Sites of Citizenship: Recognition of Traditional Authority and Group-based Citizenship in Mozambique
by Helene Kyed and Lars Buur
Since the General Peace Accord of 1992, Mozambique has embarked on a protracted process of democratic decentralisation. The Municipal Law 2 of 1997 made provision for elected local governments in 33 urban municipalities, but not in rural areas. Instead, in the latter a little over 4,000 ‘community authorities’ have been recognised since 2002 following the passing of Decree 15 of 2000. This article examines the implementation and consequences for rural citizenship of this Decree of official recognition to traditional authorities, ‘secretários de bairro’ and other local leaders. Focusing particularly on traditional authorities, we argue that the Decree's community approach to representation both establishes new sites for the production of citizens and institutes a kind of group-based citizenship. It does this by incorporating the rural population into the nation state, not on the basis of the individual membership in the polis, but of membership in a territory-based community. Contrary to recent scholarly celebration of group-based citizenship as representing the accommodation of claims by marginalised groups from ‘below’, the Mozambican case provides an example of group-based citizenship as a ‘top-down’ strategy of the state to regulate and control rural territories and populations. We explore the political implications of this strategy and critically assess how the promise of increased participation of rural communities is being accompanied by a specific Frelimo-state version of the ideal moral citizen community. Criteria of inclusion and exclusion draw on war rhetoric from the 1980s, which presents the governing Frelimo party as pro-development and the opposition party, Renamo, and its supporters as aiming to destroy the positive gains achieved since the end of the civil war.
Link til Journal of Southern African Studies