In fact, the conflict erupted soon after independence, in 1975, when Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (RENAMO) opposed the ruling party Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO). Attempts by FRELIMO to institute socialism was the point of contention. The Zimbabwean (Rhodesian) government and the apartheid regime of the South Africa were backing the RENAMO’s agenda to their own interests. The first clashes between the two sides occurred between 1976 and 1988. This resulted in over 100,000 victims. The intensity of the atrocities led people to flee whenever they could. They had to abandon and separate from their families, homes and villages. Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe were destinations for most of the refugees.
Between 1980 and 1990, the country registered what is termed, “one of the world’s largest population of internally displaced – an estimated 3.5 million” in addition to over 1.5 million estimated population who sought refuge to neighbouring countries (e.g. Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Swaziland). This implies that above a third of the total population of the country at that time was directly affected by the war. They were forced to relocate from their land and original place. The total and urban population between 1980 and 1990 ranged between 12 to 13 million.
Statistics suggest that the country emerged from civil war as “one of the most impoverished and capacity constrained countries in the world”. Currently ranked 180 in Human Development Index (HDI) out of 189 countries. The trend of the HDI points to a slow improvement in living conditions in Mozambique with the rates going from 0.2 in 1990 to 0.3 in 2000. The trend continued at the same rate in the early 2000s to reach 0.4 in 2010. In more recent years, the HDI has improved only slightly which shows slowing improvement in living conditions given that Mozambique’s score only increased to 0.43% in 2017. At these levels the Mozambican HDI rating remains below the 0.55 threshold for low levels of development.
Over and above the economic situation, the country has been striving to consolidate the fragile political stability established following the peace deal signed in Rome in 1992. This has constantly been under threats. The most significant threat saw RENAMO retreating to the bush in 2013. Until recently, RENAMO had been undertaking repeated rebel’s activities in a protest against the government intention to arrest its late leader Afonso Dhlakama. Such activities led to unrest within the rebel-controlled regions of the country. The population was compelled to flee and abandon again their families, homes and villages in search for peace and protection.
As events unfolded over the last five years, many Mozambicans found refuge in Zimbabwe. In 2016, a report reads “953 people arrived from Mozambique in late September, with 703 recorded in Zamuchiya, 341 in Bvuma and the rest in Fungai Amos, Zikuyumo and Gwasha”. Later in the same period, more Mozambicans followed suit in the region of Tongogara in Zimbabwe. An estimated 926 registered refugees and asylum seekers. In Southern Malawi, they were already over 10 thousand Mozambican refugees and asylum seekers in the Mwanza region. These were joined, until the end of April 2017, by over 3,000 new comers fleeing atrocities perpetrated by the RENAMO rebels.
Basically, the post-independence armed conflicts in Mozambique is politically motivated. Two sides have mainly been involved namely FRELIMO and RENAMO.
FRELIMO is the side that led the fight for the country’s independence against the Portuguese colonial rule under the leadership of Samora Moises Machel. Upon independence on June 25, 1975, Machel became the first President of Mozambique. He died in a plane crash in 1986 in South Africa and was subsequently succeeded by Joaquim Chissano. As a political party currently in power since independence, FRELIMO had never lost the general elections winning all five organised thus far (1994, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014). The organisation of the first ever multi-party general elections in 1994 signalled the beginning of a new era in the political sphere in Mozambique. It was an emerging democracy as a political system.
The President is elected by direct popular vote for a 5-year term. The Electoral System consist of two round (Run-off). The Prime Minister is appointed by the President. Members of the Assembly of the Republic are elected by direct popular vote in multi-member constituencies using the party-list proportional representation system. They serve 5-year terms. Joaquim Chissano and Armando Guebuza both from FRELIMO won the elections in 1994, 1999 and 2004, 2009 respectively. Filip Nyusi, also from FRELIMO, is the current head of state elected in 2014.
RENAMO emerged in 1975 mainly from FRELIMO’s dissidents in the aftermath of the country’s independence. It was an anti-government guerrilla receiving foreign supports particularly from the apartheid regime of South Africa and white minority government in Zimbabwe (former Rhodesia). André Matsangaissa, a former senior member of the military branch of FRELIMO, took the leadership of RENAMO until his death in 1979. He was succeeded by Afonso Dhlakama who also died earlier in 2018. Dhlakama led RENAMO through a deadly civil war against FRELIMO during, particularly, the first three decades of post-independent Mozambique. RENAMO lost all five general elections to FRELIMO to date since the advent of democracy in Mozambique.
Expectations are that Mozambique consolidates peace. Political stability will have significant impact on the economic growth by bolstering confidence on stakeholders, investors in particular. Investments in various sectors will boost job creation. These, in return, will provide income which will have a positive impact on the socio-economic conditions of the country and citizens.
It has become apparent that the armed conflict had a significant impact on the economic growth and development of the country. The conflict caused an estimated 2 million deaths and around 5 million displaced both internally and outside the country. Poverty and inequality are the major legacy of the four decades of armed conflict as demonstrated above.
Reducing poverty and income inequality constitutes a priority for the Mozambique leadership. Mozambique has demonstrated a great stride in the fight against poverty despite limited peace with sporadic conflict with the RENAMO’s armed wing that is still operational in the bush. Nevertheless, the country has recorded, over the last decade, a substantial economic growth. In fact, the country’s GDP grew by 3.7% in 2017 and the GDP per capita was calculated at USD 466.2 in the same year out of a population of 28.9 million. Current economic indicators suggest 3.4% of GDP growth. All in all, the “improvement” of the political stability and the economic related activities is yet to demonstrate significant implications in the social life of ordinary citizens. This touches particularly on the quality of education, health and social assistance to mention but a few. It is for such a reason that, the country’s leadership, in spite of priding itself of the work accomplished thus far, acknowledges that a lot still needs to be done to impact in a meaningful way the life of its citizens whom most are considered living below the poverty line.
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