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Mozambique - Hope Deferred?

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on October 19, 2019 11:52

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A magnificent, complex country, torn between economic forces, ethnic tensions and old enmities, went to the polls this week, and now there is the risk that the fragile tissue of trust and respect will be torn asunder.

On August 3, I wrote on the peace agreement in Mozambique between the two major political parties, long opponents and enemies in a civil war that has been dragging on for decades. Now that fragile peace - and the hope of a peaceful economic revival - is threatened. 

Mozambique owes its existence to the ancient Portuguese explorers who subjected an unlikely group of unrelated tribes along a narrow coastal strip under their flag. After independence, the ethnic differences were exploited by external forces, sparking a civil war that has flared up, died down, flared up anew, and was only recently ended by a peace agreement between the ruling Frelimo party and the opposition Renamo group. Almost immediately violence broke out, with Renamo combatants claiming violence, torture and illegal actions by Frelimo, and Frelimo police claiming that Renamo fighters were resisting instructions to hand in their weapons. 

Photo Grant Lee Neuenburg/Reuters

The patient diplomacy of Catholic negotiators of the Saint Egidio Community who brought about a rapprochement between the warring factions was supported by Pope Francis during his historic visit to Mozambique in September. The Pope expressed his hopes that the fragile agreement would hold, and called on Mozambicans to treat peace with tenderness, forgiveness and patience. 

The cards are stacked against lasting peace. Apart from the ethnic differences between north, south, and center, economic growth has been uneven. Corrupt politicians have amassed fortunes while people are suffering poverty. The former Minister of Finance is awaiting an extradition hearing in South Africa against claims of having facilitated a US$ 2.2 billion loan without proper authorization. 

Nature has played its part: two tropical cyclones ravaged the central part of the country this year, threatening long-term destruction of agricultural livelihood. French and American warships patrol the waters, but Chinese and Indian navies keep a close watch on the important shipping route through which much of the Gulf oil exports passes. Islamic extremists leverage ancient alliances with the Gulf to foment social and political transformation. Asian commerce exploits the rain forests and wildlife resources. 

Against this background people are understandably reluctant to trust a voting system in the hands of officials from far away and from foreign tribes and political interests. Yet they did go to vote, last Tuesday.  And almost immediately reports of irregularities came streaming in: ballot papers were found in the hands of a member of the ruling party, and polling station staff throwing punches were reported on election day. 

Unauthorised ballot papers. Photo Ossufo Momade, Facebook

Partial results gave 75% of the votes to the ruling President where he had gained only 57% in the 2014 election - a result that was deemed lopsided. The US Embassy reported 300,000 'ghost voters' and 100% voter turnout being reported where polling stations had opened late. 

Farmers scraping an existence in the dry uplands, fishermen trawling the rich lagoons, youngsters thronging schools deserve a future. While we hope and pray for peace, it does not look good. 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on October 19, 2019 11:52

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Source: Al Jazeera
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Renamo calls for re-run of Tuesday's vote accusing government of using violence and intimidation on election day.

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