Tag Archives: Mozambique elections

Mozambique – Renamo’s election strategy and use of violence


Renamo’s renaissance, and civil war as election strategy

In 2009, the Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo) recorded its worst ever showing in an election. Its candidate, rebel leader Afonso Dhlakama, was trying so hard to play the respectable politician, yet he received only 650 679 votes (16,41% of the total). This was, astoundingly, over 300 000 votes fewer than he had garnered in the 2004 poll.

At the same time, Renamo won just 51 seats in Parliament, down from 91 seats in the previous session. By anyone’s estimation, it was a catastrophic showing for the party that had effectively invented opposition politics in the country. It had fought to end the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique’s (Frelimo’s) de facto one-party state both during the country’s bloody civil war (which only ended with the 1992 peace agreement), and in the post-civil war democratic elections that followed thereafter.

It seemed as if Dhlakama and his Renamo movement were a spent force. Incoherent and disorganised, and dogged by its dodgy historical links to the apartheid government in South Africa, the party had lost ground not only to the ruling Frelimo but also to the young upstarts of the Movement for Democracy in Mozambique (MDM). The MDM, a breakaway faction of Renamo, had sprung up to claim 8,59% of the electorate.

The very next day, Dhlakama hit the campaign trail

Of course, Renamo cried foul, alleging that the election was rigged and initially refusing to recognise the results. But its leaders must have known that the sheer scale of the drop in support indicated that the real problem lay within its own ranks. If Renamo were to remain relevant – if they were to seriously compete for power in 2014, and for a share of Mozambique’s impending oil and gas boom – then something needed to change.

And so the party returned to doing what it does best: no, not electoral politics, but armed resistance. In 2012, Dhlakama began to resurrect his fighting force, re-establishing a military base in the Gorongosa region and arming Renamo veterans. By October 2013, he was confident enough to rip up the ceasefire that had ended the civil war in 1992. ‘Peace is over in the country,’ said a Renamo spokesperson. These weren’t just words: Renamo launched deadly attacks on targets such as police stations and highways, resulting in dozens of deaths (both military and civilian). The civil war was back, albeit at a far lower intensity.

At the same time, Renamo announced that it would boycott the upcoming municipal elections in November 2013, decrying the politicisation of the electoral system and the blurring of lines between Frelimo and the state (both valid criticisms). It made good on this threat, and its absence allowed the MDM to make significant gains in many of the country’s most important municipalities.

Renamo, it seemed, were weaker than ever before. ‘Dhlakama has backed himself into a corner from which there is no obvious exit,’ wrote veteran Mozambique researcher Joseph Hanlon in late 2013, a conclusion shared by most analysts. But Dhlakama found a way out.

Eventually, Renamo’s intransigence and the threat of even more violence forced the government to the negotiating table – although critics say the government should have acted much sooner to nip the Renamo threat in the bud. Anxious to deal with the situation before the presidential elections, President Armando Guebuza allowed Renamo to extract several key concessions. These included greater representation for Renamo in state institutions, especially the armed forces; reform of the electoral system to make it harder to rig elections in Frelimo’s favour; and a general amnesty for Dhlakama and his supporters.

The new peace deal was concluded on 5 September 2014, with Guebuza and Dhlakama shaking hands in a ceremony in Maputo. The very next day, Dhlakama hit the campaign trail.

At this point, the odds were still stacked against Dhlakama and Renamo. With little over a month before the polls, his opponents had enjoyed a substantial head start on campaigning. And surely Mozambicans would not take kindly to political groups that make their demands at the barrel of a gun: that threaten to plunge the country into civil war if they don’t get their way.

Renamo rallies were chaotic and disorganised, but still people came

In fact, the opposite was true. Everywhere Dhlakama went, he received a hero’s welcome. Unlike Frelimo rallies, where crowds were lured by the promise of free merchandise and celebrity entertainment, Renamo rallies were chaotic and disorganised. But still people came, and waited for hours just to get a glimpse of the man who had somehow turned himself into a beacon of hope for the huge sections of society that feel marginalised by Frelimo’s length rule.

