Guebuza, Armando (Mozambique)

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Armando Guebuza, a veteran of Mozambique’s fight for independence and one of the nation’s wealthiest businessmen, was chosen as the ruling party’s candidate for the 2004 presidential elections. Having won a large majority, he took office in Feb. 2005 and was re-elected for a second term in Oct. 2009, remaining in office until Jan. 2015.

Early Life

Armando Emílio Guebuza was born on 20 Jan. 1943 in Murrupula, in the northern province of Nampula. Politically active from an early age, he was elected in 1963 as president of the Mozambican Centre of African Students, a group created by Eduardo Mondlane, then the leader of Mozambique’s fight for independence from Portugal. Later that year Guebuza joined the Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO) and in 1965 was elected to the organization’s central and executive committees. Having undergone military training in Tanzania, Guebuza was involved in guerrilla fighting against the Portuguese administration in northern Mozambique. Following Mondlane’s assassination in 1969, FRELIMO was led by Uria Simango and then Samora Machel. Under Machel it grew to include over 7,000 guerrillas and by the early 1970s had control over much of northern and central Mozambique. Guebuza became a general and was also an inspector of the schools run by FRELIMO.

When Marcello Caetano was overthrown in a military coup in Portugal on 25 April 1974, independence was assured for Mozambique. Following the signing of the Lusaka Agreements later in 1974, Guebuza was appointed to the transitional government that led the country to full independence in June 1975. He then served as minister of the interior in the single-party Marxist government led by President Machel. Guebuza was responsible for implementing the notorious ‘20–24’ decree, which gave Portuguese settlers 24 h to leave the country, carrying a maximum of 20 kg of luggage. He went on to serve as vice minister of defence in 1980, against a backdrop of warfare with the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO), which was backed by the apartheid government in South Africa. While Guebuza was again minister of the interior (1983–85) he was heavily identified with the forcible resettlement of unemployed residents of Maputo and Beira to work-camps in the isolated northern province of Niassa.

Joaquim Chissano became president in 1986, following Machel’s death in an aircraft crash, and Guebuza was appointed minister of transport. In 1990 he headed the FRELIMO government’s delegation to negotiations with RENAMO, leading to the signing of the Rome Peace Agreement in Oct. 1992. Having formally renounced Marxism in 1989, the government set about developing a market-oriented economy with Guebuza spearheading many of the reforms. He developed business interests in many sectors, including brewing, investment banking and shipping. In the country’s first multi-party elections in 1994, won by FRELIMO, Guebuza was elected head of its parliamentary group. He retained that position in the elections of 1999, when Joaquim Chissano again led FRELIMO to victory.

Chissano announced that he would stand down at the 2004 elections. During FRELIMO’s national congress in 2002, Guebuza was elected the party’s secretary-general and presidential candidate. His uncompromising nationalist stance and promise to continue the economic reforms of his predecessor won him a large majority in the presidential polling in Dec. 2004 (with 63.7% of the vote), although RENAMO alleged electoral fraud. In parliamentary elections at the same time FRELIMO retained its majority in the National Assembly.

Career Peak

Guebuza was sworn in as president on 2 Feb. 2005, pledging to fight poverty, tackle corruption and seek further foreign investment to build infrastructure. In mid-2005 a trade and investment agreement was signed with the USA, whose officials cited Mozambique as ‘a positive model because of its impressive track record on democracy, political stability, economic growth, openness to foreign direct investment and expanding exports’. In July 2006 the World Bank cancelled most of the country’s debt under a scheme backed by the major industrialized nations.

Guebuza and FRELIMO increased their respective vote shares in the presidential and parliamentary elections in Oct. 2009, although RENAMO again disputed the results. In Sept. 2010 there were riots in Maputo and other cities over food price rises and several people were killed as police fired on protesters.

In Sept. 2012 Guebuza was re-elected as head of FRELIMO. In a surprise cabinet reshuffle a month later, he dismissed Aires Ali as prime minister after only 9 months in the post and replaced him with Alberto Vaquina, previously a provincial governor.

Renewed military and political friction between the government and RENAMO through 2013 led to the latter’s announcement in Oct. that it was abandoning the 1992 peace accord, prompting fears of a return to civil war.

Guebuza was succeeded as president by the winner of the Oct. 2014 elections, Felipe Nyusi (also of FRELIMO). Since the constitution does not permit three successive terms, Guebuza did not contest the election.

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