Peace for power, an impractical deal ahead of Mozambique election

Conflict ridden Mozambique has witnessed increasing Islamist terrorism in the past year. To avoid triggering another civil war, the government signed a peace treaty ahead of the country’s October 15 elections. In what seemed like a sense of peace for power exchange, the treaty was meant to ensure the elections held peacefully without a guarantee of a free and fair election or an avoidance of future conflicts that may arise from the election.

Conflict in Mozambique dates back to four decades and to put an end to the recent uprising ahead of elections, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi and Ossufo Momade, leader of the rebel group turned opposition party Renamo, signed a peace deal. The deal as an important step in the southern African country’s halting march toward peace was signed in the presence of foreign dignitaries in the capital’s Peace Square.

The treaty was seen as an effort by the ruling Frelimo party to decentralize power, ensure the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO), hand in their weapons by offering them positions in the national military and police forces. However, this is not the first peace deal and from all indications of violence, it does not seem like it is going to be the last.

Prior to the August peace deal, the country has signed two more. In 1976, Frelimo became the ruling party after it led an independence struggle against Portugal, however, Renamo, a coalition of traditional authorities and then farmers opposed Frelimo’s idea of creating a socialist one-party state and civil war broke out, killing close to a million people. This gave birth to the first peace deal in 1992 with the promise of equal participation in a multiparty democratic society.

Despite the signing of peace deals, the ruling party always emerged as the winner and was constantly accused of election fraud. Its yet another election time and President Nyusi from the long-standing ruling party seems like the likely candidate to re-emerge and RENAMO is feeling left out even after signing a peace agreement.

By signing the deal, they gave their word and the best way they know how to express their grievances are by refusing to disarm. Frelimo and by extension Nyusi has a leverage of being the party in power since Mozambique gained independence in 1975 and it controls the electoral process as well as dictates the rules of the game.

Although for the first time in Mozambique’s history, provincial governors for provinces will be appointed by parties with the highest votes and the chances of the opposition win in some provinces, as well as parliamentary positions, seem likely, this is not inclusive enough for the opposition party.

For the first time in 40 years since independence, the ruling party faces the real risk of losing with the way the opposition has been gaining momentum and Frelimo has no plans of letting go of power, and the opposition does not see constant re-election as a fair level playing ground. With that, the country is at a loss; there is a heightened fear of violence on election day and a terrified population.

Even analysts say that the peace deal will neither peace between the government and the armed opposition, neither will it bring fairness to the Mozambiques politics. According to the African branch of the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium head, Jasmine Opperman, “These elections, we can safely say they are on track to be the most violent the country has ever had. It is not going to be free and fair.”