‘Dhlakama has won admiration by apparently forcing Frelimo to make political concessions it has been resisting for decades. He even seems to be enjoying – perhaps unjustly – much of the credit for the peace that has come just in time for the election. Emerging from hiding only after the peace agreement was signed was a clever move that brought his supporters out in droves to welcome him as a hero,’ wrote journalist Cait Reid for African Arguments.

Far from being Renamo’s death knell, its resumption of hostilities was a political masterstroke. It was able to depict itself as the party that was able to take real action to defend its principles, which it argued were for the good of Mozambique as a whole. Dhlakama’s rhetoric on the campaign trail echoed this, and emphasised values such as tolerance and unity, which contrasted sharply with Frelimo’s either-with-us-or-against-us approach.

Oddly enough, by pulling out of the democratic process, Renamo was able to demonstrate its commitment to it; at least as far as its constituency is concerned.

The election results bear this out. Although the final results have yet to be released, provisional results and a parallel count from the Electoral Observatory of Mozambique give Renamo about 32% of the presidential vote – double their proportion from 2009. Regardless of this feat, Renamo are challenging the results and alleging that the vote was tampered with. It is a dramatic return to form, and positions Renamo once again as the most serious challenger to Frelimo’s electoral stranglehold. As unlikely as it may seem, Renamo’s return to the bush had proved to be a most effective campaign strategy.

It is also useful when it comes to negotiating the terms of Renamo’s future democratic engagement. On Sunday, Dhlakama declared the election a ‘charade.’ He warned that while he was committed to peacefully negotiating his differences with Frelimo, he couldn’t necessarily control his angry supporters – thus leaving the threat of violence hanging in the air as he voiced his demand for a government of national unity along Kenyan or Zimbabwean lines. Given Renamo’s history, and the new evidence of the strength of its support base, Renamo remains a threat that Frelimo can’t afford to ignore.

Simon Allison, ISS Consultant

Mozambique votes against background of resource boom


Reuters) – Mozambicans voted on Wednesday in elections expected to return the ruling Frelimo party to power in one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, which is looking to escape years of poverty and conflict by tapping into its huge energy resources.

Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. local time (0600 BST) across the Indian Ocean nation, whose 2,500 km coast stretches from Tanzania in the north down to South Africa.

More than 10 million voters were registered to take part in the elections for a new president, parliament and provincial assemblies. Foreign donors and investors hope the ballot will help to bury old animosities still lingering from a 1975-1992 civil war fought between Frelimo and its old foe Renamo.

Ordinary Mozambicans say they want whoever wins the vote to use the country’s newly discovered resources of coal and natural gas to end poverty and inequality and to create more jobs.

“The leaders must think of the people, they must know how to invest the resources,” said engineering student Elder Mesquita, 24, walking to a polling station with his wife and infant son.

Frelimo is a former Marxist liberation movement that has ruled Mozambique since independence in 1975 and its presidential candidate, former defence minister Filipe Nyusi, campaigned hard to maintain the party’s grip on power.

However, he is facing a tough challenge from both the Renamo leader and former rebel chief Afonso Dhlakama and from a rising third force in the former Portuguese colony — Daviz Simango and his Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM).

Nyusi and Dhlakama voted early in the capital Maputo, as did outgoing Frelimo President Armando Guebuza, who is barred by the constitution from standing for a third term. Guebuza urged all Mozambicans to vote and to shun violence.

The Frelimo candidate Nyusi said he was confident of victory, calling the day “a celebration for Mozambicans”.

The election, the fifth presidential vote since a 1992 peace deal ended the civil war, is “the most competitive in the history of the country”, John Stremlau, vice president of peace programmes at the Atlanta-based Carter Center, told Reuters.


Stremlau is one of more than 1,000 international observers, including from the African Union and the European Union, who will be monitoring Wednesday’s voting.

If Frelimo’s Nyusi, 55, fails to secure more than 50 percent of the total ballots, he will face a deciding second round run-off with his nearest contender in which the anti-Frelimo votes would be united against him.

The new president will oversee the bringing into production of large-scale offshore natural gas and oil projects in the north of Mozambique that are already being developed by investors such as U.S. oil major Anadarko Petroleum Corp and Italy‘s Eni.

