Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Women's Place...

Mozambique is an extremely complicated place, as one would certainly expect. I would not say that I underestimated it's complexity, but I did naively believe that I had a basic grasp on Mozambique's political history and climate before our departure. I read and met with Carrie Manning and Anne Pitcher, threw myself into my individual research, and spoke endlessly with classmates about Frelimo, Renamo, colonization, and transitional democracy. Still, as I realized within fifteen minutes of being in Mozambique, this was certainly not enough. Even if we had been able to prepare for a year before our trip, I honestly feel we would only be grazing the surface of Mozambique's intricate politics. I remain in the same state of awe and fascination I found myself in September, when we first began meeting as a class. I truly feel that, even if I wrote dozens of pages, I would not be able to fully communicate the gender politics of Mozambique. In order to establish a focus for my research, I chose to concentrate solely on the gender policies of Frelimo and the ensuing implications for Mozambique as a country with consideration of the Marxist-Leninist history and in regard to the current multiparty system. The immensity of the topic allowed me access to a plethora of resources, but only few formulated a clear thesis regarding Frelimo's promised gender equality in the New Mozambique during the revolutionary period. The marginalization of women that transpired was arguably to a greater extent than that of which Mozambican women experienced under colonialism. At least the Portuguese colonists never promised women a respected place within society, only to do so with a wink and a nod. So I attempt to present that very thesis here, in my final African Democracy blog post. during the nationalist struggle for liberation, Frelimo carved out a place for women to be free and equal—just as the male Frelimo leaders demanded for themselves. However, the cultural attitudes that accepted women's inferiority as a basic truth overran Frelimo's revolutionary zeal and replaced women's liberation with expectations of submission, supporting roles, and domesticity. The transition to a multiparty system in the early 1990's, and the subsequent reformation of Frelimo governmental policy, again promised women an equal partnership within Mozambican government. Perhaps now, during the new wave of modernization for Mozambique (one at a global level), the stage will be set for greater gender development, as Mozambique asserts itself as a model of African democracy and renews its commitment to the development of Mozambican citizens.

At the dawn of the Mozambican independence struggle from colonial rule, Frelimo promoted equality for men and women as a combatant to outdated colonial inequality. Frelimo argued for female emancipation and promised equal rights upon independence; however they argued in rhetoric alone. Despite the promises of Frelimo, their actions rarely aligned with those which supported female liberation (Fallon 51). The 1975 constitution promoted gender equality and called for the elimination of oppressive colonial doctrine, though it was not codified substantially in civil or traditional law. Found within promises for gender equality, there existed “the intransigence of men who were not really willing to relinquish their advantages” (Sheldon 116). The term “advantages” in this statement may be interpreted as 'power,' as the concept of power sharing is something too troublesome obstacle an for women. As seen in struggles against racism, as well as sexism, those with the power advantage usually feel that to allow the discriminated groups access to equality would mean that they themselves would have to give up some of their own. This is seldom the case.

Whenever the liberation of women was welcomed as a goal, it came as a top-down decree. According to Kathleen Sheldon, author of Pounders of Grain: A History of Women, Work, and Politics in Mozambique,, these proclamations were usually stated “without benefit of a woman's movement in society” (Sheldon 117). When women's rights were acknowledged within Frelimo, they were usually done so with the belief that the rights would be granted, rather than recognized as intrinsic. The creation of OMM provides an example of the 'woman question', as interpreted by men. OMM was formed from two previous women's organizations: Liga Feminina Moçambicana (League of Mozambican Women [LIFEMO]) and the Destacamento Feminino (Women's Detachment). LIFEMO was effectively a club for the wives of Frelimo leaders, while the Women's Detachment was Frelimo's answer for mobilizing women in the fight against colonization. In 1966, with hopeful (but grandiloquent) assertion, the Frelimo Central Committee decided, “women should take a more active role in the struggle for national liberation, at all levels,” and furthermore that, “the emancipation of women is central to the liberation struggle” (Disney, Women's Activism 49). In 1972, the Central Committee decided to establish the OMM “as the arm of Frelimo in charge of mobilizing and uniting all women so that they will become involved in the revolutionary process” (Disney, Women's Activism 50). Notably, each was decided upon by Frelimo- by male Frelimo leaders. As distinguished by the former OMM Secretary-General Salomé Moiana, “...The OMM did not arise as an autonomous initiative of women. It was, rather, an expression of Frelimo's will to liberate women” (Disney, Women's Activism 51). The creation of a women's organization by men, at the most basic of levels, poses questions about the organization's “autonomy, legitimacy, and ability to represent the interests of Mozambican women,” as Jennifer Leigh Disney states in Women's Activism and Feminist Agency in Mozambique and Nicaragua.

