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Mozambique election fraud fallout

18 October 2018 Verner Ayukegba

Ossufo Momade, interim party leader of Mozambique's armed opposition RENAMO, on 14 October accused the governing party of falsifying the results of the 10 October local elections, saying his party did not want war, but would not accept any attempt to change the popular will.

  • Electoral disputes are likely to be contested politically and legally, including with threats to pull out of peace negotiations, but are unlikely to lead to a resumption of fighting between RENAMO and government forces.
  • A final peace agreement between RENAMO and FRELIMO is likely prior to the general election in October 2019.
  • Oil and gas and mining companies operating in RENAMO-controlled municipalities are likely to face new local taxes as RENAMO will seek to generate new sources of revenue.

Momade was reacting to partial results of the local elections from one-third of Mozambique's 53 municipalities released by the National Electoral Commission (Comissão Nacional de Eleições: CNE), which gave the ruling Mozambican Liberation Front (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique: FRELIMO) party a clear lead. However, the results also reported wins for the Mozambican National Resistance (Resistência Nacional Moçambicana: RENAMO) in its northern and central heartlands in the cities of Quelimane, Nampula, and Alto Molocue. It remains unclear when full official results will be published, though it is very likely that RENAMO will more than double the number of municipalities it currently controls, which stands at four.

It is the first time in 10 years that RENAMO has taken part in local elections, having boycotted the previous polls in 2013. RENAMO's participation was only made possible following peace negotiations and an agreement between the FRELIMO government under President Filipe Nyusi and RENAMO, negotiations which have been ongoing since 2016. These negotiations have led to the current ceasefire, an agreement on the decentralization of power to local and regional authorities, and an agreement on the integration of RENAMO forces into the national army and other security agencies, which is still to be carried out.

Outlook and implications

The government has refuted the claims of RENAMO and has called on all parties to respect the decisions of the CNE and the courts whenever disputes are taken before them. The ruling FRELIMO is likely to cement its dominance nationwide in the elections, despite RENAMO's participation, which has given much-needed legitimacy to the process. Official results that show FRELIMO winning some local councils in RENAMO's strongholds undermine RENAMO's argument that it will automatically be called upon to designate regional governments under a new constitution in the aftermath of a final peace agreement. The local vote is also an indicator for the general election due to be held in October 2019. President Nyusi is very likely to be strengthened within the ruling FRELIMO, given that, despite losing municipalities to RENAMO, the ruling party is likely to retain control of more than 80% of all municipalities nationwide. This will enable Nyusi to garner the support for his peace negotiations with RENAMO. He will be able to offer RENAMO concessions on the integration of its forces into the security forces, including the nomination of senior RENAMO commanders to senior command positions in return for RENAMO demobilizing its armed wing.

Despite its fraud accusations, RENAMO is very unlikely to break the current ceasefire and return to fighting the government for several reasons, including a lack of military capacity to win the war, having only an estimated 1,000 fighters, who are poorly armed, according to media reports In addition, RENAMO lacks international allies to support its war effort and it would lose potential access to revenues from the control of municipalities.

President Nyusi and Momade are likely to conclude negotiations on a final peace deal despite the electoral disputes prior to the general election in October 2019. RENAMO will continue to use threats of boycotting the talks as a means of obtaining concessions from the government, which it is unlikely to achieve after the 2019 vote. Nyusi, on the other hand, is standing for his last term and is seeking to cement a legacy of his having brought lasting peace to Mozambique.

Upon taking control of municipalities in central and northern Mozambique, especially those in mining communities, it is very likely that the local councils held by RENAMO will seek to raise revenue by implementing new local taxes targeting mining companies and others active in the oil and gas sectors. These will include road levies and other local taxes targeting companies' operations. Should companies fail to pay these levies, their operations are likely to be disrupted for days with the help of demobilized RENAMO fighters.

Posted 18 October 2018 by Verner Ayukegba, Principal Analyst, Country Risk – Sub-Saharan Africa

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