Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Fragility of the Mozambican Miracle: Militarism as the Enemy of Democratization

By José Cossa, Ph.D.

Mozambican democratization process is in danger!

Recently, there have been reports of attacks on the so-called RENAMO (Mozambican National Resistance) stronghold and consequent retaliation on government forces, mainly representing interests of the leading party FRELIMO (Front of Liberation of Mozambique). This, many believe, might lead to the eruption of a civil war and the fracturing of the peace accord signed in Rome, on October 4 of 1992, between RENAMO and FRELIMO. The accord ended almost two decades of war that devastated the country’s infrastructure, economy, and caused the loss of countless civilian lives.

Since the peace accord, Mozambicans have enjoyed a partial peace in that the country was able to enjoy a complete miraculous cease-fire immediately after the signing of the peace accord; yet, tensions between RENAMO and FRELIMO have continued to exist in regards to the implementation of the democratization process. While this continued tension has manifested in the lingering lack of full confidence on the results of each election administered after the peace accord, it has not been a reason for defiance of the peace accord by RENAMO or any other political party. This has served the country (rather, the economic and political elite) very well in that it portrayed a climate of stability on the surface, which was good for investors to consider Mozambique a destiny for their money. However, this was only partial in that the vast majority of Mozambicans continued to live light years below the poverty line and under destitute conditions amidst a country boasting a wide array of unexplored natural resources and uninhabited land. On the other hand, Mozambicans have been living under severe torment perpetrated by gangs and mafia-like organizations that take advantage by the inability of the government to implement the rule of law, or even the absence of the rule of law altogether.

Like many Mozambicans, I am adamant that the formula for democratization is wrong from the start in many post-conflict countries. The fundamental error lies on the fact that the military movements make the assumption that they are a political party, thus assume that changing their status from a military movement to a political party and structuring themselves in such a way is sufficient to make them political parties. The evidence against such a formula is overwhelming! In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, we have seen the unfolding of failure of military governments in places such as Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Angola. Civilian government seems to be the logical solution for post-conflict situations.

Given the continued tension and unfortunate circumstances to which the average Mozambican citizen was subjected to, while pledging allegiance to FRELIMO the party of its fantasies or nightmares and an aversion to RENAMO the party of its nightmares or fantasies, the current occurrences are only a reflection of the irrelevance of military governments in post-conflict situations.

Needless to admit, many have proposed civilian government as the solution for post-conflict countries. However, many of the movements-turned-parties are not offered an alternative that they consider feasible. Reform alone is not feasible; they need to feel validated as key forces behind their countries democratization process. Thus, I propose the following two phases as an alternative to the transition towards a true democratization of countries haunted by militarism:

·         Phase 1: Any given nationally unified liberation movement that leads its country to independence is the country's rightful leader as it already enjoys majority support amongst the people. However, in order for a genuine democratization process to be maintained this phase should expire and give way to phase 2;
·         Phase 2: The given liberation movement should allow itself to break into civilian political parties with no allegiance to the movement. Nonetheless, individual members of civilian parties may maintain their affiliation to the movement as a valuable historical patrimony. Should the movement choose to maintain its existence, it should be stripped of its military power and restrained from becoming a political force or from influencing political decisions.

These two phases might constitute a foundation for open conversations about the democratization process in post-conflict situations. Perhaps the people and the international community of citizens (not governments, as such) will force FRELIMO and RENAMO to end the impasse, acknowledge their irrelevance as political parties, and to allow the people to lead the country with a vision that is not backed by militarism and internal military tension between two former rivals.

Mozambican citizens in the country and the Diaspora can make it happen. However, caution must be exercised to avoid the eruption of factions, disorderly behavior, and failed attempts at transformation leading to chaos. The world has seen enough of aborted revolutions, disorderly democratization movements, and wars hurting more civilians than the actual military elites that instigate them. Mozambicans must divorce themselves from the sense of romanticism over FRELIMO’s role in liberating the country, divorce themselves from the sense of one-sided blame over RENAMO’s waged war against FRELIMO, and marry the sense of hope in a civilian government judged by its clarity of vision and mission to serve the country as well as its unwavering sense of commitment to the people.
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