At independence there existed a small number of legal policies enacted that represented the interests of women. For example, a law clearly born of the Marxist-Leninist theory of work, the Law of 60 Days (enacted in 1976) permitted pregnant female workers 60 days paid leave. In addition, Article 228 of the Rural Labor Code granted all women workers the right to miss two days of work a month without loosing any salary or their employment (Disney, Family Law 34). Any pro-female laws enshrined in the documents of the revolution dealt almost exclusively with the female worker, carefully circumventing any rhetoric dealing with emancipation or liberation, Mozambican women were only protected to the extent to which they were labor forces. However, in the Labor Act of 1981-1982, women workers are protected from job and wage discrimination, but only to extent to which the law is enforced (Disney, Family Law 34). As Sheldon notes, “In Mozambique women were already heavily responsible for production through their primary role in agriculture. That labor, however, was directed to the individual family and did not fulfill new ideas about the need to integrate women into the larger society” (Sheldon 116). Protection for women in the work place, however nominal the protection may have been, still places Mozambique at a standard above the United States, which never bothered to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. It is hard to say how beneficial these laws are to the average Mozambican women, as their main fields of work are based in domesticity and food production- both of which rarely are paid labor (Disney, Family Law 34).

Interestingly, the liberation of women was not included in the basic goals of Frelimo, even though the struggle for independence was rooted in the theme of liberation for all. Frelimo did not adapt gender equality as a policy, but set it aside as a separate project which still fell under it's jurisdiction, as OMM at that point lacked any real autonomy as an organization. Jennifer Leigh Disney states, “...While the Marxist-Leninist [male] leaders of Frelimo deserve credit for integrating women into the revolutionary struggle they also deserve criticism for circumscribing and limiting women's roles once they got there” (Disney, Family Law 34). For example, along with the seemingly progressive labor laws, Frelimo also included the Nationality Law, enacted on the same day as the constitution. The Nationality Law of 1975 deprived Mozambican women on citizenship in the chance that they should marry a foreign man. Of course this was not the case for Mozambican men marrying foreign women. At the 2nd National Congress of the OMM in 1976, Samora Machel argued to a crowd of Mozambican women that they (including those women who took up arms right alongside men against the Portuguese) were “weaker than Mozambican men and thus would be influenced by foreign men in a way that Mozambican men would not be by foreign women” (Disney, Family Law 35-36).

In further justification for the discriminatory law, within the Documentos da 2 Conferencia da Organização da Mulher Mocambicana Realizada em Maputo, 10 a 17 de Novembro de 1976,1977, I, II (the actual documents presented at the second OMM conference in Maputo), “...Woman is frequently the transmitting agent for wrong ideas because of her feelings of inferiority and insecurity. That is how enemy infiltration is made easier” (Disney, Family Law 36). This statement was issued in an attempt to explain the unequal and gendered nature of the Nationality Law, and proves just another example of Frelimo's inconsistent support of the liberation of women in Mozambique. Attitudes concerning the inferiority of women were not done away with at independence, but perpetuated and disguised by promises and empty rhetoric.

Frelimo may have included a marginalized place for women within the revolution, but it framed the OMM around the Marxist-Leninist Woman Question which includes women in the revolutionary cause, as a force of labor, without any real consideration or analysis of the initial position of women that would have caused them to be excluded in the first place. There existed within Frelimo no recognition of gendered work or labor roles, the gendered interconnectedness of production and reproduction, nor women's input in the overall “revolutionary vision for society” (Disney, Women's Activism 54). Thus, the women were never really considered active members within the development of Frelimo policy at it's inception. They only received credit as a means to an end, without ever being seen as independent in and of themselves (Disney, Women's Activism 55).

