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At an inflection point

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Mozambique’s warring groups need to embark on a path to stability following disputed poll results

In mid-November, Mozambique’s Constitutional Court dismissed Opposition party Renamo’s application to have the results of the October 15 general election annulled. This, the ex-rebel Renamo group warned, could result in greater violence.

The Opposition suit had confirmed the worst fears on the risks to the country’s latest peace deal. The August 6 accord between the ruling Mozambique Liberation Front, or Frelimo, and the ex-rebel group Renamo, or (Mozambican National Resistance) had committed to the decentralisation of power and disarmament and demobilisation of the rebels. Parliament further enacted legislation to grant amnesty for Renamo militants involved in civilian killings and the destruction of public property. The recent poll was also billed as a high-stakes exercise to prevent a repeat of events in 2014, when peace brokered months earlier had collapsed almost soon after the election.

Disputed franchise

In October’s disputed franchise, President Filipe Nyusi was declared the winner for a second term, with 73% of the vote, against Ossufo Momade’s 21.8%. In a further boost to Mr. Nyusi, the governing Frelimo captured 184 out of 250 seats in the National Assembly, against a mere 60 for the Opposition. But a greater potential danger to the fragile peace was Renamo’s total rout in all the provinces, many of which have been the party’s strongholds. Renamo had hoped to consolidate on its gains from 2014 and its success in the local elections last year.

In the legal challenge to the October polls, the Opposition alleged violence, intimidation and the stuffing of ballot boxes; accusations which have been widely corroborated. A controversy over large discrepancies between voter rolls and the census data in some provinces led to the resignation of the head of Mozambique’s Statistical Commission. Similar concerns were echoed by the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa. The U.S. Embassy in Maputo and the European Union criticised the absence of a level-playing field in the poll process. Meanwhile, the Centre for Public Integrity, a national watchdog, declared that ballot tinkering was not large enough to have influenced the outcome. The South African Development Community, which has tended to steer clear of the region’s deeply contested electoral disputes, also endorsed the results as peaceful and orderly. The admission of fraud in the conduct of the polls by the country’s Election Commission lent credence to Renamo’s legal challenge.

 

Civil war, and after

The 1976-1992 brutal civil war between Frelimo, the erstwhile Marxist liberation movement, and Renamo continues to exert a heavy toll. At the height of the tensions of recent years, security forces were blamed by human rights groups for the attempt on the life of the veteran Renamo leader, late Afonso Dhlakama. Widespread atrocities in the central provinces have also forced thousands to flee to Malawi and other neighbouring nations. Mozambique was declared an anti-personnel landmines-free nation only recently, in 2016, over two decades after the 1992 Rome accord.

Meanwhile, the August agreement also faces uncertainty as a Renamo faction regards the deal as unrepresentative of former combatants from the country’s freedom struggle.

Twenty-five years after the advent of multi-party democracy in the former Portuguese colony, the ruling Frelimo, which has enjoyed power since the country’s independence in 1975, has decentralised power too slowly and Renamo has been reluctant to relinquish arms. This deficit of trust has allowed the dispute to drag on, although the conditions of a proxy war from the Cold War have long ceased. Unless the parties embark on a path to stability, they risk losing the opportunities from the huge untapped gas reserves, which require massive investment.

garimella.subramaniam@thehindu.co.in

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 5:11:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/at-an-inflection-point/article30041235.ece

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