Freedom in the World 2023 - Mozambique

/ 100
Political Rights 14 / 40
Civil Liberties 31 / 60
43 / 100 Partly Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.


The ruling party’s unbroken incumbency before and since the first multiparty elections in 1994 has allowed it to establish significant control over state institutions. The opposition has disputed the results of recent elections, and its armed wing fought a low-level conflict against government forces that persisted until a truce was signed in 2016. Hundreds of thousands of people have since been internally displaced due to an ongoing Islamist insurgency. Mozambique also struggles with corruption, and journalists who report on it and other sensitive issues risk violent attacks.

Key Developments in 2022

  • The Islamist insurgency in Cabo Delgado Province remained ongoing during the year, displacing hundreds of thousands of people. However, despite continued conflict, a relative improvement in security allowed an increasing number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their place of origin by year’s end.
  • In May, the parliament approved an amendment to Mozambique’s antiterror law that included provisions introducing steep penalties for those convicted of making false public statements regarding terrorist acts. The amendment was criticized by civil society groups, who expressed concern that it could criminalize reporting on the Islamist insurgency in the country, but was ultimately adopted by the government in June.

Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 1 / 4

The president, who appoints the prime minister, is elected by popular vote for up to two five-year terms. President Filipe Nyusi of the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) won the presidential contest in 2019 with 73 percent of the vote. Additionally, because FRELIMO won the most votes in all provinces, it received the right to select all 10 of the country’s provincial governors. Turnout was reported at just over 50 percent.

The campaign was marred by violence, much of which targeted opposition members or their supporters, and several politicians and activists were killed. Anastácio Matavel, a respected independent election observer, was killed that October; several members of an elite police unit were convicted of Matavel’s murder in 2020, though questions remain about the motivation behind the crime. Further violence was reported at dozens of polling stations on election day, as were instances of harassment of poll workers, notably those appointed by the opposition, with police taking part in the intimidation. Additionally, there were credible reports of ballot-box stuffing; interference with the registration of election observers; serious voting-register inaccuracies; and tabulation irregularities. As in past elections, FRELIMO enjoyed a strong advantage due to its use of state resources to fund campaign activities and secure media coverage.

Opposition parties denounced the election as fraudulent. Civil society organizations and international observers characterized the polls as not free, unfair, nontransparent, and the worst since the introduction of multiparty democracy in 1994. They also argued that the ruling party had captured the electoral machinery through the National Elections Commission’s (CNE) appointment process. International observers from the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), the European Union (EU), and the US embassy expressed concern about the reports of irregularities and election-related violence, but ultimately recognized the outcome.

A2 0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 1 / 4

Members of the 250-seat unicameral Assembly of the Republic are elected to five-year terms. The 2019 legislative elections were held concurrently with the presidential election. FRELIMO took 184 seats, up from 144 previously. The Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO) won 60 seats, down from 89 previously, and the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM) took 6 seats, down from 17 previously.

The legislative polls were marred by the same violence, irregularities, and fraud allegations as the presidential election. International observers objected to their conduct but accepted the results; opposition parties rejected the elections; and a coalition of civil society groups called them patently flawed.

In May 2022, President Nyusi suggested postponing the election of district assemblies, which are scheduled to take place in 2024. The proposed postponement of the elections has been met with sharp criticism by the opposition; RENAMO leaders have repeatedly insisted that the elections must be held as planned. In December, Nyusi announced that a team would be established to determine the feasibility of holding the elections as originally scheduled.

A3 0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 1 / 4

Elections are administered by the CNE and a support body, the Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration (STAE). While the CNE’s members hail from FRELIMO, RENAMO, the MDM, and civil society, FRELIMO effectively controls the selection process. Domestic and international observers have long argued that this structure has led to the politicization of the body and deeply undermines stakeholder confidence in its operations.

The CNE’s administration of the 2019 elections drew sharp domestic and international criticism. Among other significant issues, large discrepancies emerged between the CNE’s voter rolls and records kept by the National Institute of Statistics, notably in Gaza Province, a FRELIMO stronghold. CNE records showed more than 300,000 more registered voters in Gaza than voting-age adults counted in the 2017 census.