The raging Ebola epidemic in three West African nations has cast a pall over the wider region and stoked global alarm, but Mozambique in the southeast corner of Africa, so far Ebola-free, is widely viewed as a bright prospect on the continent.

The IMF sees Mozambique’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth topping eight percent this year, though it remains among the world’s least developed countries and the majority of its more than 25 million people live in poverty.

“The real test of this transition moment is whether the political leaders who have historically fought each other will think in terms of a government of national unity, so that you will have inclusivity in the aftermath,” Stremlau told Reuters.

He noted all of the main political leaders had said they would accept the result.


Renamo’s Dhlakama and MDM’s Simango concentrated their campaigns on attacking what they say is the stranglehold Frelimo has long maintained over political and economic power in Mozambique. They have promised more inclusive government.

“Mozambique belongs to everyone” was the slogan of MDM’s Simango, 50, a Renamo defector and civil engineer who made a credible first showing in the 2009 presidential vote and whose party made gains in local government elections last year.

Over two years leading up to the vote, Dhlakama’s armed Renamo partisans clashed sporadically with government troops and police in the bush and ambushed traffic on a key north-south highway, frightening away tourists and triggering some concerns that Mozambique could slide back into a civil war.

The white-haired, bespectacled former guerrilla leader, who is 61, only emerged from a mountain hideout last month to ratify a deal with Guebuza reaffirming a 1992 peace pact. He had accused the Frelimo government of trying to eliminate him.

Joaquim Tobias Dai, president of the Mozambican Association of Economists, said that managing popular expectations over the much-trumpeted coming hydrocarbons boom would be a challenge.

“Whoever wins the election must have the strategy in place … The next five years will determine a lot,” he added.  Reuters

Mozambique Democratic Movement wants non-violent future

Mail and Guardian

The Mozambique Democratic Movement says it will offer voters a non-violent alternative as the country heads to the polls.

One of three presidential candidates, the Mozambique Democratic Movement's Daviz Simango seeks to push for reforms that would dilute the powers of the president. (Gianluigi Guercia, AFP)

Mozambique’s upstart opposition the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) on Monday vowed to take on the two traditional political heavyweights in the country by offering a non-violent alternative in polls taking place this week.

While the ruling Frelimo party and its main opposition rival Renamo have been at each other’s throats during an insurgency that has lasted nearly two years, the MDM has been quietly focusing on growing its support base.

“We are different from the others, first [of] all we don’t have the armed tradition,” said MDM leader Daviz Simango. “MDM is growing fast and [a] lot of people are surprised.”

The party has mayors in four cities, most wrested from the ruling party in key municipal polls last year. “It’s easier for us to run the country,” Simango added.

But the leader of the party formed just over five years ago is concerned that defeat in Wednesday’s election for either of his rivals could spell trouble.

“The question is if one of them loses the election, are they going to accept the decision?” said Simango. “I am worried … because we need to keep peace,” to develop the country.

He pointed out that the disarmament plan agreed to in a recent peace pact was yet to be implemented. “Renamo forces are still armed and they are going to elections with guns.”

Analysts believe the MDM could change the political landscape in this nascent energy producer dominated for decades by Frelimo and Renamo, the two sides that fought each other in a 16-year civil war.

The economy of the southern African country grew an annual average of 7% over the past decade, and foreign investors are scrambling for a slice of its coal and gas resources. Despite its booming economy, it is estimated that half of Mozambicans live on under a dollar a day.

A man of the people
Simango has been mayor of the second biggest city, Beira, for over a decade – first for Renamo and later as an independent before forming the MDM.

He fashions himself a man of the people, whose no frills door-to-door campaign has won hearts and minds among Mozambique’s poorest.

“Where the people are we are there,” said the softly spoken mayor. “We are taking supporters from Frelimo, we are taking supporters from Renamo.”

He said: “People are not happy with Frelimo [because] a lot of things are not happening … the poverty is still there.”

“The government says they are trying to bring down poverty but we still have a small portion of people becoming very rich.”

He said his party would push for reforms that would dilute the powers of the president. It also wants to see more opposition lawmakers in what has hitherto been a largely rubber-stamping Parliament.

