General elections will be held in Mozambique on 15th October 2014, less than two months after FRELIMO and RENAMO signed a formal end to hostilities on 24th August 2014. Civil society bodies in the country have warned against election violence, citing incidents in September as examples of what could happen on a greater scale following the announcement of the election result. However, in our view, too much attention has been paid to these incidents rather than focussing on the relatively peaceful campaign thus far.
The formal end of hostilities in August closed out nearly two years of conflict between the armed partisans of Afonso Dhlakama’s RENAMO and the security forces of Armando Guebuza’s government. During this period RENAMO launched a low-level insurgency in Mozambique’s Sofale province, targeting the country’s infrastructure and security services. RENAMO focussed attacks on vehicles travelling on the EN1 highway and in an attack as recent as 4th June 2014 they killed 15 people and injured a further 26. Despite a ceasefire being agreed earlier this year it failed to have a lasting effect.
However, since 24th August 2014, there has not been a resumption of hostilities between RENAMO and FRELIMO in the lead up to the elections. The main incident in September cited by civil society groups was an attack on the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) presidential candidate’s motorcade by FRELIMO supporters in Gaza province. Although some vehicles were damaged during this incident, no individuals were seriously injured and the police took control of the situation, enabling MDM’s presidential candidate, Daviz Simango, to give a speech to a large gathering of people. This appears to be a low-level incident of election violence which was dealt with effectively, particularly when Mozambique’s recent history of political violence is taken into account. The fact that this is the most prominent such incident is testimony to the relative paucity of election violence during this campaign.
Less focus should be placed on incidents such as this and rather on the relative lack of violence during the recent election campaign as compared to the preceding period. This may suggest that FRELIMO and RENAMO’s peace pact has longevity and increases the likelihood of it lasting after the election results are announced. The election will be overseen by international observers and the relatively peaceful campaign helps to create an environment in which internationally approved election results are more likely to be accepted peacefully. For the first time in a long time, there may be grounds for optimism in Mozambique.