As Mozambique transitioned to a multiparty system, the country was presented with a new type of modernization from that which was provided by socialism. A greater dependence on global market forces opened Mozambique to new definitions of progress, as well as a reformation of the national constitution. As Disney discusses in Women's Activism, “ The fifth Conference of the OMM in 1990 addressed issues such as the new Constitution, new political parties, and new organizations such as Forum Mulher (Women's Forum), Mulher, Lei e Desenvolvimento (MULEIDE), and Associação para Promoção do Desenvolvimento Economico e Socio-cultural da Mulher (Association for the Promotion of Women's Economic and Sociocultural Development [MBEU])” (Disney, Women's Activism 53).

In 2001, 1,000 women marched to the national assembly in demand for a new conception of Mozambican family law. The bill at that time stalled and failed in parliament with numerous excuses from MP's as to why the law was not addressed. Seemingly so, at this point in the multiparty system, Mozambique was not ready to address gender equity as a policy. After two years of delay, more than 1,000 women marched again in November of 2003 demanding to be addressed by the President of the Assembly of the Republic. Finally, a new family law was passed by the parliament in December of 2003 (Disney, Family Law 43). The law demonstrated substantial progress regarding the role of women within the family, legally providing for them a equal (not submissive) role, completely outside of their role as labor production. The law promotes and improves the rights of women in three ways: (1) The man is no longer the de facto head-of-household—the head of a house may now be either a man or a woman; (2) The right to work may not be limited or restricted by any partner in a marriage—a wife no longer needs her husband's permission to work outside of the home, to enter into a contract, or to go into business for herself; (3) Children of traditional, customary, civil, and religious marriages are all protected equally under the law. Maria José Artur of the organization Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) issued a statement concerning the new Family Law:

“This was the best law that we managed to pass according to the conditions we have in Mozambique. The main rights of women and children are respected. Of course we wanted to go farther. For example, legalizing gay and lesbian marriage, or providing more for women's rights like recognizing the possibility of rape in marriage. This is currently not in the penal code” (Disney, Family Law 48-49).

Women are also becoming increasingly active in the political process as members of parliament. According to Kathleen Fallon, author of Democracy and the Rise of Women's Movements in Sub-Saharan Africa, as of 2004, the number of women in National Assembly was 87 of 250, making the percentage of women holding parliament seats 34.8% (Fallon 42). EISA estimates the percentage to be closer to 35.6%. The number can be quite hard to determine, as the member of parliament's (MP) gender is usually determined by name alone. As of October 2009, according to EISA, the number of women MP's in the National Assembly totaled 96, raising their percentage up to 38.4% (EISA). The growing number of women represented in parliament does not directly correlate with the amount of pro-woman policies in Mozambican law. The large representation of women in the National Assembly (compared to the 38 women who have serve in the US senate since our independence) is not necessarily an indicator of female development. As Fallon states, “In Africa, the countries with the best legislative representation of women use proportional representation or quotas, or a combination of both” (Fallon 99). For example, Rwanda has close to 50% representation of women in parliament, with not many pro-woman policies to show as a result.

The quotas that are in place for Mozambican parliament are done so at the party-level. The Quota Project at Quotaproject.org, which operates in conjunction with the University of Stockholm, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and IDEA, provides global databases of quotas for women as well as monitoring the extent to which quotas are voluntary or a mandate for funding. According to the Quota Project's information on Mozambique, the quota for at least 30% of female MP is a voluntary one set in place by Frelimo (The Quota Project). Those countries that have signed onto the Southern African Development Community protocol are committed to a minimum of 30% female representation in parliament, with a goal of reaching 50% soon (Fallon 124).

The 2004 UNDP Human Development Report stated that the gender-related gap in Mozambique was 0.339 (Disney, Family Law 31). Despite the perception of Frelimo's dedication to gender equality, it would appear that since the 1975 revolution, there has been a distinct gap in the quantitative representation of women in the Mozambican National Assembly and the qualitative ability of women to truly effect policy, economic, and sociocultural rights and interests of Mozambican women (Disney, Family Law 31). Although the percentage of women MP is above the mandated quota of 30%, there has been a large amount of legal inaction to reflect their presence. It would seem that the face of women MP's is one of submission to existing policy within the National Assembly, without any real history of gender mainstreaming. It is possible that pervasive patriarchal cultural attitudes attribute to the inability of female MP's to constructively create gendered policies. Specifically within the areas of domestic labor, reproductive rights and domestic violence, women's interests are not considered . Even within the National Assembly, where those holding seats have been elected to them in an equal election process, women still hold a subordinate status (Disney, Family Law 31). Elisa Muianga and Celeste Bango, formerly of Women, Law, and Development Organization (MULEIDE) both have stated that they cannot be happy with the number of women in parliament unless the quality of women in parliament is good (Disney, Family Law 40).

