Mozambique is a constitutional democracy. Citizens elected President Armando Guebuza in December 2004 in what national and international observers judged to be generally free and fair elections, despite some irregularities. A sharp rise in crime led to an increase in incidents of serious human rights abuses in some areas—including unlawful killings by security forces and vigilante killings—during the past year. In addition, prison conditions were harsh and life threatening. There were continued reports of arbitrary arrest and detention as well as lengthy pretrial detentions, and the judiciary was understaffed and inadequately trained. Judicial decisions involving independent media outlets also created a more constraining environment for press freedom. Several societal problems remained widespread, such as domestic violence; discrimination against women; abuse, exploitation, and forced labor of children; trafficking in men, women and children; and discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.
In 2007 the United States dedicated resources to strengthening democracy and governance by supporting improvements in national institutions. More specifically, U.S. programming focused on supporting civic education, improving the quality and transparency of municipal governments, and strengthening the public's ability to participate in the decision-making process.
The United States continues to fund a five-year project to help the municipalities of Nacala, Monapo, Gurue, Vilankulos, and Chimoio strengthen the quality and level of broad-based citizen participation and engagement in municipal governance; increase the accountability and quality of services provided by municipal governments; and strengthen systems to combat corruption and increase accountability at the local level.
Several judicial decisions during 2007 created a more constraining environment for journalists and as a result, the U.S. government continues to provide assistance on press freedom issues. The U.S. supports radio and print organizations to enhance media independence. In Zambezia and Nampula, the two most populous provinces, the United States is supporting the production of radio programs in local languages on topics such as the constitution, conflict resolution, and respect for human rights. In September 2007 the U.S. embassy sent a prominent journalist from an independent weekly newspaper to participate in a pan-African anticorruption reporting tour hosted by the U.S. government; the resulting investigative stories from the journalist were unusually probing.
To strengthen democracy and good governance, the United States continued its emphasis on anticorruption programs, including activities with both the government and civil society. In October the United States sent a judicial advisor to conduct an assessment of the Central Office to Combat Corruption (GCCC) in the Office of the Attorney General. The October visit evaluated the progress of the criminal justice assistance program and provided recommendations for targeting future assistance. Separately, the United States also worked to improve the performance of the GCCC by providing funds to train prosecutors in investigative skills. The United States supported technical assistance and scholarships for students in the areas of law and auditing. In addition, the United States invited a U.S. federal judge to speak on ethics in the judiciary and the role of an independent judicial system at several roundtable sessions during a week of programming throughout the country. The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) also funded a member of parliament and a provincial governor to travel to the United States to participate in a Transparency and Good Governance exchange program.
U.S. officials meet often with a local NGO that monitored prison conditions, allegations of torture, and other serious human rights abuses. The United States also conducts activities to promote religious freedom and tolerance, particularly with respect to the Islamic community. Through its IVLP, a local Muslim leader traveled to the United States in 2007. During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the United States hosted two important Iftaar dinners and donated Ramadan baskets to two prominent Muslim institutions in the country to demonstrate support and respect for religious observances.
The United States continues to advocate actively for passage of the country's first antitrafficking law. Specifically, the United States worked with a women's rights NGO to provide technical assistance to government officials drafting the law. The country is a source and transit country for men, women, and children trafficked within the country, as well as to South Africa each year for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labor. The United States also laid the groundwork for linking antitrafficking efforts to existing HIV/AIDS activities in the country's main transit corridors. The United States also organized and hosted a trafficking forum to coordinate antitrafficking information and efforts among the government, embassies, and NGO community. In June 2007, with support from U.S. funding, a society of nuns working on the border with South Africa opened a welcome center in a house located next to a government center for repatriated Mozambicans from South Africa. Workers at the house identified trafficking victims and coordinated transportation to the country's only shelter for child trafficking victims. In addition, U.S. funding continued to support the country's first permanent shelter for trafficking victims near the South African border outside the town of Moamba. NGOs operated the shelter and provided food, educational, and psychological assistance to victims, as well as coordinated reunions with the victims' families.
The United States supported a program to reduce exploitive child labor by increasing public awareness, providing relevant non-formal education services for children most in need, and strengthening the policymaking process to reduce the extent of the problem. The project also identified children engaged in or at risk of exploitive child labor and enabled them to attend formal school or a non-formal education program such as Junior Farmer Field and Life Skills Schools. The United States also supported programs to increase women's rights and access to education. With U.S. support, a local NGO in the remote north of the country implemented a project to increase awareness of the importance of education for girls. A separate U.S.-funded project continued to disseminate information about the 2005 Family Law, about which few women in the country were knowledgeable. The project raised awareness of the provisions of the law, with a particular emphasis on domestic violence.