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Briefing paper

BP86: Observance of the rule of law in Mozambique

Afrobarometer Briefing Paper No. 86
4 Aug 2010 Mozambique
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One of the greatest challenges confronting Africa’s democratic reform process is ensuring the rule of law: that is, where political leaders subject themselves to the law and do not bend it to their interests, or ignore it with impunity. This is especially true where the government is run by a political party that once subscribed to the basic tenets of Marxism-Leninism, which saw the law merely as an instrument of the ruling party. Thus, Mozambique’s political reform process has focused as much on rule of law and accountability procedures, as on civil, political and social rights and liberties, or political competition. The rule of law is a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for democracy. The rule of law is subverted when politicians use the law as a “political weapon” against their political and civic adversaries. Subversions of the rule of law, in turn, subvert other democratic procedures such as participation and accountability.

The potential for the subversion of the rule of law is greater in societies that are characterized, like Mozambique, by the excessive control of all state institutions by a single institution, the Head of State, who, in Mozambique, is both the Head of State and the Head of Government. The Head of Government does not, in practice, account to the legislature since the standing orders allow him to delegate responsibility to the Prime Minister. In addition, the Head of State appoints and dismisses all chairpersons from the judiciary. This excessive power may enable state officials to break the law with impunity.

This Briefing Paper analyses the extent to which ordinary Mozambicans feel the rule of law actually exists in their country. It employs 2005 and 2008 data from the Mozambique Afrobarometer public opinion survey to understand people’s perceptions of the extent to which ordinary people are treated equally by the state, whether the state enforces the law equally against both state officials and ordinary people, and the extent to which the president ignores the constitution.