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A woman walks past a campaign poster showing Afonso Dhlakama, presidential candidate for the Renamo party, Maputo, Mozambique, Nov. 30, 2004 (AP photo/STR).

Political Tensions Threaten Mozambique’s Tenuous Peace

Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016

Long considered to be a post-conflict success story, Mozambique currently finds itself in a period of uncertainty, with past political progress and current economic opportunities threatened by unresolved tensions on both fronts. The government’s decades-long war with the Mozambican National Resistance, a rebel group turned political party that is known as Renamo, officially ended 24 years ago. After a period of postwar reconstruction, the country has enjoyed steady and solid economic progress. GDP growth has averaged between 7 and 8 percent for the past decade, and the discovery of significant reserves of coal and gas have driven robust foreign investment. In 2013, Forbes magazine reported that Mozambique had the largest oil or gas find of the year. According to the Financial Times, foreign direct investment increased 67 percent in 2014 over the previous year, to $9 billion. And according to the IMF, total investment in Mozambique’s Rovuma gas fields alone is eventually expected to reach $100 billion. With such progress, Mozambique seems to be on the road to transitioning from a highly aid-dependent country to an important site of private investment from former donors such as the United States.

Yet beneath strong economic growth and political progress marked by five consecutive multiparty elections, problems such as poverty, inequality, corruption and political violence persist. Most worryingly, economic prosperity has been undermined since the return of political instability and violence in 2012. That year, renewed tensions between Renamo and the ruling Mozambique Liberation Front, known as Frelimo, called into question the political progress made since 1992, worrying investors and tarnishing the country’s image as a postwar success story. In 2013, Renamo’s leader, Afonso Dhlakama, took his armed rebels back to the bush, where they began attacking road and rail traffic in the center of the country. Rail transport of coal between two major coal-producing provinces, Tete and Beira, dropped by half, and Rio Tinto, one of the major coal-mining corporations operating in the region, briefly suspended shipments due to security concerns. ...

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