Quarta-feira, 1 de Setembro de 2010

Riots in Mozambique: Déjà vu?

By Paulo Gorjão

 

Food prices in poor countries are always a sensitive matter, and Mozambique is no exception. Last week the government increased prices on bread by 30%. As a result, this price increase triggered a wave of riots. Demonstrations took place mainly in the poor neighborhoods of Maputo, but one cannot rule out the possibility that demonstrations may occur in other cities by contagion effect.

Aires Ali, Prime Minister since last January, should have known better: he was minister of Education in 2008, when a similar wave of protests erupted, triggered by high fuel prices and living costs. If the past is anything to go by, then the government will have to make some concessions to appease those most affected by the increased prices, as it did back in 2008 regarding fuel prices.

Food prices are the last drop. If we delve a little deeper, we will see that the events of 2010 – like those of 2008 – are also relevant because they show widespread social discontent. Equally important, the demonstrations reveal a dysfunctional  democratic regime. Instead of expressing their discontent in the polls and in the elections – President Armando Guebuza was reelected last October and Frelimo won the legislative elections once again – the population resorts to outbursts of social turmoil. In other words, opposition parties – and Renamo in particular – do not seem to be able to channel social discontent to the proper political institutions. Therefore, these riots tell us something important and worrisome about the health of the democratic regime.

Of course, democracy in Mozambique is not in danger. No one expects a military coup these days. Yet the events of 2008 and 2010 show how fragile stability still is in Mozambique.

 

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