sexta-feira, 3 de junho de 2016

Mozambique is suffering a military expression of a political problem

An interview with historian Michel Cahen for the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation Southern Africa

The problem in Mozambique is the winner-takes-all politics. If it is possible even to imagine that the president can be from the ruling party FRELIMO and the provincial governors from other parties and vice-versa; if it is accepted that national unity is not necessarily the same as national homogeneity; if the armed opposition RENAMO’s social base is allocated its share of national resources, and the situation of the majority of Mozambicans improves, the country’s conflict will be resolved.


Mozambique is currently facing one of the most challenging tests of its capacity to resolve the country’s political, economic and social challenges.
Politically, a ceasefire agreement signed between the Government of Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO) and the main opposition party, the Resistência Nacional de Moçambique (RENAMO) on 24 August 2014 was short-lived. It only served to clear the way for the country’s general elections on 15 October 2014, at which time the highly contested results by RENAMO brought about another round of military conflict.
Economically, the national currency, Metical, has been consistently devaluing against, for example, the South African Rand, the American dollar and the Euro, when potential gains from newly discovered resources (e.g. offshore gas) have failed to produce any tangible improvement to people’s lives. This, in conjunction with the discovery of hidden debt of 1, 4 billion USD, led partners like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB) and the British to suspend further financial aid to the country. It is therefore expected that these political and economic developments will lead to political upheaval if the Government does not address questions fast and adequately.[1]
To better understand Mozambique’s current political developments from a political-historical perspective, Fredson Guilengue, Programme Manager at the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Southern Africa (RLS) interviewed historian Michel Cahen (MC). Michel Cahen is an authority on Portuguese colonisation in Africa and a political analyst of Portuguese speaking African Countries (PALOPs). He is the Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) at “Les Afriques dans le monde” Research Centre at the Institute for Political Studies in Bordeaux, France. As an accredited historian of Mozambican and Angolan contemporary history, Cahen has written extensively on Mozambique’s political developments.  

RLS: Mozambique’s electoral processes have always been highly contested due to allegations of electoral fraud by the ruling party Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO) as well as other factors, including a general perception that political power should alternate between parties to achieve a mature democracy. to what extent do frelimo’s victories threaten de facto  democratic development in Mozambique?

MC: This is a complex question, as it must be viewed in different historical periods. Despite the fact that the anticolonial liberation war was carried out in probably no more than fifteen percent of the country’s territory (an aspect that in terms of a guerrilla-like war is already very significant), there should be no doubt that at independence in 1975, if the country had not opted for a single-party state system, FRELIMO would still have had an eighty percent chance of winning. FRELIMO had the necessary legitimacy of the gun; it had defeated the Portuguese and it was a liberation movement for independence.
However, the single-party system severely divided the Mozambican population. With the fusion of party and state there was no space for any independent structure to correct mistakes. Only the highest structures within FRELIMO were allowed to criticise the government. An example of this was the famous Samora Machel’s presidential “offensive” in 1983.[2] This was the highest structure putting pressure on the medium structures of the state hierarchy. It was also followed by the paradigm of authoritarian  modernisation  without any social gains for the sector of the population defended by FRELIMO. This paradigm expressed the idea that the peasantry had to be forcefully modernised by living in rural cities, the so-called “communal villages”. The consequence of building these villages was an agronomic, cultural and political catastrophe for the country and deeply divided the Mozambican population. The civil war in Mozambique was not a peasant revolution, but the peasants used the structures of the guerrilla, introduced by outsiders, to protect themselves against the state foisting authoritarian modernisation upon them.
There is an intense political culture instilled by FRELIMO in which electoral fraud emerges as a local responsibility. A local party member does not require any orientation from the central committee to organise electoral fraud. The member engages in this type of activity because the premise is that RENAMO should never be allowed to win. A doctorate student of mine from Mozambique who conducted a study in the south of the country explained how a relative of his, who was an electoral officer at a voting station, destroyed ballots to prevent the opposition from winning. So for me the real question to ask would be to what extent did fraud affect electoral results in Mozambique? It is also very difficult to report fraud because FRELIMO possesses more qualified staff than the other parties and controls the entire state apparatus. Although the Movimento Democrático de Moçambique (MDM) also has qualified cadres, it is still a small party.[3] RENAMO is a powerful party but suffers a severe lack of personnel. Thus, at many voting stations RENAMO or MDM observers were either not properly trained, had been freshly recruited just prior to the process, or could even have been appointed by FRELIMO.
Meanwhile, it is the concept of the party-nation that poses the most serious threat to democratic advancement in Mozambique. This ideal also comprises the rule that the “winner takes all”.[4] As a result of this system, we find in provinces like Zambézia and Nampula, where the population has always voted for the opposition, all positions of power are occupied by FRELIMO members, i.e. the governor, all district administrators, all managers of public services, all private bank managers and all the local leaders recognised by the government are FRELIMO supporters. This situation causes despair and anger, not only with members of the opposition, but also among the local population. In this instance, the “winner takes all” principle nullifies the vote. It is different in urban areas declared as municipalities because municipal elections take place. There are only fifty-eight municipalities in Mozambique, so there are no elections in the rest of the territory, no decentralisation - only de-concentration.
Again it is the “winner takes all” principle that is firmly rooted in FRELIMO’s cultural politic that most threatens democratic development in Mozambique. Because a person’s vote doesn’t appear to change anything, we see a situation where so many people abstain from the voting process. This happened some years after the massive fraud of 1999 when RENAMO-dominated territories stopped voting and was evidenced by electoral results in which FRELIMO’s electoral percentage continued increasing to sixty-two percent in 2004, while the actual number of votes decreased. Simultaneously, RENAMO’s electorate slowly disappeared. People once again started voting after the 2013 military crises when Dhlakama rebranded himself as a powerful leader. The electorate decided to vote again because they thought they were voting for change, but once again nothing changed at regional and local levels even when the opposition won. It is obvious that the party capturing the majority of votes at national level should form the government, but at local level there should be space for opposition members and local leaders. This currently doesn’t exist. There is no political representation and this model is a serious threat to democracy. By this I am not implying that RENAMO is a beacon of democracy. It is yet another authoritarian party with a poor democratic concept. More...

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