- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2004

JOHANNESBURG — As polls closed in Mozambique last night, opposition candidate Afonso Dhlakama accused the government of electoral fraud.

Mr. Dhlakama told The Washington Times that several polling stations had run out of ballots, and that thousands of people had been unable to cast votes. Most of the problems, he said, were in areas where his Renamo party — a Portuguese acronym for the Mozambican National Resistance — enjoyed strong support.

He also accused the ruling Frelimo party — an acronym for the Mozambican Liberation Front — of abusing the state-controlled radio and television networks to support its presidential candidate.

“We won the first democratic election in this country in 1994 and another one in 1999, but the government did not allow a fair count,” Mr. Dhlakama said.

“Now, perhaps, they are trying to do it again. In the past two elections, when results were accounted, people wanted to take up arms against the state, but I begged them not to. I am not sure they will listen if we are robbed again,” he said.

Frelimo has ruled Mozambique since its independence from Portugal in 1975. Beginning in 1977, by when Frelimo had declared a one-party state, nationalized private property and banned all opposition, Renamo waged an insurgency.

Renamo swiftly took control of most rural areas while the government maintained an uneasy hold on the cities. In 1992, after an estimated 1 million people had died in the conflict, President Joachim Chissano negotiated a deal with the rebels, and both parties agreed to accept the outcome of national elections.

In 1999, Renamo won majorities in six out of the 11 provinces but made little progress in the south, including the capital, Maputo.

Mr. Dhlakama’s tribal base is in the center and north of the country among the Ndau people, while Frelimo is dominated by Shangaan speakers from the south.

Mr. Chissano is retiring as president in favor of his chosen successor, Armando Emilio Guebuza, a former communist turned wealthy businessman who led his party’s delegation at the 1992 peace talks with Renamo.

Frelimo followed hard-line Marxist policies after independence, but switched to a free-market system in the late 1980s and is now hailed as an African success story, with economic growth averaging more than 7 percent in the past five years.

Even so, 70 percent of the population remains illiterate, two-thirds live on less than a dollar a day, and the nation ranks 170th out of 175 countries in the U.N. Human Development Index. AIDS has slashed life expectancy to slightly more than 40 years.

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