Maputo, 24.10.2013 – „Mozambique shall put at stake all its economic boom?“, my vis-à-visis asks. And answers herself: „No way!“ We are sitting in Sabores, a recently opened restaurant in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, the current boom land of Southern Africa. The restaurant is located between new office buildings in the new business district close to „Avenida 25 de Setembro“. The stylish 200-seat location would enrich any modern business environment. Trendy business people, the new middle-class mixed with European, American and Chinese expats. Nobody looks anxious or preoccupied.
„Peace is over“, has been the headline of the German newspaper TAZ the day before. „Now they are fighting.“ After having seen half a dozen attacks of RENAMO solders on police stations and cars in recent months, leaving some people dead, the national army invaded RENAMO’s camp and expulsed their personal. Some RENAMO soldiers responded with opening fire on another police station, no causalities. Since then, Twitter’s news stream is on. Just type #Mozambique or #RENAMO and you find Journalist pledging the end of 21 years of peace in Mozambique, conflict watch dogs announcing the resurgence of the civil war, NGOs worrying about the safety of women and children.
War in Mozambique until 1992
In 1992 the 16 years long civil war ended. The rebel group RENAMO, supported first by Rhodesia, then by apartheid South Africa, fought against the then Marxist FRELIMO led government. The war ended not only because the end of the Cold War tried up foreign support, but also because of exhaustion, fatigue and collapse. Cruelties were immense, mutilations, mass rapes, child solders, and so on.
That was 21 successful rebuilding and booming years ago. Meanwhile the governing party FRELIMO is still in power and has adapted itself to the new circumstances. A change in her leadership went through without problems, from Joaquim Chissano to the now acting state president Armando Guebuza. Their professional politicians and experts make up the government.
Anachronistic „Big Man“
Contrarily, RENAMO has never become a commanding or shaping figure for Mozambique. Initially, RENAMO appointed some mayors, then boycotted elections. The party expulsed herself from any decisive position. After 21 years of peace, RENAMO still has the same ex-war-lord as its leader. Afonso Dhlakama couldn’t adapt the party or himself to a regular political environment and finds himself now aloof. His men are demanding a bigger piece of the new economic wealth of the country. Dhlakama responds in resuming to the violence of the past (Joseph Hanlon). The saying that RENAMO was always more interested in money than in power, fits very well into the picture.
This anachronistic behavior of one of the last “big men” is a symbol for all what has changed in Africa. While millions of people are busy in their jobs during the day, crowding in the new shopping malls at night, the jetset having established itself already some time ago, more and more international businesses are steadily coming in, new roads, harbors, railway lines and airports are opened almost monthly, an aging war veteran resettles with some hundreds of badly armed men to the bush.
End of History
The antagonism of ideologies is over and this part of history has ended (Francis Fukuyama). The liberal market economy and democracy have led to a new quality of material wealth, public services and, generally, of social life. In the last decades Mozambique, as also many other African states, has integrated itself into the globalized world system.
A return to the former civil war will not happen. Although currently people are quite dissatisfied with the performance of the government – enrichment of a few, missing checks and balances, no real opposition, unpopular president – RENAMO isn’t popular at all.
Since 1992 the country has changed and its people have changed. Dhlakama is one of the last desperate despots, who can’t change. Of course, through terrorist attacks, he and his party would be able to destabilize the country. You don’t need many resources to do so. But it will be difficult for them to keep up such a threat for very long. The whole population and neighboring countries’ governments will do everything to prevent further violent outbursts.