Peace, Violence as Politics, and Elections in Mozambique

By Roberta Holanda Maschietto

On October 15, 48.68% of total registered Mozambicans went to the polls to take part of the country’s fifth general elections since the signing of a peace agreements in 1992. The final counting results were presented on October 30, after a recounting of 754,113 ballot papers considered invalid at pooling stations, and of which 174,164 were reconsidered valid. According to the data released, which also resembled numbers obtained in a parallel count, Frelimo’s candidate, Felipe Nyusi, won with 57% of the total valid votes; Renamo’s leader Dhlakama got second with 36.61%; whereas MDM candidate Daviz Simango obtained 6.36% of the votes. In parliament, Frelimo lost leverage compared to 2009, obtaining 144 seats, against 89 for Renamo and 17 for MDM. As for the provincial parliaments, Frelimo won 485 seats, Renamo 295 and MDM 31 (CIP/AWEPA, NE-74).

Both Renamo and MDM have rejected the results, pointing to the several irregularities that took place on the elections’ day and during the counting process. These acts included suspected ballot box stuffing, conflicting numbers of results sheets, as well as opposition ballots improperly made invalid by polling station staff (ibid.). The Carter Center and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), which had 87 observes deployed during the elections day noted that, in spite of the general calm atmosphere (and with due exception of sporadic episodes of violence), in several instances the observes did not have proper access to all the phases of the process. They also acknowledged lack of clarity regarding the technical procedures for the elections, including in the counting phase (Notícias, 29 Oct. 2014). As the results have just been released the situation is still sensitive, as Renamo has presented its own counting leading to a very different outcome. The situation does not contribute to what has been a very tense year in Mozambique.

Indeed, the year and a half leading to the elections was perhaps one of the politically tense in the country, since the peace negotiations. In April 2012, clashes between Renamo ex-combatants, Dhlakama’s ‘Presidential Guard’, and the government riot police took place in Nampula, then residence of the Renamo’s leader. In October 2012, Dhlakama moved to Gorongosa, where Renamo held its base during war times, making threats of resuming the war and dividing the country in two, and urging a revision of the peace accords (@ Verdade, 18 Oct. 2012). In 2013, reacting to the electoral law approved in December 2012, Renamo started to engage in a series of activities, which included: ambushes on cars, lorries and buses, as well as military convoys (AIM, 26 Feb. 2014b); the blocking of one of the main transport arteries of the country; and the boycott of the 2013 municipal elections, leading to Renamo’s further political isolation. Frelimo initially responded resorting to military power in order to contain the actions (Canalmoz, 11 Feb. 2014), but at the same time it pushed for negotiations, emphasising a conciliatory speech and the primacy of peace. To the surprise of several observers, Renamo’s strategy ultimately proved efficient and by February 2014 an agreements was reached regarding the change of the electoral law.

According to the 2012 electoral law, the National Elections Commission (NEC), in charge of organising the elections, would be constituted by 5 members of Frelimo, two from Renamo, and one from MDM, three nominees of civil society organisations, a judge appointed by the Higher Council of the Judicial Magistrature, and an attorney appointed by the Higher Council of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, totalling 13 members. Renamo fiercely opposed the law, pushing for parity between the number of members of Frelimo and Renamo in that body. The law at the time was already criticised by observers, due to the NEC’s politicisation, but the 2014 change was an even bigger disappointment. First, the deal between Renamo and Frelimo increased the number of members to 17, of which 5 would be from Frelimo, 4 from Renamo, 1 from MDM and the remaining 5 from civil society — therefore excluding the attorney and further politicising the body. Second, the deal included the reformulation of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the executive body responsible for implementing the elections, which now would also include political appointees. Finally, the deal was ‘agreed’ without previous consultation to the National Assembly, only later submitted for approval in a context of the urgent ‘spirit of reconciliation’, which, ultimately led to the concession of most of Renamo’s requests.

As noted by journalist Paul Fauvet, a long-term observer of Mozambique’s politics, “This destroys any hope of independent electoral bodies, rips up the electoral legislation passed by democratic vote in the Assembly in December 2012, and is a graphic reminder that when a political party loses in a vote, it can achieve what it wants through murder and mayhem”. Similar comments echoed in the press, to the point where Dhlakama’s actions were portrayed as a smart and efficient political move, in fact more efficient than when he tried to play ‘the respectable politician’, and won only 16.41% of the votes in 2009 (Allison, 2014).

