Mozambique: Preparation for elections

Extracted from: "Mozambique" IN Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa (2002), edited by Tom Lodge, Denis Kadima and David Pottie, EISA, 197-200.

The General Peace Agreement (GPA) stipulated that the demobilization of forces should be completed by mid-April 1993 and that the multiparty elections be held not later than October that year. However, owing to the comprehensive scope of the peacekeeping operation and the large number of countries and institutions involved with it, the timetable envisaged by the negotiators soon proved to be totally unrealistic. Onumoz managed to establish its presence in Mozambique only in April 1993 and its military component reached full strength in September that year, 11 months after the commencement of the ceasefire. The reason for the large UN military force was the requirement that they would replace the Zimbabwean and Malawian troops guarding the Beira and Nacala corridors. Renamo did not trust the foreign African troops, the Zimbabweans in particular, and delayed the entire peace process by demanding that at least 65 per cent of the UN soldiers be deployed before it would begin to cooperate.

Another major cause for the delay in implementing the GPA was the lack of cooperation between the government and Renamo, arising from their hostility towards each other and, consequently, their mistrust of each other. Both parties were therefore reluctant to disarm and disband their armies - their main sources of leverage and power - and tended to resist the UN monitors' efforts to press them to comply with the GPA.

A fundamental reason for Renamo's recalcitrance was its lack of wealth and limited access to resources, while Frelimo controlled the state's resources, including some of the aid donated from abroad. As a result, Renamo faced formidable problems in transforming itself into a political party capable of competing with Frelimo in the forthcoming elections. An immediate practical problem, for example, was to find enough trusted and suitably qualified persons to represent Renamo in the numerous commissions brought about by the peace process and for them to afford taking up residence in Maputo. Although Renamo eventually received donor funds - ultimately amounting to about US $ 18 million - it did not happen before the party had withdrawn from the transitional structures for about three months, from March to June 1993.

The tendency within Frelimo's ranks was to regard the UN presence as an infringement of the government's sovereignty and diplomatic efforts to create a climate of trust were perceived as pandering to the rebels' whims. The government nevertheless yielded to some of Renamo's demands by allowing its opponent to appoint up to three "advisers" in the offices of the provincial governors, who were government appointees. As happened in Angola, the government feared losing control of internal security. It caused uproar among all of its opponents because of the creation of a special unit - allegedly troops converted into policemen - to quell riots and uprisings, thereby compelling Onumoz to acquire some 1 000 additional staff for its civilian police unit (Civpol) to monitor the Mozambican police force. There was also a stalemate of several months on the matter of the composition of the National Electoral Commission (CNE) between Frelimo, on the one hand, and Renamo and smaller parties, on the other.

When, by October 1993, a year after the signing of the GPA, very little progress had been made with both demilitarization and preparations for elections UN Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali visited Mozambique to intervene personally. The real possibility of not only Onumoz being withdrawn, but also the donor funds, proved to be a lever in the Secretary-General's hands to extract a series of compromises from President Chissano and Renamo President Dhlakama. As a result, an almost immediate start was made with the various steps to demilitarize and to hold elections. It was agreed that the demobilization of the existing armies and militias would be completed in May 1994, that the new national army (FADM) would be fully operational by September 1994 and that voter registration would close in June 1994 for the elections to take place in October 1994.

The 21-member National Electoral Commission (CNE), chaired by Professor Brazão Mazula - an educationist and at present vice-chancellor of Mozambique's Eduardo Mondlane University - was appointed in January 1994 following promulgation of the new electoral act in the previous month. Mazula had no political affiliation and was appointed after agreement between Frelimo and Renamo. There were two vice-chairman, one nominated by Frelimo and one by Renamo. Altogether 10 NEC members were nominated by Frelimo, seven by Renamo and three by the other political parties.

The Mozambican-staffed Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration (STAE) - the CNE's executive organ - began to function in February. Both the CNE and the STAE were supported by the Electoral Process Monitoring Group, operating under the auspices of Onumoz and representing the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and donor countries. The Group provided specialist staff and other resources, with the donor countries eventually funding the electoral process to the tune of US $ 60 million.

The election dates, announced in April, were to be 27-28 October 1994. However, the training of some 8 000 staff, grouped into 1 600 five-person teams, and other preparations, delayed the scheduled beginning of voter registration by about three months. Starting on 1 June, the rate of registration was only 260 000 persons in the first week, but it gathered momentum to reach the maximum of 700 000 in the seventh week. When registration closed on 2 September almost 6,2 million prospective voters or 81 per cent of the estimated 7,9 million eligible voters had been registered.

The electoral identity cards (incorporating a photograph), issued to the voters by the registration teams, effectively provided adult Mozambicans with proof of identity for the first time in their lives. Helicopters played a crucial role to help ferry the registration staff to the more remote parts of the country where they also had to be supplied with food, water and camping equipment - a procedure that was to be repeated during the elections. The UN civilian police unit (Civpol) provided the necessary security to the registration teams in areas controlled by either the government or Renamo. Fortunately for the electoral process, the security situation improved as the demobilization of troops and militias progressed.

