Home > Uncategorized > The Cold War’s final battle

In this interpretation of recent political change in southern Africa,
Joseph Hanlon argues that elections and democracy are by no
means synonymous

Putting mass murderers in government seems to be the United States’ way of cleaning up the mess created in southern Africa by the cold war. In South Africa,’ Angola and Mozambique in 1994 deals were done to bring former dictators an d terrorist bandits – South Africa’s National Party, Angola’s Unita and Mozambique ‘s Rename – into new, democratically-elected governments.

In a ll three countries, the parties concerned were clients of the United Stales government or of the US far Right acting with a nod and wink from government. All three countries went into elections under international pressure, and in all three the people rejected the US-backed minorities. Suddenly the US was no longer promoting democracy, but “reconciliation” and “African solutions.” Africa was not ready, they said, for US-style winner-take-all elections because Africans voted for the “wrong” side.

Nicaraguan model
Nicaragua where a right-wing coalition beat the governing Sandinistas in 1990 was to be the model for a new democracy in which voters would reject former leftists. Angola was to be next. By early 1991 a ceasefire had been agreed and the international community assumed that the US-backed Unita would win. Just a few days before the election the US and British ambassadors were telling journalists that a Unita victory was assured . The UN was so convinced of a Unite victory that it allowed widespread Unita violations of the peace accord . The Angolan people had other ideas, and re-elected the ruling MPLA. When the international community declared the election free and fair Unite’s Jonas Savimbi simply went back to the bush, with the covert encouragement of the US and South Africa. An estimated half-million
people were killed before the Lusaka Accord was finally reached late last year, ensuring that Unita people had enough government posts, houses,cars, etc to be drawn into the process.

The election in Angola was a shock to the US. Africans stubbornly would not do what the US wanted, so the US quickly changed its policy. South Africa was to be the next election, so a deal had to be worked out in advance to ensure a role for those who had been anti-communist clients of the US for so long: the former white rulers plus Chief Buthelezi and lnkatha .Even now, many Sou th Africans believe that when it”became clea r too many people were going to vote for the African National Congress, the results were simply changed to reduce the ANC vote. In the name of reconciliation and knowing it had no other choice – the ANC agreed.
Mozambique’s firs t multi-party election on 27-29 October was the final ballot in the series. A peace settlement was reached in Rome in October 1992, and on the assumption that the people
would throw out the Marxist Frelimo government, the Rome accord simply called for elections within a year.When the Rome peace accord was signed, Renamo controlled 23% of the land but only 7″;0 of the population of Mozambique. It had fewer than 20,000 guerrillas, many of them children, and no political or administrative capacity.Renamo had no chance of winning an election. But it p roved impossible to cobble together an opposition coalition like that in Nicaragua. The United Nations Ope ration in Mozambique (ONUMOZ) and its Italian head, Aldo Ajcllo, concluded that Rename would keep to the peace accord only if it was built up in to a credible party a t least close in status to Frelimo. The US backed this, anxious that Renamo should have a place in government. The election was delayed for a yea r and Rename was allowed by the UN to violate the peace accord ; to delay demobilization , keep control of its territory, and hold back an armed force for possible use after the election.Whenever Dhlakarna made ,1 new demand, someone jumped to satisfy it. Thus he was given the ho use of the representative of the EU, one of the most luxurious in Maputo with a view of the bay, and Ajello gave him a cheque for $300,000 per month. NGOs were encouraged to work in Renam o
areas in place of government to build schools, open health facilities, dig wells and so on . Renamo recruited a large number of new civilian faces; many were people who had fallen out with Frelimo. The US pushed openly for a per-election pact forming a Government of National Unit y including Rename .Frelimo refused , but the US forced the postponement of the annual donors’ meeting normally held in December – and made it plain that Dhlakam a and Renamo must have government posts before a new aid package was agreed .

Brutal Renamo holocaust

The fa r Right with in the US government had long tried to gain for Rename the official recognition it had already won for Unita, but it was defeated when Renamo atrocities became clear. In 1988 US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Roy Stacey said Rename was carrying out “one of the most brutal holocausts against ordinary human beings since World War II [by] waging a systematic and brutal war of terror against innocent Mozambican civilians.”

So only covert approval continued; as in Angola and South Africa, the former client s could no to be left out in the cold just because people would reject them at the ballot box.

In the south and north of Mozambique, Frelimo has always had the greatest support and Rename committed its most publicized massacres and mos t horrific atrocities. There was no chance that people there would vote for Renarno. A woman in a queue waiting to vote in Caza province was overheard saying to her neighbor: “Dhlakama killed our families, and then he comes here and wants them to rise up and vote for him!” Even in Rename -con trolled areas of southern Caza and Maputo province, Rename and Dhlakama gained very few votes.

