The recent outbreak of violence in Mozambique, widely suspected to be the work of RENAMO, is deeply worrying not only for Mozambique but the whole sub-region. Already calls are being made for SADC and AU to engage with the deteriorating situation after four policemen and three civilians were killed in ambushes of a truck and two buses at the weekend.
The violence has come as a shock to most people in the region but tensions have been on the increase in Mozambique for some time. Indeed, a 2009 AfriMAP/OSISA report warned about the potential dangers of the country’s uneven political playing field – and if more deadly violence ensues then there is little doubt that this will have been among the major culprits.
The debilitating 1975-92 civil war brought the country to its knees. For the last one and half decades the impact of the peace dividend has been evident – with the country attaining growth rates of more than 7 percent, the highest for non-oil producing countries. However, there have always been serious concerns that such economic growth was not translating into improved livelihoods mainly due to poor governance characterized by a neo-patrimonial political system and high levels of corruption. The public service in Mozambique has a deplorable reputation for incompetence and ineffectiveness, corruption, bureaucratic red tape, and poor service delivery.
Huge deposits of natural gas and coal – enough to supply Germany, Britain, Italy and France for the next 15 years – provide Mozambique with a real opportunity to consolidate economic development and improve the quality of life of its citizens. On the other hand if access to and distribution of such national resources is not equitable, it could easily stoke the fires of a civil war.