Political Rights: 3
Civil Liberties: 4
Status: Partly Free
Population: 17,500,000
GNI/Capita: $210
Life Expectancy: 34
Religious Groups: Indigenous beliefs (50 percent), Christian (30 percent), Muslim (20 percent)
Ethnic Groups: Indigenous tribal groups, [Shangaan, Chokwe, Manyika, Sena, Makua] (99.7 percent), other (0.3 percent)
Capital: Maputo


Mozambique's nascent democracy continued to mature in 2003, a decade after civil war ended. However, deep political divisions remain, as the ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) maintains dominance of government institutions. Meanwhile, several men were convicted in January in the 1990 murder of a prominent journalist.

Portuguese traders and settlers arrived in Mozambique in the late fifteenth century, and full-scale colonization began in the seventeenth century. FRELIMO was established in 1962 and launched a guerrilla campaign to oust the Portuguese. In 1975, Mozambique gained independence. FRELIMO was installed as the sole legal party, and its leader, Samora Machel, as president. Independence was followed by 16 years of civil war waged by the Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO), which was supported first by Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and later by South Africa.

In 1986, Machel died in an airplane crash and Joachim Chissano became president. In 1989, FRELIMO formally abandoned Marxism-Leninism for democratic socialism and a market economy. In 1992, a ceasefire was signed, followed by a full peace agreement. RENAMO agreed to operate as an opposition political party.

The first multiparty elections were held in 1994, which attracted a 90 percent turnout. The elections were judged a resounding success by the international community, despite a brief preelection boycott called by RENAMO, which accused FRELIMO of fraud. RENAMO leader Alphonse Dhlakama captured 33.7 percent of the presidential vote, versus 53.3 percent for Chissano. FRELIMO won a narrow, but workable, majority in parliament in concurrent legislative polls.

Chissano and FRELIMO were reelected in general elections in 1999, despite a strong showing by the opposition. The polls were marred by logistical and administrative difficulties, and RENAMO complained of fraud. However, many Mozambicans and the international community viewed the elections as expressing the people's will. RENAMO's claims of election fraud created a highly polarized political environment. In protest of alleged fraud, RENAMO deputies repeatedly walked out of parliament or interrupted proceedings in 2000 and 2001. At one point, RENAMO threatened to form its own government in six northern and central provinces.

In 2000 and 2001, major floods killed more than 650 people and disrupted the economy. Tens of thousands of the 500,000 who fled their homes have been resettled.

Widespread corruption has damaged the standing of Chissano's government. In January 2003, six men were found guilty of murdering the prominent journalist Carlos Cardoso, who died in 1990 while investigating bank scandals. While the convictions were a triumph of judiciary independence, no charges have been lodged against the president's son, Nyimpine Chissano, who was alleged by three of the accused to have ordered the assassination.

Municipal elections in November were deemed generally fair by the U.S.-based Carter Center, although there were some logistical problems such as lack of transport for voter education agents. RENAMO took part, after boycotting the last round in 1998.

President Joachim Chissano's announcement that he would not run in 2004 appears to reflect an acceptance of democratic practice. Armando Guebeza, a former interior minister and hard-line Marxist, is FRELIMO's nominee for president.

Mozambique boasts one of Africa's best-performing economies, thanks partly to extensive foreign aid. However, the country remains among the world's poorest, with one of the highest infant mortality rates.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties

Mozambicans can select their president and parliament through competitive electoral processes, although this freedom is constrained by vestigial economic ravages of war and unfamiliarity with democratic practices. Democratic consolidation is tenuous, but dialogue is present in the young democratic institutions. Parliament is an important player in the political process, although the executive branch overshadows its power. The influence of smaller opposition parties is negligible, which leaves RENAMO the only viable electoral challenge to the status quo.

Parliament agreed in 2002 to change electoral law provisions regarding settling disputes, deploying observers, and naming members to the electoral commission. Procedural changes undertaken in 2001 within parliament, including a strengthening of the committee system, have resulted in that body's increased effectiveness, although partisan tensions sometimes impede work.

Corruption is pervasive. In 2002, Mozambique's attorney general, in a report to parliament, admitted that corruption plagued the legal system. He cited incompetence, corruption, and abuse of power at all levels of the administration of justice, including police, attorneys, judges, lawyers, and prison personnel. He also blamed prosecuting attorneys for failing to press charges against suspects when enough evidence existed.

The constitution provides for media freedom, but the state controls nearly all broadcast media and owns or influences the largest newspapers. The independent media have enjoyed moderate growth, but publications in Maputo have little influence in the largely illiterate rural population. The most important media company to arise is the cooperative Mediacoop, which owns Mediafax (which is faxed to hundreds of subscribers but read very widely), the periodical Mozambique Interview, and the weekly Savana. Criminal libel laws deter open expression. The more than a dozen licensed private radio and television stations exercise some self-censorship. The opposition receives inadequate coverage in state-run media, especially radio and television.

There is no reported interference with religious practice.

Freedom of assembly is broadly guaranteed, but limited by notification and timing restrictions. Nongovernmental organizations, including the Mozambican Human Rights League, operate openly, as do international human rights and humanitarian groups. FRELIMO's grip is loosening on the labor movement. The Organization of Mozambican Workers, the major trade confederation, is now nominally independent. The Organization of Free and Independent Unions, a more independent group, was formed in 1994. All workers in nonessential services have the right to strike. The right to bargain collectively is legally protected.

The judicial system is hobbled by a dire shortage of judges, magistrates, and defense lawyers. Bribery of judges by lawyers is alleged to be common. Detainees often wait months, sometimes years, before appearing in court without any formal defense. They are tried only in Portuguese, which many Mozambicans speak poorly. Moves were under way in 2003 to set up the Constitutional Council, which will decide whether laws and governmental decisions are constitutional. The supreme court has been exercising the council's powers, which were set forth in the 1990 constitution but never implemented.

Abuses by security forces still occur. An antigovernment demonstration in 2000 resulted in the deaths of more than 40 RENAMO supporters, and approximately 80 prisoners, mostly RENAMO backers, were suffocated under mysterious circumstances. Prisons are severely overcrowded with appalling health conditions.

The government and organized crime influence the business elite. However, Western donors praise Mozambique's privatization drive, which continued in April with the awarding of the management of the main port, Maputo.

Women suffer from legal and societal discrimination, and domestic violence is common. Only formally married women have full rights; for example, widows can lose their possessions. However, draft legislation introduced to parliament in April recognizes all monogamous unions.

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