Reinstating tradition

Frelimo had always been weakestin the centre of Mozambique. andduring the 16-year -war Rename hadmade its biggest military gains there.It was also less brutal in the centre and tried to gain popular support. It taxed the people living far away from bases and gave food and goods to people living close by, so that they benefited from Rename control. And it reinstated traditional chiefs who had been displaced by Frelimo but who still had some following.

Following the peace accord, Renamo and its backers concentrated on the centre of the country. With NCOs busy on reconstruction,Rena me rather than the Frelimo government was seen  as the provider of services. The peace accord called for a unified administration under the existing government, but the UN allowed Renamo to ignore this. Thus government vaccination teams were only allowed into Rename areas if they wore NCO t-shirts and pretended not to be from the Ministry of Health.

Renamo clearly tried to win over voters who preferred to sec Rename penned in parliament in Maputo rather than fighting a war in the bush. Many people talked of Angola and their fears that the war would start again. In Nampula province during the campaign, Dhlakama repeatedly warned he could paralyse the country in 24 hours. Most people knew that Renamo still had troops, weapons and a radio systcm and could return to war. Dhlakama capped this all by suddenly calling a boycott on the first day of the election, reinforcing the message.

As expected, the ruling Frelimo and its president Joaquim  Chissano won the election, but a lot of people voted for the butchers. Rename won 38%of the parliamentary vote and has 112 of the 250 scats in parliament,compared to 129 for Fre1imo; Dhlakama won 34% of the presidential
vote, compared to 53’Yo for Chissano. Nearly all of Rename’s parliamentary seats come from three provinces in the centre-north of Mozambique: Sofala, Zambezia and Nampula. Those were the areas traditionally less symp,lthetic to Frehmo, and where Renamo had most NCO assistance and made the biggest gains from the peace accord.

Mozambique’s election was a low key affair. Campaigning was lacklustre.Voters knew elections would not change their lives but were in many ways purely for the donors. Mozambicans knew they had to go through the motions to satisfy the international community and end the war. A Portuguese phrase translating literally as “for the English to see”(meaning “for show”) was used repeatedly by the Mozambican press to describe th is election.

Voting against destabilization

And in one way, that is the biggest problem with these elections. They showed that, in southern Africa at least , the old liberation movements still command strong support, no matter what the US wants, but that people will vote for Unita. Renamo and Inka tha to avoid more US-sponsored destabilisation.Yet some people do actually support those movements; some people do oppose the MPlA, ANC and Frelimo. There was an anti Frelimo vote in Mozambique fostered by growing corruption, arrogance and complacent campaigning by Frclimo. Joaquim Chissano gained 800,000 more votes in the presidential race than his party in the parliamentary race. In part this reflects support for Chissano and discontent with Frelimo, and in part it reflects a splitting of the vote – keep Chissano as head, but ensure Rename is not back
at war.And there was a positive vote for Rename – already objectively the government in areas it controlled. Some people accepted that Rename had , as it claimed, brought democracy to Mozambique and’ people also voted for Rename to continue material Improvements. In the cities, especially Bcira an d Quelimane, the face of Rename was the new people and Rename’s campaign stressed the need for a change “to throwaway the old clothes .Many people were voting for change.In some areas at leas t, Frelimo has become the party of the better off who
benefited from independence and modernisation, and who tend to live in cities and towns. Renamo may have gained support from the poo rest, who themselves worse off than at independence.

They tend to live in more remote areas, and to be more traditional in their outlook; they were the people who, for example, backed Rename’s reintroduction of chiefs. These more subtle issues were not tested in the elect ions. People were not choosing between policies or political
lines; instead they we re fighting a final battle of the cold war, and choosing their own liberation movements over western surrogates. In South Africa, Mozambique, Angola and elsewhere, the traditional one part)’ state became stale, corrupt and arrogant. Clearly opposition and choice is needed. So far, however.the elections stage-managed by the West
do not look promising. Mozambique and South Africa will both have local elections in late 1995 Of early 1996. Perhaps in these campaigns parties or candidates will stand on how they will run towns and cities, and voters may have a direct interest in who they choose.local democracy might become the basis of an alternative where people are able to make choices not only of candidates, but even of election methods. Despite its insistence on particular electoral for ms for Africa, for example, some US local elections arc not on a party basis, and people stand
as individuals. Elections have come to southern Africa. How long will it be before democracy arrives as well?

Joseph Hanlon is editor of the Mozambique Peace Process Bulletin,senior correspondent of Red Pepper. andon the editorial board of African Agenda