It should be noted that the revision of the electoral law was only one of Dhlakama’s demands in order to stop the attacks. Other important issues included his demand for greater representation of Renamo in state institutions, in particular the armed forces and that Renamo be granted a more equitable share of the country’s natural resources. In this regard, a new peace agreement was signed in September.

In spite of a ‘victory’ in what was, after all, the first revision of the peace accords in 20 years, Renamo, more specifically, Dhlakama, stayed far behind in the votes counting. Whilst performing better than the 2009 elections, and even taking into account the series of irregularities that took place during the elections, the results suggest that the majority of Mozambicans are not yet convinced of the ex-rebel leaders abilities as a politician to rule the country (and would they, after he resumed violence?). After all, in spite of rampant poverty, Mozambique’s economy is growing, investors are coming in, and over ‘7 million’ meticais are reaching the over 128 rural districts every year since 2006, for the first time allowing many poor people to have access to credit. Additionally, and in spite of Dhlakama’s claims (once more) of his role in bringing peace to the country, president Guebuza was also credited for the peace deal revisions and his ability to avoid the escalation of conflict (Low-Vaudran, 2014), which partly also contributed to strengthen people’s confidence in Frelimo.

How to assess these elections and its contribution for the country’s peace and stability remains an open subject, as the elections’ results have just being released and yet many irregularities are still under investigation. The events that precede the elections however clearly point to the fact that democracy in Mozambique is not yet the only game in town, and, even though Renamo may not have resources to engage into a full scale war, it can still seriously obstruct the country’s functioning and scare investors, therefore compromising the benefits brought by peace.

At the same time, and whereas Renamo’s acts were an important reminder that the peace dividend needs to be reassessed, unfortunately this reassessment did not consider the vast majority of Mozambicans. Instead, it was clearly focused on Renamo’s and its old comrades’ share of the deal. Whereas peace as non-violence is indeed a treasure to be cherished, peace as substantial change of power is by far a more complicated process and it is a wonder if it could always be achieved by non-violent means.


@ Verdade (18 Out. 2012). Dhlakama ameaça voltar à Guerra. Available at:, accessed: 03 Apr. 2014.

AIM (12 Feb. 2014). Mozambique: Government Agrees to Politicise STAE. Available at:, accessed: 29 Oct. 2014.

AIM (26 Feb. 2014a). Assembly Passes Renamo Amendments On General Elections. Available at:, accessed: 27 Feb. 2014.

AIM (26 Feb. 2014b). Renamo Attacks Military Convoy in Gorongosa. Available at:, accessed: 27 Feb. 2014.

AIM (6 Mar. 2014). Renamo Revives Call for Foreign Mediation. Available at:, acessed: 27 Feb. 2014.

AIM, (11 Feb. 2014). Mozambique: Government and Renamo Agree on Larger, Politicised CNE. Available at:, accessed: 29 Oct. 2014.

Allison, Simon (21 Oct. 2014). Think Again: Renamo’s Renaissance, and Civil War as Election Strategy. Institute of Strategic Studies. Available at:, accessed: 29 Oct. 2014.

CanalMoz (11 Feb. 2014). Renamo diz que a paz está ameaçada. Available at:, accessed: 04 Apr. 2014.

CIP/AWEPA (30 Oct. 2014) Mozambique Political Process Bulletin, Number NE-74, 2014 National Elections.

Fauvet, Paul (19 Feb. 2014). Assembly Sitting Begins, With Election Laws Top of Agenda, AIM. Available at:, accessed: 27 Feb. 2014.

Louw-Vaudran, Liesl (13 Oct. 2014). Investors hold their breath as Mozambique votes. Available at:, accessed: 29 Oct. 2014

Notícias (29 Oct. 2014). Partidos políticos devem respeitar processo eleitoral – exorta o Carter Center. Available at:, accessed: 29 Oct. 2014.

Paul Fauvet (20 February 2014). Renamo Proposals Go Beyond Agreement With Government. AIM, available at: . Accessed: 27 Feb. 2014.


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