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Freedom in the World 2011 - Mozambique

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 12 May 2011
Cite as Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2011 - Mozambique, 12 May 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4dcbf515a.html [accessed 28 November 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Capital: Maputo
Population: 21,971,000

Political Rights Score: 4 *
Civil Liberties Score: 3 *
Status: Partly Free

Status Change Explanation

Overview

President Armando Guebuza and his party, the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, continued to dominate Mozambique's political institutions and its economy during 2010. The country achieved impressive rates of economic growth, largely due to increased foreign investment in mining and related sectors. However, popular anger over rising living costs led to riots in September that turned deadly when security forces opened fire on protesters.


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 of a Marxist-style state. Independence was followed by a 16-year civil war that pitted 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 Joachim 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 was reelected in 1999, and FRELIMO once again won a majority of parliamentary seats. These results 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 won 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 insufficient 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 of Maputo and in the northern city of Chimoio in response to rising food, transport, and utility prices. Police reportedly fired live ammunition, leaving at least a dozen dead and more than 400 wounded. The government later announced that it would subsidize the cost of bread and cancel increases in water and electricity tariffs for the poor.

Mozambique has achieved high levels of sustained economic growth since the end of the civil war, owing to relative political stability and substantial foreign investment, particularly in mining. The economy showed resilience in the face of the global downturn that struck in 2008, with the International Monetary Fund estimating average real gross domestic product growth at 7.2 percent in 2010. Nevertheless, most of the population continues to live in poverty, and the country received a staggeringly low ranking – 165 out of 169 countries – on the UN's 2010 Human Development Index.

Mozambique has long enjoyed close relations with donors, whose support has accounted for roughly half of the state'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 when the government agreed to reform the electoral system and introduce new legislation to address rampant corruption. Donors also announced that aid would not be increased in 2011, as has usually been the case from year to year.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties

Mozambique is not an electoral democracy. While international observers have deemed the overall outcomes of Mozambique's national elections to have 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 of 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 upstart 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.

Corruption in government and business remains pervasive, despite increased efforts to curb it. Mozambique was ranked 116 out of 178 countries in Transparency International's 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index. 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 an important victory for anticorruption advocates, a Mozambican court issued lengthy prison sentences in February 2010 to former transport minister Antonio Munguambe and several others for their role in siphoning millions of dollars from the state-owned Mozambique Airport Company. In June, the U.S. Treasury Office named prominent businessman Mohamed Bachir Suleman, who is known to have close ties with FRELIMO, a drug kingpin. The designation brought renewed attention to Mozambique's role in the international drug trade, which has flourished under the country's weak judiciary.

While press freedoms are legally protected, journalists are sometimes harassed or threatened and often practice self-censorship. In May 2010, Salomão Moyana, editor of the weekly Magazine Independente, received threatening text messages after publishing an editorial critical of RENAMO party leader Afonso Dhlakama. 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 sources have proliferated since the introduction of multiparty democracy in 1994. These include several weeklies and the daily O País, a number of independent and community radio stations, and, more recently, news websites. However, they face sustainability issues as a result of advertising being dominated by the state. 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 to mobile phone users during the September 2010 riots. International media operate freely in the country.

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 persons, including two 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 go on strike. The Organization of Mozambican Workers is the country's leading trade union confederation.

Judicial independence is undermined by endemic corruption, scarce resources, and poor training. The judicial system is further challenged by a dearth of qualified judges and a backlog of cases. Despite recent improvements, suspects are routinely detained well beyond the preventive detention deadline. Prison conditions are abysmal. According to Amnesty International, 13 detainees died from overcrowding in a police cell in Nampula province in March 2009, while 22 reportedly died, mainly from disease, in a prison in Manica province in early 2009. Abuses by security forces – including unlawful killings, excessive use of force, and arbitrary detention – remain serious problems despite human rights training. Public dissatisfaction with the police has also led to a rise in deadly vigilante violence.

Excessive bureaucracy, pervasive corruption, and insufficient legal redress unduly hinder private enterprise, especially at the local level.

Women are fairly well represented politically, holding the premiership from 2004 to 2010 and some 39 percent of the parliament, but they continue to face societal discrimination and violence despite recent advances in the law. Trafficking in persons, including the trafficking of children, is a serious problem along the highway from Maputo to Johannesburg in South Africa. Legal protections for women and children are rarely enforced.


* Countries are ranked on a scale of 1-7, with 1 representing the highest level of freedom and 7 representing the lowest level of freedom.

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