local elections in 1998. The antagonism resurfaced during the general election and culminated in RENAMO’s renouncing and violation of the GPA. Since mid-2013 RENAMO resorted to sporadic violent attacks and threats to capture key infrastructure projects. Violent clashes were initially limited to a small geographical area in Sofala. According to some media reports there have now been clashes in the provinces of Nampula and Inhambane, and armed members of RENAMO have more recently been seen in Tete ( 2012, 2013).
  2. For an expanded view of what a managed democracy entails, see Nikolai Petrov 2005, and the next section below.
  3. Since his ascension as Russia’s president in 2000, Vladimir Putin has rotated roles as President and Prime Minister. He previously served as President from 2000 to 2008 and as Prime Minister of Russia from 1999 to 2000 and again from 2008 to 2012. During that last term as Prime Minister, he was also the Chairman of the United Russia political party. Under his covert and overt leadership he has influenced the Kremlin to promulgate political reforms and other moves, thereby increasing management by nondemocratic means, while trying at the same time to deflect critics with his slogan of ‘sovereign democracy’. These changes include electoral reform, a tightening of control over political parties and civil society, the appointment of governors instead of their direct election, and also a number of youth, media, and public relations projects.
  4. The MDM is a RENAMO breakaway party that emerged in 2009. It currently has 8 seats in parliament and leads four municipalities.
  5. In a telephone interview (26 September 2001) with Dorina A. Bekoe (referred to in Bekoe 2008).
  6. Roland Paris (2004) notes that RENAMO aimed to undermine the FRELIMO government, but beyond that goal, it lacked a political programme and received little encouragement from the population within Mozambique.
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