In the outgoing 250-seat Parliament, Frelimo has 191 seats, compared to Renamo’s 51 and MDM’s eight. “The president has a lot of power.” he said. “We need to separate the political power from the justice.”

Simango is a qualified civil engineer whose father was one of the leaders of the independence Frelimo movement. He says his parents were “executed” in a Frelimo purge.

At 50, Simango is the youngest of the three presidential candidates vying for the top job in elections due on Wednesday.

Wednesday’s elections will be the southern African country’s fifth since a 1992 peace agreement halted a 16-year civil war and ushered in the first democratic elections in 1994. – AFP  M&G

Mozambique – President Guebuza and Renamo’s Dhlakama sign peace deal

Al Jazeera

Mozambique rivals sign peace deal

President Armand Guebuza and ex-rebel leader Afonso Dhlakama bring an end to two-year conflict ahead of October poll.

 05 Sep 2014

Afonso Dhlakama, who came out of hiding on September 4, returned to Maputo for the peace accord [EPA]
Mozambique’s president and the leader of the former rebel group Renamo have signed a landmark peace deal in Maputo, ending a two-year conflict that has rekindled memories of a brutal civil war.

President Armando Guebuza and Afonso Dhlakama, who came out of hiding on Thursday, signed the deal on Friday in front of about 100 diplomats and dignitaries.

The two leaders embraced prompting jubilant cries and clapping from those gathered, the AFP news agency reported.

For two years government forces and fighters loyal to Dhlakama have clashed, with the rebel leader accusing the state of reneging on a peace deal that ended Mozambique’s brutal civil war.

Mozambique rebel leader returns to capital

Around one million died as a result of the 15-year conflict, which ended in 1992.

In the recent clashes, Dhlakama’s supporters attacked buses and cars on the country’s main north-south highway, while government forces raided his bush hideout.

Dhlakama hailed the deal on Friday as an “important step forward,” but also accused the government of “intolerance”.

“After the beautiful dream of two decades ago when peace seemed to be for always, we saw a systematic concentration of power in the hands of those in power … many are in this room,” Dhlakama said.

He added that he “hoped today’s accord can bring to an end the one-party state”.

Mozambique has been ruled by civil war victors Frelimo since independence.

The party is expected to handily win upcoming elections in October. There were fears that the polls could be marred by violence.

Dhlakama has lost every presidential election since 1994 and Renamo is struggling to retain its status as the biggest opposition party.

The peace deal will see Renamo fighters integrated into the military and the party given a greater say in election oversight bodies.  al jazeera

Mozambique – Renamo signs peace deal as elections loom


Mozambique rivals agree ceasefire ahead of elections

Fighters of the former rebel movement Renamo receive military training in Mozambique's Gorongosa's mountains (November 2012) Renamo is thought to have retained about 1,000 armed men

The government of Mozambique has signed a ceasefire with the Renamo opposition party in a bid to end hostilities ahead of elections in October.

The deal follows two years of low-level clashes between armed members of Renamo and government forces.

In 2013 Renamo withdrew from a peace deal signed more than 20 years earlier which had ended a protracted civil war.

Last week, as part of the negotiations, the government began releasing Renamo prisoners captured in recent fighting.

The ceasefire was signed on Sunday night in the capital Maputo between Renamo’s chief negotiator Saimon Macuiane and the government after almost a year of negotiations.

Mr Macuiane told the AFP news agency that the “definitive agreement” came into operation as of 22:00 local time (2000 GMT) on Sunday.

“We have begun a new era for the country,” Mr Macuiane said, describing the ceasefire as an “important step towards national reconciliation… and a durable peace”.

Correspondents say that Renamo has been fighting a low-level insurgency since party leader Afonso Dhlakama returned to the bush in 2012, two decades after he agreed a peace deal with the governing Frelimo party.

Sunday’s late night agreement follows a general peace agreement between the two sides a week ago – including a deal over the integration of Renamo’s remaining members into the Mozambique security forces.