The growth of autonomous female NGO's within Mozambique has been quite substantial. The numbers have gone from 1 in 1992 to 25 in 1997 to more than 50 in 2004 (Disney, Family Law 49). Presently, there are still over fifty autonomous female NGO's operating withing Mozambique. Progress has defiantly been made, considering that at independence the OMM was the only women's organization that existed for over 25 years and it existed only as a dependent arm of the Frelimo party (Disney, Family Law 37). There has been an increase in the interaction between women MP's in the National Assembly and female activists in civil society, as well. According to Disney, “Often the same women move in and out of leadership roles in government and civil society. In addition, autonomous NGO's in civil society often have strong ties with the Frelimo party and Frelimo women leaders” (Disney, Family Law 49). Looking towards the future, there has been a desire expressed by Mozambican women for a women's caucus that reaches across party lines, involving women from both Frelimo and Renamo equally. For the time being, it seems a woman's caucus is out of reach due to power struggles concerning which party will reside within the main leadership role (Disney, Family Law 52). Again, it seems as if women are hindered by the complexity of power-sharing. For now, the combination of female MP's, autonomous NGO's like Forum Mulher, MULEIDE, and WLSA, along with Frelimo and the OMM, will continue the fight within Mozambique to fully emancipate women.

Hey, if Mozambique can do it, so can the United States.

Works Cited

Disney, Jennifer Leigh (2006). Mozambique: Empowering Women Through Family Law. In Gretchen Bauer and Hannah E. Britton (ed.) Women in African Parliaments (pp .31-53). Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Disney, Jennifer Leigh. Women's Activism and Feminist Agency in Mozambique and Nicaragua. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008.

EISA. 2009. 11 December 2009 .

Fallon, Kathleen M. Democracy and the Rise of Women's Movements in Sub-Saharan Africa. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

Sheldon, Kathleen E. Pounders of Grain. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2002.

Skraine, Rosemarie. Women Political Leaders in Africa. London: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2008.

The Quota Project. 2009. 11 December 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Democracy in Mozambique?

Only now, since I've been home for a week or so, have I been able to really articulate my feelings or describe my observations. When people ask, How was the trip? I never can really say. Of course it was amazing, but to just say that doesn't tell anyone how the trip really was.

I was in Matola, in Maputo providence, for election day. Since returning home, I’ve gone over my notes and observations trying to get a grasp on my personal account of Mozambique’s 2009 elections. I’m trying to piece together all that I saw in order to make a story of it.

What is my election day story?

Pre-election day, while at Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, I noticed that there were no campaign materials hanging around campus. Goba had previously explained to us that the entire administration was composed of Frelimo members, as it is a requirement for upward mobility within Mozambican academia. Considering this, I was surprised that the campus wall space had not been colonized by Frelimo, as the rest of Maputo had. At Wayne, the campus had election materials everywhere during this past election. Wouldn’t the parties in Mozambique want to target people under 25, to gain support of Mozambique’s largest age cohort?
I asked the director of the law school if Eduardo Mondlane had banned campaigning on campus. He replied, no, they had not banned it- there simply was just no need to campaign on campus. I didn’t fully understand until the end of the interview. He introduced us to all the directors-past, via the portraits that hung on the opposite wall. Each had left their post as Director of the Law School at Universidade Eduardo Mondlane.when they received a high-ranking position within Frelimo.

Experiences like this, and ones like watching Frelimo spend campaign finance used to rally children (the voters of 2019), lead me to believe that Frelimo is not worried about persuading the voters of 2009. It was like a through-the-roof confidence level of victory.

On actual election day, the observation that interested me most was the level of secrecy that Mozambicans held the vote to. I was told a number of times by respondents that their candidate of choice was a secret. Those who actually admitted to favoring MDM (2 people and 2 different locations), did so only while the camera was off. Once we started taping, the two men both took the chance to either praise Frelimo, or to insist that Frelimo had provided for them. Why did these men choose to trust us, but not our camera, with the truth?

