Mozambique after 40 years of independence — Part 3: On Peace and Security


Until a couple of years ago, Mozambique was widely referenced as an example of successful peacebuilding story. Following the peace accords in 1992, and until 2013, most observers agreed that stability had been achieved and, despite some limitations in the process of democracy consolidation and human development (see previous posts), the previous rebel group Renamo had transitioned into a political party with relative success. Therefore, it was an unfortunate surprise when ‘suddenly’ in 2013 Renamo’s leader Dhlakama put an end to the Peace Accord and resumed arms.

To be fair, signs of discontent had always been there. Ultimately, the winner-take-all model adopted in 1992 never really satisfied Renamo. Dissatisfaction further increased under the two mandates of President Guebuza, as the latter pushed for a much more conservative agenda, strengthening the power of ‘the party’ (Frelimo), whilst tightening the potential spaces for inclusiveness of the political opposition in the decision-making process.[1] Following the 2009 elections’ results, which consolidated Frelimo’s position in the political realm, Dhlakama moved his residency to Nampula, becoming even more isolated from central political dynamics. In 2012, for the first time since the end of the war, armed clashes took place between the Dhlakama’s ‘presidential guard’ (his 300 armed ‘bodyguards’) and the police in Nampula. While each party blamed the other for starting the shooting, the episode was enough to sore even more the already fragile relations between the ex-rebel leader and the incumbent president. New clashes took place again in April and, in a symbolic gesture, in October Dhlakama moved back to Gorongosa, where Renamo had its headquarters during the war.

2013 was marked by the escalation of tension between Renamo and the government, culminating, in April, in a series of attacks by Renamo on cars and convoys at the EN1 highway, one of the main transport arteries of Mozambique. Further clashes occurred and on October 21 the army occupied a Renamo’s base, where many members were gathered to commemorate the anniversary of the death of the movement’s first leader, Matsangaissa. The next day Dhlakama ended the 1992 Peace Accords. This situation alarmed Mozambicans, many of whom started to flee from the region where the clashes were taking place. While ‘low-intensity’, this conflict caused several deaths and injuries. According to a Chatham House Report, all through 2013 at least 60 people killed and more than 300 injured. No accurate numbers were available for the year 2014.

While conflict took place, negotiations were also held with the support of mediators. In January 2014 Renamo expanded its activities to the province of Inhambane and attacked the rail where coal was transported from Tete to Beira. In February Frelimo and Renamo reached a controversial deal on the electoral law, but attacks and raids continued. Finally in August 24 a ceasefire was agreed on the 74th round of negotiations and on September 5 a new peace deal was signed, ratified in Parliament three days later. The agreement included amnesty to all Renamo members from 2012 until the date of the accord and Dhlakama agreed on a plan of progressive incorporation of Renamo ex-combatants into the Armed Forces and the police. Yet, many important items remained to be negotiated, in particular, specific aspects related to security and defence, the separation of the state apparatus from the political parties, and unspecified economic matters included in the agenda.

It is indisputable that all these issues are fundamental to the quality of peace in Mozambique. In fact, they were fundamental matters already in 1992, but were not adequately addressed neither in the previous peace accords, nor in the 20 years that followed. In this regard, Renamo’s actions in the last two years are a reminder that unless major political reforms take place, peace will be at stake. Unfortunately, what the latest episodes also showed was that violence turned out to have more influence in the creation of spaces for reform than political negotiations through democratic institutions. This is dangerous in many regards. First, as a whole new generation exists that has not lived during the war it may give the impression that violence may be a more efficient tool for change than working through the existing system. As noted in a previous post, the many institutional reforms that took place since 1992 did not deliver what they promised. While Renamo is also responsible for this, as it threw away several opportunities to increase its influence and its ability to become an efficient opposition (e.g., by boycotting municipal elections), it is also the only party who has so far, via unorthodox means, significantly challenged Frelimo’s power.

Certainly many of the grievances pointed by Renamo’s leader are crucial to make democracy work. However, to a large extent, Renamo’s posture still reflect a position of a group that sees itself as deserving special rights for having fought the war and ‘contributing to the institution of democracy in Mozambique’, as noticed in many discourses of Dhlakama. As long as each party wants its own ‘share of peace’ (including the share of the economic gains that will, expectedly, come from mineral activities in the north), too little attention is given to what everyday people want/need, and what should be their ‘share of peace’. Ultimately, the way negotiations are taking place is still framed by personal interests and centred at the ‘top’, that is, they engage basically Dhlakama and the government, and are not inclusive of the many segments of the Mozambican society.[2]

As noted by Luis de Brito (article here), the main problem of peace in Mozambique is inclusion in the broadest sense — not only the inclusion of the opposition in the political game (although this certainly is an issue) — but the more general inclusion of Mozambicans in the democratic system, as well as their inclusion in the sharing of the country’s resources. I fully agree. And this is a very long-term problem. It is doubtful in the current context that the political elite will make space for such a fundamental shift to happen. If anything, such shift should come from the bottom, through the engagement and pressure of civil society. Mozambicans have already shown strong agency, as shown by the riots in 2008 and 2010, but there’s a lot of work ahead.

From this perspective, one may look at the current scenario from both a half-empty/half-full glass perspective. Optimistically, some agreement has been achieved between Frelimo and Renamo and as negotiations continue there is hope that further violence will be contained and meaningful political reform may take place. Yet, many of the things agreed are yet to be operationalized and important details are still under discussion. As I write this post, several violations of the ceasefire have been reported, and Dhlakama himself admitted having ordered an ambush to the government forces in Tete on June 14. The ambush followed the Parliament’s rejection of a bill proposed by Renamo regarding the ‘autonomous provinces’ (see article from Paul Fauvet) proposed by Dhlakama, on April 30. After the rejection, Dhlakama threatened to govern by force and gave an ultimatum for the government to reconsider the proposal. Still, by the end of June an agreement was reached on separating party and state (see Hanlon’s bulletin) and currently the negotiations have moved to the fourth and final point, concerning economic issues and the distribution of the country’s resources, even though important matters on the previous topics have not been agreed on, in particular in the case of defence and security. So yes, things are moving — on and off — but it is not clear where they will lead to and, more fundamentally, if they will fundamentally change the system.

[1] See article from Luis de Brito here; also, Morier-Genoud, E. (2009). Mozambique since 1989. Shaping Democracy after Socialism, in: Mustapha, A. R.; Whitfield, L. (eds.), Turning Points in African Democracy, Suffolk: James Currey, 153-166.

[2] See Chatham House Report and my forthcoming article: Maschietto, Roberta H. (2015 forthcoming). What Has Changed with Peace? Local Perceptions of Empowerment in Mozambique, Journal of Peacebuilding and Development.


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