After winning independence Mozambique's Frelimo fighters became the governing party but were soon pitched into a civil war against rebels backed by neighbouring South Africa.After winning independence Mozambique’s Frelimo fighters became the governing party but were soon pitched into a civil war against rebels backed by neighbouring South Africa
People crossing a tea plantation in Gurue province.  Mozambique agriculture remains underdeveloped. It is hoped that any peace deal may improve Mozambique’s economy – the country’s agriculture sector remains seriously underdeveloped

Renamo officials say that Mr Dhlakama – who has been under cover in the remote Gorongosa mountains in central Sofala province for nearly a year – did not travel to the capital to sign the ceasefire himself, even though he pledged earlier that he would commit to doing so once his party reached a final agreement with the government.

“He mandated me to declare it,” Mr Macuiane said, at the same time indicating that Mr Dhlakama would meet Mozambique’s President Armando Guebuza at a later date.

“It is obvious that there will be a high level, symbolic meeting later on,” he told AFP.

Parliament is expected to start the process of implementing the peace agreement over the next week.

Presidential and national polls are due to be held on 15 October, Mr Macuiane said.  BBC

Mozambique – amnesty deal for Renamo ahead of elections


Mozambique passes amnesty law for opposition leader ahead of vote

MAPUTO Wed Aug 13, 2014 7Mozambique's opposition RENAMO Presidential candidate Afonso Dhlakama shows an ink dyed finger after voting in the country's Presidential, Parliamentary and Provincial Elections in Maputo October 28, 2009.   REUTERS/Grant Lee Neuenburg

Mozambique’s opposition RENAMO Presidential candidate Afonso Dhlakama shows an ink dyed finger after voting in the country’s Presidential, Parliamentary and Provincial Elections in Maputo October 28, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Grant Lee Neuenburg

MAPUTO (Reuters) – Mozambique’s parliament has approved an amnesty law that will allow opposition Renamo party leader Afonso Dhlakama to leave his hideaway in the bush, sign a peace accord with President Armando Guebuza and run in an Oct. 15 election, lawmakers said.

The law approved late on Tuesday also applied to Dhlakama’s supporters, who had clashed with the government army since 2012. The violence raised fears for stability in the southern African nation which is developing big coal and offshore gas deposits.

The amnesty is part of a peace deal between Renamo and Guebuza’s ruling Frelimo party, old foes in a 1975-1992 civil war, and means Dhlakama will not face prosecution or arrest for the attacks carried out by his followers over the last year.

Dhlakama, whose former rebel movement has been repeatedly defeated by Frelimo in elections since the end of the war, has lived in a bush base in central Sofala province for more than a year to escape what he says is government persecution.

He is now expected to travel to the capital Maputo to sign a formal peace accord with Guebuza ahead of the Oct. 15 election, in which he has registered as Renamo’s presidential candidate.

The constitution bars Guebuza from running for a third term and former Defence Minister Filipe Nyusi will run as the Frelimo candidate.

Whoever wins the Oct. 15 vote is expected to help bring to fruition major coal and offshore natural gas investment projects that have the potential to bring billions of dollars to a nation that was in ruins two decades ago.

Mozambique’s resource-led boom involves investors including Brazil‘s Vale, London-listed Rio Tinto, Italy’s Eni and U.S. oil firm Anadarko. Reuters


Mozambique – a solution needed to Renamo’s armed attacks


Renamo’s armed activities: it’s time to find a solution
11 July 2014

Mozambique is one of the few African countries that for a long time defied the negative after-effects of a lengthy civil war. The country maintained relative peace and stability since the end of the 16-year civil war 20 years ago, and in 2013, it had posted a 7% growth in real gross domestic product (GDP). According the African Development Bank, this was still below optimum for a country bubbling with new discoveries of natural resources, including coal and gas.

However, increased armed confrontation between the government and the country’s former rebel movement, the Mozambican National Resistance (Resistência Nacional Moçambicana, or Renamo), poses a major threat to the country’s future. The activities of former Renamo rebels who occupy the central region of the country continue to disrupt the movement of goods and people between the north and south of the country, cutting off the economic port of Beira from the main coal-producing province of Tete.

The remobilisation of former Renamo rebels under their leader, Afonso Dhlakama, and the resurgence of armed activities will affect the country in two main ways: economically and politically. The economic impact will stem from the ambushes and attacks targeting the north-south highway and the railway line that link Maputo and the port of Beira respectively with the northern provinces of the country. In recent attacks, former Renamo rebels demonstrated increasing military strength to the extent where they are even able to defy government forces escorting convoys along the main highway.

