CSRC Working Paper 23

Strong Party, Weak State? Frelimo and State Survival Through the Mozambican Civil War: An Analytical Narrative on State-Making
Working Paper No : 23 (series 2)
Author : Jason Sumich
Date : December 2007

Mozambique has been described as a model of ‘state resilience’ as the ruling Frelimo party has managed to maintain power through years of economic collapse and civil conflict. However, such a description can be misleading and I argue that in most senses, apart from the symbolic, the state largely collapsed through much of the country during the civil war (1977-1992). By tracing the social formation of the elite who eventually went on to dominate the Frelimo party leadership I demonstrate how they were able to maintain internal unity and survive the trials of the post-independence period. However, the social basis of the unity that has maintained the Frelimo party is also very exclusionary, and in many ways unique to themselves. Thus, instead of a model of state resilience I argue that it is the Frelimo party that has survived, but that the re-establishment of the hegemony of the party-state could deepen the divisions and inequalities that helped fuel civil war.