26 November, 2013

Mozambique: Understanding the Clashes Between the Government and Renamo

by Constancio Nguja

Mozambican rebel group RENAMO (Mozambican National Resistance), once backed by the white-minority governments of Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe, and South Africa, fought a 17-year civil war against FRELIMO (the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique), until the signing of the Rome General Peace Accords in 1992. More than twenty years later, in October 2013, RENAMO has said that the peace agreement has ended, following an incident in which its base was attacked by government forces.

What is officially behind the disagreement?
Four presidential and legislative elections have been held in the country (in 1994, 1999, 2003 and 2009) since the end of the conflict and subsequent introduction of the 1990 multi-party constitution and market-based economy, and free elections. All of these elections were won by FRELIMO. Tensions have been rising between RENAMO and the FRELIMO government, with the former accusing the latter of not honoring the peace agreement they signed in 1992. RENAMO sees the existing electoral law as a vehicle for the government to rig elections and has demaned that it be abolished.

What is actually behind the disagreement?
Announcements of the discovery of large amounts of natural gas deposits, made by the government and international companies engaged in prospecting in the Cabo Delgado Province (bordering Tanzania) have been emerging since 2010. Estimates suggest reserves of natural gas in excess of over 100 trillion cubic feet. These announcements have given rise to many expectations, and it would appear that political parties are jostling to rule as this ‘gas fever’ takes hold, in what can be called the start of a ‘resource curse’ period. RENAMO may be feeling left out of this game of discovery, exploration and distribution of the gains from gas. Sadly, there are many examples of resource-rich countries in which resource wealth does not result in improved economic conditions or higher standards of living for the population as a whole.

Gas pipeline in Mozambique

What can be done to tackle the dispute?
The first positive thing is that both parts (RENAMO and the FRELIMO Government) have agreed that they do not want to fight a new civil war. That is a good starting point. The second thing to do is to ensure that both parties see each other as political adversaries, not enemies. The third thing to do is to clearly identify both the common and the divergent interests both hold. To overcome problems associated with the interests that are divergent, it would be wise to engage other actors such as the academia, civil society organizations, religious groups and the international group (if needed). The fourth step is to prioritize objectives for resolving the conflict. The fifth step to give is to settle a roadmap to transform objectives into policies. The sixth step is to identify a third party to monitor and assess the future implementing of the roadmap for conflict resolution. The seventh step would be beginning the implementation of the roadmap.

Last, but not least, it is important to consider the mindset in which these steps should take place. The stakeholders must take into account that they will not talk about problems, but solutions (problem solving approach). They must also be conscious of the people and lives that are at stake, putting these above self-interests. They must negotiate in good faith. It is also important that the parties recall the negative impacts of other examples of the resource curse, such as Nigeria, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The SADC region appears to be entering a phase of relative political stability – recent elections which somewhat stabilized Zimbabwe, hope that upcoming elections will stabilize Madagascar, and finally, the recent development in DRC. Let us hope that the parties in Mozambique keep up this momentum.

Constancio Nguja is Junior Researcher and Political Analyst at the Center for Mozambican and International Studies (CEMO).

19 November, 2013

Fear Is the Ultimate Refuge of the Scoundrel

by Hussein Solomon

The posters are up on lamp posts. The newspaper advertisements are published. Politicians across the political spectrum have rediscovered that citizens actually do exist and they are accountable to an increasingly sceptical public. Yes, the campaigns for the 2014 poll in South Africa have intensified.

The poll is expected to me the most fiercely contested election in the country’s twenty year democracy. Established political parties like the Democratic Alliance has already started making inroads in the ruling African National Congress’ (ANC) support base. Newer parties like Agang and the Economic Freedom Fighters, too, intend to make their presence felt in the political arena. What the different streams of the political opposition have in common is to point to the voters that despite constituting the government for the past two decades, the ruling ANC has scarcely been governing. Crime rates are stubbornly high, corruption is endemic, the ANC is increasingly becoming more authoritarian and the economy is a mess. On the latter point, consider this simple truism: the interest rate on the national debt is the fastest growing item in South Africa’s national budget!

Cyril Ramaphosa (Photo: GovernmentZA)

Feeling beleaguered and encumbered with a president who is a national and international embarrassment, the ruling party has turned to fear mongering. What else could explain ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s outburst at an electoral campaign stop that if the ANC is not voted back into power, the Boers (read: the Afrikaners and the former apartheid state) will return to power? Far from uniting this so-called `Rainbow Nation’, the ANC in desperation has turned to the politics of division. Far from providing leadership and providing their vision of a democratic and economically robust South Africa, the ANC has turned to the past – the struggle against apartheid as their beacon. Far from providing hope to impoverished South Africans, the ANC has turned to raising fears of the highly improbable return to the apartheid past.

Fear is surely the last refuge of a political party which has nothing left to offer the country and its citizens.