My observations of democracy in Mozambique was mainly impacted by what I saw at the university level. My group saw a certain level of censorship that prevented us from really hearing what it was the students thought about Frelimo. We did hear frustrations about the "government," but nothing party specific. It could be that the government just means the whole network of leadership that has frustrated the students... or it could be that not one other party has run Mozambique since the 1975 revolution. What happens to people who openly oppose that party? I'm sure life (and careers) become just a little harder for that individual. At least that's the impression I got at Eduardo Mondlane.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


It took me quite some time to process my experience in Mozambique, to the point that I could not write comprehensively about it until now. I kept a journal the entire time, however now that I look back at what I wrote in Africa, my notes seem sporadic. None of my journal entries really captured what it was like to be in Mozambique. There are far too many experiences to have written them all down, but I think I can express my impressions of the trip with some pictures I took.

This is Jimmy, of Jimmy’s Tours. He was our tour guide in South Africa. He took us all over Johannesburg, showing us “the good, the bad, and the ugly”. This picture was taken in a Zulu artesian marketplace as Jimmy described to us, in detail, his views on just about everything. Including Dan Rather, whom he thought of fairly distastefully. The more Jimmy showed us around, the more I became increasingly aware of my status as a foreigner. The feeling intensified in Mozambique where I still felt like an foreigner, but one that had no tongue. Without knowing Portuguese, I was that much more of an outsider. I wish I could have spent more time connecting with all the individuals we met. I wanted to ask them the hundreds of questions that constantly ran through my mind, but frustratingly could not. I did not really engage the way I wanted, and I sometimes felt like I was just watching Mozambique, not experiencing it.

For our group work, we spent a few days at Eduardo Mondlane University. We found at the university, along with frustrations concerning educational access, political centralization still exists in various ways. All the administrators were card-caring Frelimo members, either out of necessity or doctrine. One of the professors we met, Goba, described his frustration with the current situation in academia. He told us that to have access to any upward mobility within the university, one must be a Frelimo member. As one can imagine, the implications of staffing an entire university with members of one party is rather severe. A fair amount of controlled thought, in my opinion. Furthermore, the information we received from on-high, especially from the dean of the law school Dr. Armondo Cesar Dimande, was extremely optimistic. He made several unabashed claims about how 40% of Mozambicans go on to attend college (...with a 49% illiteracy rate...?), and that each court located in rural regions are equipped with translators for those who do not speak or read Portuguese. After he was finished painting us a rather lovely portrait of Mozambique, he showed us the wall showcasing pictures of law-school-deans-past... All of whom had gone on to become successful Frelimo members of government.

I saw some of the more beautiful things in Mozambique while seated in the back seat of a car. While being driven from place to place, I had the chance to sit back and watch men and women's daily lives pass me by. The women carried babies on their backs and groceries on their heads. Women wrapped themselves in capulanas and walked with their hips and their feet placed firmly on the ground. Step by step they swayed to their destination. It is one of the most graceful (and impressive) things ever I've seen.

I think this is my favorite picture from the trip. Some of the landscapes we passed were overwhelming vast, with only sparse foliage littered throughout. It seemed that all the trees grew differently from those that grow in Michigan. Their branches start low and grow wide, as if they choose to remain even with the earth rather than reach for the sky.

Monday, October 19, 2009

On the eve of travel...

Miraculously, I seemed to finish all that needed to be done by 6pm tonight and was allotted some leisure time before our extremely long journey tomorrow. After staring at my packed bags for about six minutes, I sent messages to everyone I knew in the area to come celebrate my trip with me.

I spent the evening at Cass Cafe with friends and family, who all came to share in my excitement. The more people asked to hear what was so unique about Mozambican presidential elections, the more my excitement grew. My mind has been racing since the school year started with to-do lists, make-up midterms and lab reports, and anxieties over shots, with little time to actually comprehend how much my world is about to be turned upside down.

"Your world will be turned upside down" my dear friend Matt said to me tonight. Matt himself spent some time in Malawi and was so excited for my trip he could barely get his travel advice out. I hung on his every word while he told me about Africa, trying to take the bits and pieces from his stories and form them into expectations for Mozambique. But, really, how could I ever know what to expect?

Among the bear-hugs and beers, I could finally say that among this company, I would also be an international traveler. My friends with stories from Norway, Brazil, Ireland, Malawi, Ghana, and Austria all shouted questions at me, ridden with personal advice and anecdotes, and I couldn't help but smile.

I'm going to Africa tomorrow.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Carrie Manning

One difference I noticed in the difference between Manning and Pitcher is their focus on the international influences on Mozambique. Where I would say, generally, Pitcher is critical of commercial involvement in Mozambique, Manning views donor participation as a partnership.

Most surprising in Carrie Manning’s chapter on Semi-presidentialism is the elite conversations that happen behind closed doors between Frelimo and Renamo after disputed elections. These elite talks, I would argue, exist as checks and balances, not unlike those seen in the American system. It seems the current Mozambican system of elite discussion keeps the peace between these two parties. However, I do wonder, with the presidential position maintaining such complete power after the 1992 peace accords, who does the president answer to? Perhaps this elite conversational power sharing exists as a response to Frelimo’s power monopoly since 1975.

Another thing I find interesting is the political presence of women in parliament in Mozambique. Luisa Diogo has been the Frelimo prime minister under both Joaquim Chissano and Armando Emilio since the 2004 elections. Manning writes, “At least a decade younger than her predecessors, Diogo is the first prime minister not to have been involved directly in the liberation struggle” (Manning 131). Also, Diogo was not a high-ranking official within Frelimo before her appointment as prime minister, as her qualifications lay outside Fremlio. I believe her inclusion shows Frelimo’s shift from an elite group, as seen during the socialist period from 1975-1992, to a party willing to evolve and progress. As Manning states, “She is widely credited with helping to guide Mozambique’s neo-liberal-based economic recovery” (Manning 132).

I would like to ask former President Chissano what made him choose Diogo for appointment, and how did Diogo’s role as prime minister help or hinder Mozambique’s transformation to democracy, and subsequent inclusion in the global market?

-Works Cited-
Manning, Carrie L. The Politics of Peace in Mozambique: Post-Conflict Democratization, 1992-2000. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2002.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Now Thats a Democracy of a Different Color!

This past week in Time there was a section with ten questions for Ron Paul. Among the typical questions about his opinions of the American democratic system, constitutionalism, and legalizing marijuana, I came across a question asking whether or not Mr. Paul believed the United States was truly a multiparty state. I was intrigued, because we have been reading Carrie Manning’s The Politics of Peace in Mozambique: Post-Conflict Democratization, which discusses the emergence of Mozambique’s multiparty and semi-presidential system. Ron Paul stated something to the effect of no, he did not believe that the U.S. was a multiparty state because both Democrats and Republicans subscribed to the same way of running things, with heavy corporate influence.

One similarity I noticed while reading was that the way in which Ron Paul had described America’s multiparty system as being strongly influenced by capitalism, while the rise of Mozambique’s multiparty system coincided with the transition from post-colonial socialism to democratic elections, and thus capitalism. It seems, again, that capitalism and democracy do go hand in hand.

Manning discusses Mozambique’s foreign economic dependence also impacting the democratic system by stating that, “...more than 50 per cent of the budget [is] regularly financed by donors” (Manning 135). Furthermore, Mozambique’s shift to democracy (influenced by capitalism and market forces) indebted the country pretty substantially to the World Bank. What happened to Mozambique’s economic autonomy? Did socialism really provide any autonomy when the country was torn by civil war?

Another similarity I noticed was the relationship of the Prime Minister to the President. Here I would agree with the parallel Manning draws to the vice president in the U.S. , as both Frelimo and Renamo have opted to keep the position of president one with rather sprawling powers and entitlements, with the Prime Minister acting as an extension of the President. Perhaps both parties feel strongly that their members will hold the position, and in that case, it would be beneficial to keep the position strong.

However, I do wonder who it is that serves as a check or balance to the president? Who does the elected Mozambican president answer to? The possibility for unchecked power, I would say, is defiantly a downfall to the Mozambican system. In chapter 8 of Manning’s book, she discusses the broad reaching powers of the president, and also the possibility for the losing party to present grievances to the incumbent. Perhaps the evolving constitution of Mozambique acts as a parallel checks and balances found in the U.S.’s system? Manning states, “Formal electoral processes have been consistently accompanied or followed by parallel, informal processes of elite negotiation, which provide a safety valve for political dissatisfaction and partial substitute for formal power sharing” (Manning 134).

