Accepted Paper:

History, ideology and Renamo's return to conflict in Mozambique  


Justin Pearce (University of Cambridge )

Paper short abstract:

I examine the ideological appeals made by Renamo in the renewed armed conflict against the Mozambican state since 2012, and how these link a particular understanding of Renamo’s historic role in the pre-1992 civil war to current grievance against Frelimo’s governance.

Paper long abstract:

In 2012, twenty years of peace in Mozambique came to an end. Confrontations between government forces and soldiers loyal to Renamo opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama escalated into a low-intensity but deadly conflict, to which repeated efforts at mediation failed to find a solution. This paper considers Renamo's ideological appeals in mobilising support for this recent conflict. It takes into account scholarly debates on the pre-1992 war, which have centred on the extent to which Renamo was pursuing an autonomous political agenda. Critics argued that Renamo's adoption of a liberal, anti-Marxist rhetoric was opportunistic. Sympathisers emphasised that Renamo won local support through its opposition to Frelimo's attempts to centralise agricultural production or, more generally, through Renamo's defence of traditional authority against the centralising ambitions of the Frelimo state. By analysing interviews with Renamo supporters and the speeches of Renamo politicians I show how Renamo has gained popular support for renewed military offensive by creating a set of meanings about the post-2012 conflict and its continuities with the pre-1992 war that link Renamo's historic role to recent grievance concerning Frelimo's governance. Terms such as 'socialism' and 'freedom' are borrowed from the rhetoric of Cold War era politics and applied to contemporary practices. In an era when Frelimo has embraced capitalism and adopted, at least in a formal sense, multiparty democracy, Renamo is thus able to present itself as the progenitor and current defender of norms that Frelimo has betrayed.

Panel P044
Ideology and Armed Struggle in Contemporary Africa