In April 2022, the European Union Election Follow-up Mission (EU EFM) published its final report on the 2019 elections. The EU EFM noted that there had been little to no progress made in implementing any of the 20 recommendations issued by the election observation mission in 2019. The report also noted that the implementation of the majority of the recommendations “is dependent on the initiative and political will of the executive and the legislature,” both of which are under FRELIMO control.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 2 / 4

The right to form political parties is largely respected. While many parties compete, most lack resources to campaign effectively and build a public following. Opposition leaders face harassment and threats for speaking out against the government. Figures within FRELIMO perceived as acting in conflict with the aims of the party can encounter obstacles, including intraparty disciplinary measures.

B2 0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 1 / 4

FRELIMO first took power when Mozambique gained independence in 1975 and has maintained it since the 1992 agreement that ended the country’s civil war and the 1994 multiparty elections. Since then, FRELIMO has maintained an electoral advantage by using public resources to fund campaign activities.

In 2018, the parliament overwhelmingly approved constitutional reforms that would allow the indirect election of provincial governors, district administrators, and mayors. The changes were viewed as beneficial to RENAMO and a step toward greater decentralization and political stability. However, because FRELIMO secured an overwhelming victory in the severely flawed 2019 elections, ostensibly winning the most votes in all provinces, it selected all the country’s provincial governors, effectively nullifying the constitutional reforms.

B3 0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 2 / 4

Unelected elites in FRELIMO, including military figures and powerful businesspeople, retain great influence and play a large role in shaping the party’s platform. Civil servants face acute pressure to campaign and vote for the ruling party, and to make financial contributions to it. Those who openly support opposition candidates face intimidation by elements of the party embedded in state administration and the police.

B4 0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 2 / 4

Ethnic minorities are generally able to participate fully in political life, and people from various ethnic groups hold high-level government positions. However, FRELIMO’s support base lies in the extreme north and extreme south, and ethnic groups concentrated in other regions, such as the Ndau and Macua, are underrepresented. In 2019, three districts affected by the regional conflict in Cabo Delgado Province could not vote for security reasons. Many ethnic-minority voters who live there, notably members of the Makonde and Mwani ethnic groups that are concentrated in the region, were effectively disenfranchised.

Women hold 43 percent of seats in the parliament. In March 2022, Mozambique achieved gender parity at the cabinet level, becoming one of only 14 countries in which women hold at least 50 percent of ministerial posts. Nevertheless, men continue to hold most key political positions.

C Functioning of Government

C1 0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 1 / 4

Power remains generally centralized in the executive branch, which dominates the parliament and all other branches of government. The 2018 constitutional reforms introduced some measures to reduce centralization but were effectively overridden by FRELIMO’s victory in the severely flawed 2019 elections.

Foreign donors have significant influence on policymaking, specifically as it relates to economic policy and public sector reform. Business elites connected to FRELIMO have a strong impact on government decisions, particularly on those related to foreign investment in the oil, gas, and agriculture sectors.

C2 0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 1 / 4

Corruption remains widespread at the highest levels of government. Patronage networks are deeply entrenched, with various groupings competing for state resources. The anticorruption legal framework is undermined by a variety of loopholes: for example, embezzlement is not included in the Anti-Corruption Law. The judiciary, susceptible to pressure from the executive branch, further impedes the enforcement of anticorruption laws.

In 2021, the corruption trial began for the perpetrators of the 2016 “dividas ocultas” (“hidden debts”) scandal, when three companies secretly and illegally received a more than $2 billion loan. Nineteen defendants—including former finance minister Manuel Chang who approved the illegal loans, and the son of a former president—have been charged with corruption. President Nyusi, who was minister of defense at the time, has been cited by multiple defendants as having played a prominent role. In June 2022, South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled that Chang—who had been imprisoned in South Africa since 2018—would be extradited to the United States, where he had been indicted on charges related to the scandal in 2018. South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal rejected Mozambique’s request for an appeal against the extradition in December.

In April 2022, Attorney General Beatriz Buchili reported that corruption cost Mozambique approximately 300 million meticais ($4.7 million) in 2021.

C3 0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 2 / 4

Despite the passage of a freedom of information law in 2014, it is difficult to obtain government information in practice. The government is especially opaque regarding the Islamist insurgency in Cabo Delgado Province.

Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 2 / 4

State-run outlets dominate the Mozambican media sector, and authorities often direct such outlets to provide coverage favorable to the government. However, several smaller independent outlets provide important coverage. Journalists frequently experience government pressure, harassment, and intimidation, which encourages self-censorship.

