News / Africa

Analysts See Little Threat of New Civil War in Mozambique

Fighters of the former Mozambican rebel movement Renamo receiving military training in the Gorongosa's mountains, Nov. 8, 2012.
Fighters of the former Mozambican rebel movement Renamo receiving military training in the Gorongosa's mountains, Nov. 8, 2012.
Anita Powell
Mozambique is on edge again about a possible return to civil war after 21 years of peace.  The former rebel group Renamo says it will no longer honor a 1992 peace deal following small skirmishes between its fighters and government forces.  Renamo has long complained that the civil war's victors - the ruling Frelimo party - have rigged elections to hold onto power. 

The Mozambican former rebel group Renamo said this week it was pulling out of a 1992 peace deal.  The deal ended a 15-year civil war that battered the southern African nation and killed an estimated 1 million people.

On Tuesday, gunmen thought to be with Renamo attacked a police station in central Mozambique, just a day after the group’s leader declared the end of the cease-fire.

Renamo has long expressed frustration at being an opposition party.  The former anti-communist rebel group has claimed that the ruling party, Frelimo, has rigged elections and has marginalized the opposition.

Britain-based academic Joseph Hanlon has been writing about Mozambique and Southern Africa for three decades.  Hanlon saud he’s not too concerned about a return to war, primarily because so many things have changed in 21 years.

“It’s not a return to war because neither side could wage a war.  If you go back to the 1990s, Renamo was supported extensively by apartheid South Africa and informally by the United States; they had substantial military capacity. ... Now, Renamo is composed of aging guerrillas who are now in their 50s and 60s and Mozambique opted after the civil war to have a very small military, so it does not have strong military capacity either.  So neither side can go back to war," he said.

Researcher Elisabete Azevedo-Harman, from the London-based policy institute Chatham House, said the roots of this latest conflict went back decades and involved the usual suspects: money and power.

Renamo, she said, has been sidelined in politics, partially because of the way the political system was set up.  But, she said, the group also never successfully transitioned from guerrilla fighters to political operators, and have lost popular support because of it.

Mozambique's increasing wealth from natural gas, she said, has also been a sore point.

“And Renamo feels excluded not just from the political power but also the economic power. And they’ve been accusing some ruling party members [of having] political control, but also economic control.  And of course if the country’s now rich, they feel they’ve been excluded also from this access to the resources of the country,” said Azevedo-Herman.

Hanlon said he expected leaders to look to the past to settle today’s problem.  Maybe, he said, the ruling party should throw money at the problem literally.

“A face-saving buyoff is the way out of it.  It will happen, but not in the immediate future. … It would be sinecures on government boards, but it would also be cash in suitcases.  That’s how the war was settled 21 years ago.  It was cash in suitcases,” said Hanlon.

Azevedo-Harman proposed a different solution.  She said that community leaders and religious leaders should try to hammer out an agreement.  After that, she said, they needed to take a hard look at the constitution.

“The two main political parties, they should involve these people and engage these people for an immediate dialogue and debate now.  But giving them a voice and actually also capacity of deciding, not just the two main parties.  Long term, the country needs to be rethinking the constitutional design that they have, the presidential system that doesn’t have checks and balances,” said Azevedo-Harman.

Both analysts predicted that the current skirmishes may continue, which could have worrying long-term effects. But war, they said, may not yet be on the horizon.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Gildo José Munguambe from: Mozambique
October 31, 2013 11:31 AM
Dear world deal with this problem before is to late because once started it'll be a big loss,civillianes will losing there lives because of there political differences so please send the troops to end up with this threat.

by: Farito from: Germany
October 30, 2013 9:11 AM
Please send immediately Troups to finish this thread right now, before parties get more and more engaged, and people start to die!!! It should be a mix between African union troups and United Nation troups. This would guaranthee that the thread will not start and would finish within months (less than a year). Mr. Obama, Mrs. Merkel, Please take the initiative and show that the world that you are the new generation leaders, who are really concerned about keeping freedom in our world.

by: Joseph
October 24, 2013 12:13 AM
Writing about situations is easy, reality of the situation on the ground is another matter especially when people on the ground ,civillians, loose their lives. Please give us your thoughts on Zimbabwe, could be quite interesting and its future.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs