Street scene in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique

Political situation Difficult transition to democracy

Independence, when it came to Mozambique, got off to a difficult start. Following centuries of colonial rule under the Portuguese, the liberation movement known as FRELIMO (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique) fought for independence and eventually won it for the country in 1975.

Mozambique became a socialist people’s republic, governed by FRELIMO under a single-party system. The RENAMO rebel movement (Resistência Nacional Moçambicana) fought against this regime in a civil war that lasted 16 years. More than one million people lost their lives in the conflict and one third of the population were forced to flee their homes. By the time the two warring parties signed a peace agreement in 1992, most of the country lay in ruins.

Democratisation

Mozambique has been holding democratic elections since 1994 and the country has taken major steps towards democracy. Elections have, however, been regular marred by irregularities and overshadowed in recent years by assassination attempts on opposition figures. This compromises the democratic legitimacy of the parliament and the government.

The country is presently facing a political crisis, although there is a good chance of a peaceful resolution being found soon. RENAMO, which has become established as the main opposition party, is demanding that FRELIMO, which has been in government since independence, share some of its political power, particularly at the level of the provinces. Senior figures on both sides have been assassinated and there have been localised armed conflicts, resulting in hundreds of deaths, between government forces and the armed wing of RENAMO. Efforts began to mediate between the two sides in the summer of 2016. The ceasefire that began at the end of that year continues to hold and peace talks are ongoing. In 2018, the country took major steps towards achieving lasting peace with the signing of declarations of intent on decentralisation and on demobilisation and reintegration of former RENAMO combatants.

Corruption

Although the government stresses the importance of fighting corruption, little progress has been made. The non-governmental organisation Transparency International placed Mozambique 146th out of 180 countries in its 2019 rankings.