The government is known to retaliate against critical journalists, including by canceling public advertising contracts. Journalists and political commentators appearing on television programs have been the targets of attacks and kidnappings in recent years. Police frequently harass, assault, and detain journalists. In August 2022, reporters Alexandre Eusébio and Ivaldo Novela were assaulted by five National Criminal Investigation Service (SERNIC) officers while reporting on a police officer’s funeral in Maputo. The officers injured the journalists and broke their equipment; the journalists reportedly pressed charges against the officers involved.

Several journalists have reportedly been forcibly disappeared in recent years. In 2021, Cassien Ntamuhanga, a Rwandan journalist and activist who had sought asylum in Mozambique, was arrested by SERNIC agents; his whereabouts remain unknown.

In May 2022, parliament passed a bill to amend Mozambique’s antiterror law, sending it to President Nyusi in June. Among other things, the bill contains provisions penalizing those who “publicly reproduce false statements regarding terrorist acts” with up to eight years in prison. Press freedom advocates have expressed concern that the proposed amendment could effectively criminalize reporting on the insurgency in the north of the country. The amendment was ultimately adopted by the government in June.

D2 0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 3 / 4

Religious freedom is generally respected, but government responses to attacks by armed Islamists have involved closing mosques and detaining Muslim leaders, alarming human rights activists.

Catholic churches have been targeted by terrorist attacks in recent years. In September 2022, an 83-year-old nun was killed during a terrorist attack on the Catholic Mission of Chipene in Nampula Province.

D3 0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 2 / 4

There are no legal restrictions on academic freedom. However, academics have been hesitant to criticize the government since law professor Gilles Cistac was murdered after supporting RENAMO in a televised appearance in 2015.

D4 0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 2 / 4

Civil society groups claim that authorities monitor criticism of the government posted online. There have been reports of government intelligence agents monitoring the emails of opposition party members.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 2 / 4

Freedom of assembly is constitutionally guaranteed, but the right to assemble is subject to notification and timing restrictions. The government frequently disallows protests due to errors in the organizers’ official applications.

Though large protests are relatively rare, several demonstrations were held in 2022, including a number of protests against increasing fuel prices and the rising cost of living. In at least three cases, security forces responded to demonstrations with lethal force, firing live ammunition in an attempt to disperse protesters; dozens of people were injured—some critically—and at least three protesters were killed by police between March and June.

In August 2022, Mozambican civil society leaders publicly pushed for the adoption of a law that would safeguard the right to peaceful demonstration.

E2 0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 2 / 4

Most nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operate without significant legal restrictions. However, draft legislation introduced by the government in September 2022 aims to impose a number of new regulations on NGOs. The bill contains provisions requiring NGOs to submit activity reports and allowing for the arbitrary dissolution of nonprofit organizations, among other things. Civil society groups criticized the proposed legislation as overbroad and excessive, saying it represents an attempt by the government to suppress dissent and silence human rights defenders. The bill had not been passed as of year’s end.

In August, leading human rights activist Adriano Nuvunga found a bullet with his name carved into it in his backyard. More than 50 NGOs condemned the threat against Nuvunga, which came amid a squeezing of the civic space in Mozambique.

Humanitarian operations in northern Mozambique are sometimes prevented from operating freely due to violence in the region.

E3 0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 2 / 4

Workers have the right to form unions, but several restrictions impede the right to strike and make the practice rare. Public-sector workers are not allowed to strike. Many unions are not independent and operate under the influence of FRELIMO.

F Rule of Law

F1 0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 2 / 4

Judicial independence is hampered by the dominance of the executive branch. The attorney general is directly appointed by the president, with no legislative confirmation process. Pressure from FRELIMO’s leadership often impedes investigations into corruption and fraud. While former president Armando Guebuza and members of his administration have been implicated in fraud and embezzlement, prosecutions were not promptly launched against them, though Guebuza-era finance minister Manuel Chang was eventually charged for corruption in late 2020. Observers claim that this historical inaction results from the influence of FRELIMO’s leadership.

F2 0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 2 / 4

Although due process rights are constitutionally guaranteed, these rights are not always respected in practice. RENAMO leaders assert that the police arrest members of their party arbitrarily. Due to resource constraints and an understaffed judiciary, lengthy pretrial detentions are common.

