Mozambique, post-war socio-eonomic and political challenges
From the mid-1980s the Marxist-oriented Frelimo government decided to replace its communist political, social and economic system with a Western-oriented system. On 30 November 1990 Mozambique adopted a new constitution that provided for a multiparty political system and exchanged its centrally controlled political economy for a market-oriented one.
These changes occurred amid pressure from international donors at a time when war-ravaged Mozambique was the poorest country in the world and heavily dependent on donors. The Frelimo regime was forced to make the changes due to the collapse of the country’s economy against the backdrop of an intractable civil war. The strategic shift was also aimed at undermining internal and external support for the Mozambique National Resistance Movement (Renamo), which was Frelimo’s opponent in the civil war. Although the General Peace Agreement (AcordoGeneral de Paz) of October 1992 ended Mozambique’s 16-year civil war, the ensuing political environment could be best described as one of ‘armed peace’, where Frelimo and Renamo traded accusations that the other was undermining the peace. For instance, Frelimo accused Renamo, the main opposition party, of maintaining a non-specified number of armed men in its former military bases,3 particularly in those areas of the country where it retained control. This political impasse was resolved under the auspices of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mozambique (ONUMOZ). Renamo, for its part, charged that Frelimo was persecuting its members, and monopolising and abusing state resources to the disadvantage of the rebel-movement-turned-opposition-party.
The discordant relations between the two former enemies have continued to characterise Mozambique’s internal politics. For example, in post-election periods Renamo customarily adopts an aggressive posture, using accusations of electoral fraud to hinder Frelimo’s governance. In order to address such problems, the former president, Joaquim Chissano, used to invite the opposition leader, Afonso Macacho Marceta Dhlakama, to discuss the political impasse. However, the incumbent president, Armando Guebuza, seems to have adopted a different approach to this recurring political problem. Since his coming to power in 2004 Guebuza has hardly held any talks with the opposition. Perhaps this lack of dialogue between the Frelimo and Renamo leadership is one of the reasons why Renamo has become more aggressive than ever.
This paper critically analyses the socio-economic and political challenges facing Mozambique against the backdrop of unprecedented popular uprisings in North Africa, themselves inspired by socio-economic stresses. Many observers are wondering whether there is a potential for contagion into sub-Saharan Africa of this North African wind of popular demands for change. To this end, the paper examines the roles of Mozambique’s main political players, the dynamics in the political arena, and the socioeconomic and political challenges faced by the country. Mozambique’s recent history is also briefly examined to put the analysis of current events and processes into a historical context.
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