4 August 2014

Africa: Broadening Mozambique's Governance Horizons

Photo: Aly Ramji/Mediapix
Armando Emilio Guebuza President of Mozambique (file photo).

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Good governance, accountability and inclusive development have been recurrent themes in contemporary international relations and development discourse. Nevertheless, scant attention has been devoted to how - in practice - good governance can be deployed at the national and local level, beyond the confines of representative organs and other conventional accountability mechanisms.

In this context there is our own experience of promoting direct interaction between the government - at the highest level - and local communities in shaping and putting into action a model that triggers greater empowerment of communities and takes the concepts of accountable governance and inclusive development to new heights.

'Open and Inclusive Presidency' has come to be one of the main defining features of my two constitutional terms of office (2005-2014). Following the invitation from AllAfrica, I would like to share with your readers about this concept, its application and its impact on a variety of spheres of our political, social and economic life. We believe that it is an experience that can inject new vigour and dynamism to Africa-US relations and to political and corporate governance, the world over.

'Open and Inclusive Presidency' comes under the umbrella of good governance, which it enriches and whose horizons it broadens. The salient characteristics of the concept are: participation; accountability; transparency; equity; and inclusion.

Rather than being a new practice, 'Open and Inclusive Presidency' is an evolution of our own way of interacting with our people since the late 1950's in the context of the students' movements and, later on, in the 1960-70's, first, in the underground nationalist networks, and second, in the liberation movement [against Portuguese colonial rule] and third, in the post-independence nation building processes.

Soon after I was sworn in as president, we embarked on this good governance-enriching mechanism. Two of its components are the interaction with our people - both where they live or work and in the Office of the President.

Every year since 2005, the 'Open and Inclusive Presidency' takes us, for a cumulative period of two months, to visit provincial capitals, districts, administrative posts and localities. At the rallies we organise, ten local persons are invited to speak from the podium, on the basis of first come, first served.

Those who do not get that opportunity, due to time constraints, expose their concerns, advice or proposals to the members of the presidential delegation.

These proposals may include the need to improve relevant aspects of both planning and governance and the need for further investment in social and economic infra-structure as well as mobilization of the private sector for its involvement in local development.

What should be stressed is that they talk openly about, for example, problems of bad management, excessive red tape and other bad governance issues, without favour, as they do not feel the need to be surrogates of local government, nor fear reprisals from local authorities after we have departed.

We have recorded cases of people who travel over 300 kilometres to spend the night on the site we will be visiting the following day with the ultimate purpose - through their criticism and advice - of enriching good governance and consecrating profound inclusiveness and openness. This ability of our people to enrich good governance in Mozambique is also evident in the replicas of the 'Open and Inclusive Presidency' at other levels, including ministers and provincial governors.

These citizens are, by and large, anonymous people who would never think of having an opportunity to get a hearing with their head of state, minister, governor or administrator.

The rallies are complemented by three other events worth sharing. The first is a lunch with local professionals, such as teachers, health workers, business persons, peasants and pupils - each group at a time on different occasions.

The second is separate meetings with the local consultative council and with civil society organizations. Here again, in an interactive, open and transparent manner, we meet with citizens for whom the idea of being face-to-face with their Head of State never crossed their minds.

These are experiences that take the presidency to where our people live and work. We now turn to the other dimension - which brings our people to where the head of state works.

Every two months in the last decade, seminars have been organized at the presidency, covering a wide range of topics central in the drive to 'make poverty history' in Mozambique.

The panels are composed of professionals or specialists on the topic to be debated, but the audience includes Mozambicans from different backgrounds, political persuasions, academic training and qualifications and age groups. Our policies and practices come under microscopic, specialized scrutiny, with well thought out proposals on the way forward.

To conclude, I would like to stress that through 'Open and Inclusive Presidency', we promote the freedom of expression of all citizens, create space for their participation in the political process and enhance their ownership of the on-going democratic and development process. Indeed, in this open and inclusive governance model, we, the leaders, are the ones taking the step towards the People to expose our performance to public scrutiny.

We believe our experience to create a common sense of purpose and direction can be extrapolated to the forthcoming United States–Africa Leaders Summit, an international conference being held in Washington D.C. between 5-6 August.

Indeed, more regular visits by African and US leaders and more exchanges and interactions with a free-flowing agenda can be very useful in promoting understanding that leads to political and corporate good governance from which the entire world can benefit and flourish.

Armando Emílio Guebuza is the third president of Mozambique, having been elected with large majorities in 2004 and 2009. He plans to step down after elections in October.

He is a seasoned politician who rose through the ranks, first as leader of the student movement and then in the struggle for Mozambique independence. Before that he served as minister in different portfolios and as member of parliament, where he was the chief whip of the ruling party bench.

A retired Lieutenant-General, was also involved with the Burundi Peace process under the aegis of the late President of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere and, later on, of the South African President, Nelson Mandela. Armando Guebuza was in charge of the Commission on the Nature of Burundi Conflict, Problems of Genocide and Exclusion and its Solutions. He has received many awards at home and abroad.

His authorized biography, Guebuza: a Passion for the Land, was published by Macmillan.

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