The resulting situation is one where Renamo holds a ballot box in one hand and a bullet in the other

This raises several questions. For instance how is a rebel movement that renounced war 20 years ago, and underwent a reintegration process, able to remobilise and launch fresh resistance against government forces? And how is it possible that these former rebels are able to occupy a large potion of the country’s territory?

Politically, the armed activities of the former Renamo rebels threaten to derail the country’s forthcoming national elections, set for October 2014. Renamo is one of the three main political parties contesting the forthcoming elections, and it is expected that Dhlakama will beat the 21 July deadline set for the registration of presidential candidates. While registering as a presidential candidate is but one of the initial steps, the major concern is how Renamo and other parties will conduct campaigns across the country. There is little doubt that unless the parties conform to a peace deal immediately, the potential of violence during the elections remains a threat.

The situation presents an easier option for Renamo, or any of the other political parties, to invoke unfairness in elections (even where such unfairness may not exist) to declare the exercise futile and revert to use of force. After all, Renamo is armed. The resulting situation is one in which Renamo holds a ballot box in one hand and a bullet in the other.

While the government views Dhlakama as a spoiler of the peace in the country, he too has reasons for his actions. There are two main sets of grievances that Renamo holds against the government. This first is that the Frelimo government (the Mozambique Liberation Front, or Frente de Libertação de Moçambique) has continuously violated the terms of the Rome peace accords.

Dhlakama decries the failure of the government to embrace the general principles of the agreement, which set forth the formation of the Armed Forces for the Defence of Mozambique (FADM). According to these principles, the army, the navy and the air force were to be constituted on a 50-50 basis by both Frelimo and Renamo. Dhlakama claims that the successive governments of Frelimo have persistently short-changed him on the terms of the peace agreement. He insists that the government has failed to observe the 50-50 clause while constituting the armed forces and the police.

The most worrying issue is that neither side is willing to negotiate a solution

The second set of grievances relate to the electoral system, which Dhlakama claims to be skewed in favour of Frelimo. Apparently the closest that Dhlakama came to winning the country’s elections was in 1999 when he scored 47,7% of the presidential vote against Joaquim Chissano’s 52,3%. He has performed dismally in subsequent elections.

Despite these arguments, the feeling among most Mozambicans is that Renamo’s plight is self-inflicted. This section of the population questions Dhlakama’s wisdom in reserving a section of Renamo rebels in Gorongosa, the region where he was born. While the rest of the country disarmed and demobilised at the end of the civil war, the mountainous Gorongosa region remained untouched. Apparently Dhlakama’s intention was to retain a reserve force for possible war in future. This group of former Renamo rebels makes up Dhlakama’s current forces, although they have also recruited younger fighters from their communities.

However, some Mozambicans feel that the government should listen to Renamo’s demands. This section of the population argues that while Frelimo veterans are enjoying benefits from government – including pension and government housing for the disabled former Frelimo fighters – their counterparts, the Renamo ex-combatants, have been neglected. This is against the spirit of the 1992 peace agreement.

While there is clearly blame on both sides, the most worrying issue is that neither side is willing to negotiate a binding end to the problem. It is also of concern that two decades after the lengthy civil war, the government side has not been able to neutralise the risks posed by the remnants of Renamo. Instead Renamo continues to arm itself, train and maintain control of a vast territory.

Discussions with both Renamo and Frelimo former combatants point to a possibility of some FADM soldiers – who are sympathisers and/or relatives of the former Renamo combatants – diverting state-owned arms and ammunition to Renamo. These sympathisers could also be responsible for leaking information to Dhlakama whenever government troops plan an operation against the bases of former Renamo rebels.

While this ‘game’ goes on in Mozambique, the election clock ticks and opposing parties are drawing closer to the ballot box. Beyond all these troubling factors, it is crucial that Mozambique maintains political stability and and conducts successful, orderly and timeous elections in October to cement much-needed investor confidence.

Nelson Alusala, Consultant, Transnational Threats and International Crime Division, ISS Pretoria