I suppose that while looking for similarities between the United States and Mozambique, one could regard these “elite” talks somewhat like what goes on in Washington D.C. when congressional sessions discuss U.S. policies, which I would argue are extremely elite. I certainly have never been included. To which I would quote Manning again: “Interestingly, this triad of Renamo, Frelimo, and international community also permits the continued exclusion of the population from playing a central role in the political process” (Manning 135). Yet another similarity.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say the only differences in the State’s brand of democracy, and the Mozambican brand are the titles put on political positions (Parliament vs. Congress? Prime Minster vs. Vice President?), but I would say that democracy with reliance on market forces looks the same, whichever country adopts it.

Manning, Carrie L. The Politics of Peace in Mozambique: Post-Conflict Democratization, 1992-2000. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2002.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Democracy for Deirdre

What I find interesting about discussing democracy is how arbitrary the term actually is when you seek to define it. How do you define an idea (or an ideal, for that matter), especially one as multifaceted as democracy? I suppose to start one must think “what does democracy mean to me,” then venture from there.

To me, without dogma, doctrine, or ideals, democracy means I have a say in how my government is run. As a woman, the right to vote is very sacred to me because my foremothers had to fight for someone to listen to my voice. Democracy means I get to vote, and try to persuade others to do the same, to protect my right to optional motherhood and I am heard, loud and clear. In theory.

I feel strongly about being heard, mainly because more often than not, I am ignored.  I am ignored as a woman, a college student, as someone who falls below the poverty line, as someone from the Midwest, and so on. More often than not, the majority of us are ignored. As strongly as I feel about democracy (believe me, I ‘Baracked the Vote’), I am substantially jaded and disappointed in the reality of American Democracy and what the American dream actually turns out to look like: the American Rat Race. Call it what you will, western democracy, capitalistic democracy, or even marginalized democracy, it’s a very different breed from what I was told I got to participate in upon my 18th birthday.

However, being lied to by my government has not turned me off from democracy completely. I am not a communist (in case you're still out there McCarthy!) . I wouldn’t even really call myself a socialist. I just believe in being heard.  John Calhoun resonates most deeply, "Democracy [is] not majority rule: democracy [is] diffusion of power, representation of interests, recognition of minorities" (1). 

Also, after realizing what democracy really looks like here in the States, has only peeked my interest more in the development of young democratic nations. Unfortunately, it seems that our western democracy has been translated to a similar beast where democracy is still new. What are the implications of adopting the government style of one’s oppressor? How ‘free’ is ‘free’? As Maxwell Owusu writes, “…practical issues arise from the efforts made to impose foreign political models on societies with a different history and unique combination of indigenous traditions, economic conditions, and external constraints” (2).  As democracy translates to Africa, how can the two ever really be synonymous? If the model of democracy is the western-capitalistic model, which by definition demands inequality and marginalization, how can democratic African nations be truly free and equal? Their model of democracy, inherited from their oppressor, is framed to oppress. Contradicting completely ‘for the people, by the people,’ in practice, how must democracy look to Africans? Corrupt? A complete manifestation of Social Darwinism? Kill or be killed? That’s what it looks like to me, here in the US. 

How interesting that we insist African nations are democratic, in order for us to cooperate with their development, and the reason they are in a state of development in the first place is our colonialist regimes. In a World-Systems theorist paradigm, our elitist power structure of capitalism and minority rule does set precedence for class-wars, power struggles, and, frankly, comfortability with ignoring the poor and rural.

Why did Mozambique abandon socialism? Why does Frelimo have stark disproportionate funding for urban verses rural areas? One of the most interesting things that Anne Pitcher discussed was the way in which socialism was undermined from both within Mozambique and from abroad. How much did our cold war have to do with the adoption of democracy in Mozambique? Pitcher addressed how Frelimo attempted to organize the rural farming districts in Mozambique into urban centers of production, which obviously did not go over well with the farmers. I find it fascinating that the ruling class of Frelimo, in their attempt to industrialize the country, has created the environment for a class struggle. How fitting marginalized lower classes are within capitalistic democracy. I guess we all have our place, no? I cannot wait to get to Mozambique and see first hand the power struggle between Frelimo and Renamo play out, and how democracy actually looks from the eyes of the colonalized.








Adapted from Grey, Robert D. 1997. Democratic Theory and Post-Communist Change.

New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Appendix 2.1.


2. Democracy and Africa -- A View from the Village

Author(s): Maxwell Owusu

Source: The Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Sep., 1992), pp. 369-396

Published by: Cambridge University Press