Hunger Revolts and Citizen Strikes: Popular Protests in Mozambique, 2008-2012
Food Riots and Food Rights project report
Publisher Institute of Development Studies/Instituto de Etudos Sociais e Economicos
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In February 2008 and September 2010, the cities of Maputo and Matola were the scene of violent protests against the rise in the cost of living, undertaken by groups of ordinary citizens. Immediately afterwards, these protests were replicated in some other Mozambican cities, but on a much smaller scale, and they were quickly brought under control by the police.
In November 2012, a new protest was set in motion, but immediate repressive action by the police (which in recent years has been greatly strengthened in men and material) in the key places where people were gathering prevented the violence from spreading, although it did not prevent the near total paralysis of activity in greater Maputo for a day and a half.
In this report we seek to show that, while these revolts are part of a broader movement which has shaken many countries since 2008 as a result of the increase and great volatility of food prices on the world market, they are above all a reflection of local economic dynamics and result from the social and political exclusion which the poorest urban strata in Mozambique face
The report begins by presenting a brief historical perspective and a characterisation of the nature of the Mozambican economy and of the authoritarian political tradition which has been dominant since the proclamation of independence, even while co-existing with a profound change in the political alliances of the ruling party. It then looks at the question of food and the cost of living, as well as the immediate context of the protests, the discourses and images used to describe them and the type of government response that they received.
We conclude by reflecting on whether these protests have revealed the contours of a contemporary ‘moral economy’ underlying relations between state, market and citizen in Mozambique, and the extent to which they have produced new accountability relations – whether informal and unstable or institutionalised in the formal spaces for debate and negotiation of the country’s political system.