A massive civic education campaign to persuade Mozambicans to register as voters and to vote in the elections started in May 1994. It was conceived and undertaken by the civic education department of the CNE-STAE - actively assisted by the UNDP and the Electoral Monitoring Group - which also coordinated and guided the work done in this field by the dozens of NGOs and religious groups. With about 1 600 trained voter education agents (most of them Mozambicans) interacting with an adult population who had never voted in a democratic election and most of them illiterate, this project turned into the largest and most concentrated act of mass communication in Mozambican history. It involved the country's entire media sector and related institutions, which conveyed the same, essentially simple, but carefully conceived, messages to the public in Portuguese and the indigenous languages. The emphasis was on audio and visual communication, through radio, television, street theatre and information centres, with printed material mainly used to support the audio-visual methods.

South Africa's first non-racial democratic election in April 1994 and President Nelson Mandela's visit to Mozambique (in July), facilitated the task of the Mozambican electoral educators as it provided a concrete example of what can be achieved through elections. Moreover, South Africa's government of national unity stimulated public debate on the feasibility of such a system for Mozambique, especially in view of the post-election débâcle in Angola. Interesting though, whereas in Angola the government seemed amenable to the concept of powersharing with Unita rejecting it, in Mozambique Renamo pushed the idea while the government was dead against it.

Although demilitarization, like the preparations for the elections, had been running behind schedule, by mid-August more than 80 per cent of all soldiers were either present at the 49 assembly points or had been demobilized. At this stage the old Mozambican army (FAM) and the Renamo army were formally disbanded and the new national army (FAMA) was inaugurated. The process was to continue until the end of 1994, when a total of almost 92 000 soldiers - 71 000 from FAM and 21 000 from Renamo had been demobilized. This total did not include the 12 000 soldiers - about 8 500 from FAM and 3 500 from Renamo - who had joined the new army. However, the humanitarian assistance to former soldiers was to continue until the end of 1996.

An important innovation to accelerate demobilization and to ensure that, at the time of the elections, relatively few soldiers were available to resume the civil war - should any one of the contending parties wished to do so - was the Reintegration Support Scheme (RSS) introduced by Onumoz and financially backed by the observer governments. It entailed cash payments to ex-soldiers over a period of 18 months after demobilization, over and above the three months severance pay provided by the Mozambican government. In addition, the former soldiers and their families received food rations, clothing, tool kits and seed as part of the humanitarian assistance programme. A total of US $ 95 million was spent on this scheme or more than $ 1 000 per discharged soldier, compared with less than $ 100 per person in the case of the some 4,5 million returning refugees and internally displaced persons who had to be resettled during the peacekeeping period.

In early September, following the registration of voters, the CNE assigned legislative seats by province - based on the number of voters in each province - and the parties went ahead to compile their lists of candidates on a provincial basis. Fourteen parties, including Frelimo and Renamo, were accredited by the CNE to contest the legislative election, while the nominations of 12 candidates were accepted for the presidential election.

There were attempts by the minor parties to form alliances, because the electoral threshold of five per cent of the total valid votes cast was rather high. Eventually two alliances contested the legislative elections: the Democratic Union (UD), comprising three parties and led by Antiono Palange, and the Patriotic Alliance (AP), comprising two parties and led by Dr Maximo Dias. Besides Joaquim Chissano and Afonso Dhlakama, the best known presidential candidates and party leaders were Palange and Dias of the aforementioned alliances, along with Wehia Ripua of the Democratic Party (PADEMO), Domingos Arouca of the United Front (FUMO) and Carlos dos Reis of the National Union (UNAMO), a breakaway faction of Renamo.

Yet by now it was evident that there were only two heavyweights - Frelimo and Renamo - and all the rest were minor contestants. The minor parties were not represented at the negotiations in Rome and the CNE was the sole structure in the transitional process that included representatives of the smaller or unarmed parties, because international concern was focused on pacifying the two armed belligerents. However, in view of the financial grants made to Renamo - which never stopped demanding more money - Onumoz eventually disbursed a sum of US $ 50 000 to each of the smaller registered parties to defray their election expenses. Further grants would only be made if proper accounting of expenditures was submitted to Onumoz.

All the presidential candidates and parties had to start their election campaigns on the same day (22 September), as stipulated by the Electoral Act. To be sure, the campaigns conducted by Frelimo and Renamo overshadowed those of the minor parties. All the parties campaigned in Maputo and the larger towns, though Chissano and Dhlakama concentrated their efforts in northern Mozambique, presumably because each one thought he and his party could rely on majority support in the other parts of the country - southern Mozambique, in the case of Chissano and Frelimo, and central Mozambique as far as Dhlakama and Renamo were concerned. The political gatherings were generally peaceful, yet there were numerous instances of intolerance and intimidation displayed by party supporters on all sides.

Observers of the campaigns were of the opinion that, by and large, the media gave good coverage of all the parties and candidates in the run-up to the historic elections. However, having acquired the services of a Brazilian public relations firm, President Chissano and Frelimo's campaign machine was the most sophisticated and best organized and, for this reason, they received the most publicity. Comment by the state-owned electronic media and most of the newspapers tended to favour the government, despite a striving for impartiality. The faxed news-sheet Imparcial Fax was biased towards Renamo, which relied on its leader's fiery rhetoric to spread its message.