F3 0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 1 / 4

Fighting between RENAMO and FRELIMO lasted for over a year before the parties agreed to a truce in late 2016. While a formal agreement was reached in 2019, a dissident group of RENAMO fighters resisted demobilization. During 2022, thousands of these remaining RENAMO fighters were demobilized and disarmed. In December, UN officials in Mozambique announced that all RENAMO military bases had been closed and the last of the former combatants had been demobilized.

Residents of Cabo Delgado Province continue to suffer from violence and displacement due to an ongoing Islamist insurgency. Fighting continued in 2022; in one case in February, insurgents reportedly attacked at least eight villages in Cabo Delgado. The government continued to accept support from regional partners during the year, including Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), who have helped reclaim significant territory. SADC and Rwandan military forces continued to successfully counter the insurgency in 2022, leading to a notable improvement in the security environment in Cabo Delgado during the year. However, security forces deployed to fight the insurgents have also been accused of extrajudicial killings, kidnappings, and other abuses. Several organizations have denounced human rights abuses as a result of the conflict.

Score Change: The score improved from 0 to 1 due to a relative improvement in security in Cabo Delgado Province and other areas of Mozambique, though insurgent violence and displacement continued.

F4 0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 2 / 4

Mozambican police reportedly discriminate against Zimbabwean, Somali, and Chinese immigrants. People with albinism continue to face discrimination, persecution, and violence.

Women experience discrimination in education and employment; on average, women are less educated and earn less than men. Sexual harassment in the workplace and at schools remains widespread. Homosexuality was decriminalized in 2015, but LGBT+ people face significant discrimination.

The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has increased in Cabo Delgado and Niassa provinces due to the escalating conflict.

Many Rwandan refugees, some of whom fled violence perpetrated by the Rwandan military, have reported feeling unsafe due to the Rwandan army’s presence in Cabo Delgado. During 2022, a number of Rwandan refugees reported that they were being coerced into accepting “voluntary” repatriation to Rwanda. Others also expressed concern that a June 2022 extradition agreement between Mozambique and Rwanda will be used by the Rwandan government to forcibly repatriate refugees and dissidents residing in Mozambique.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 3 / 4

Although Mozambicans face no formal restrictions on domestic or international travel, movement is hampered by the presence of checkpoints manned by corrupt police officials, who often harass and demand bribes from travelers.

Hundreds of thousands of Mozambicans have been displaced due to the ongoing insurgency in Cabo Delgado Province. According to the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), as of November 2022, there were over one million IDPs in Mozambique, mostly from Cabo Delgado. Authorities in Nampula and Niassa have also asked for help managing the displaced population. Despite continued conflict, a relative improvement in security had allowed an increasing number of IDPs to return to their place of origin by year’s end.

Score Change: The score improved from 2 to 3 because a relative improvement in security allowed some internally displaced people to return to their places of origin.

G2 0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 2 / 4

The law does not recognize private property outside urbanized areas; citizens instead obtain land use rights from the government. Many citizens are uninformed about the land law and fail to properly register their holdings. The government must approve all formal transfers of land use rights in an often opaque and protracted process. As a result, most land transactions occur on an extralegal market.

There is no legal restriction to private business. However, businesspeople do face kidnappings and extortion.

Under customary law, women usually cannot inherit property. The government does not frequently intervene to protect women’s property rights when inheritance is denied.

G3 0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 2 / 4

Domestic violence is pervasive in Mozambique and laws against it are infrequently enforced. Early and forced marriages remain common in rural areas.

Mozambique has historically possessed one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage, though in 2019 the government passed legislation closing a loophole that previously allowed the practice.

Children and women have been especially impacted by ongoing violence in Cabo Delgado. Insurgents have kidnapped children to be used as soldiers, and women are being captured as sexual slaves.

G4 0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 2 / 4

Many women and girls from rural areas are at risk of becoming drawn into sex trafficking and domestic servitude. Government efforts to confront trafficking are improving but remain inadequate, according to the US State Department’s 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report.

Child labor is permitted for children between 15 and 17 years old with a government permit. However, children under 15 frequently labor in the agriculture, mining, and fishing sectors, where they often work long hours and do not attend school. Many observers note that the government’s 2017 plan of action to address the high number of children who are employed has been ineffective.