Mozambique: Can Aid Donors Buy Peace and Democracy?
A long civil conflict ended in Mozambique in 1992, soon after the Soviet Bloc collapsed, and when the transition to majority rule in South Africa was beginning to appear certain. Timing was all important. For the civil war had been largely fuelled, and entirely funded, by foreign governments and organisations fighting two intersecting conflicts: the Cold War, and the struggle against Apartheid. The ruling Frelimo party was a client of the Soviet Bloc and of Nordic governments and organisations confronting Apartheid. The insurgent Renamo party was funded and supported from South Africa and the United States. When those two conflicts faded, funding to pursue the civil war dried up. At the same time, the new Western aid donors' concerns with good government and democracy meant that there was money to support democrats and peacemakers. Given the ruin of the Mozambique economy and the enormous volume of aid funds, the incentives for Frelimo and Renamo to fall in line were very powerful. Mozambique has since become one of the 'best performers' in the aid business. The peace has held. The formalities of democracy are observed, with Renamo sitting in Parliament as the formal opposition to the Frelimo government. And the economy has been growing very fast.
Carrie Manning explains that formal democracy barely screens a very different reality of power. The aid donors play a major role in funding and policing a continuing bargaining process between the leaderships of the two parties. Renamo in particular is barely a political party in the normal sense of the term. It has little grassroots presence in most of Mozambique, and a rudimentary organisation. It is highly centralised around its long-term leader, Dhaklama. Its considerable power lies in its continuing control of some localities and its capacity to threaten to bring down the current political accommodation - and Mozambique's claim to be a democracy - by withdrawing from the formal institutions and the electoral process.
Is this a sustainable arrangement? Instinct and conventional wisdom make us very sceptical. How can one institutionalise peaceful, democratic governance if the real decisions are taken informally, by small elites, and motivated in large part by donor funding? Manning suggests that the issue is still in the balance. For while scepticism is clearly justified, something more positive is also going on: the political elites are learning to negotiate with and perhaps even to trust one another. This at least provides a potential basis for a more genuine democracy. In the short term, decision making through elite bargaining means that there is very little accountability to the public.
Source: Carrie Manning, 2002, 'Conflict Management and Elite Habituation
in Postwar Democracy: the Case of Mozambique', Comparative Politics, Volume
35, Number 1: 63-84. Comparative Politics is published quarterly by the
City University of New York (http://web.gc.cuny.edu/jcp).
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