Mozambique News Agency

No.287, 12th November 2004


STAE promises election transparency

The official body running Mozambique's elections, which are to be held on 1 and 2 December, has moved to reassure critics that the official count of votes will be transparent and open to independent observation. Antonio Carrasco, general director of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the electoral branch of the civil service, on 4 November guaranteed to reporters that observers, journalists and political party monitors will be able to observe tabulation of votes in the general elections through a computer link.

Carrasco showed reporters the arrangements being made at the computer centre in STAE's Maputo headquarters. Although no unauthorised person may enter the computer centre, there is a room alongside it which gives observers a view of what is happening in the centre. More importantly, there will be six computers in this room, linked to the computers in the centre. Carrasco said that this will allow observers to follow the figures that operators are typing into the computers.

Any polling station result sheet (known as an "edital", plural "editais") typed into the computers, can also be called up on screens in the observation rooms. This is a considerable improvement on 1999, when only one computer was available for journalists.

Carrasco said it would also be possible for observers to go inside the computer centre, accompanied. But they would be searched on entering and leaving: this same security procedure would be used, even for members of the National Elections Commission (CNE), who wanted to go into the centre.

This arrangement seems to go a long way towards meeting the request by the European Union for full access by its observers to this level of the count.

The computer system contains an inbuilt check against attempts to tamper with the editais. The system consists of two parallel networks, and each edital must be typed in twice, by two different operators: if they type in different sets of figures, the computer will not accept them.

Each operator has their own password, allowing the computer system to keep a compete check of who is doing what and when. This audit trail should be a strong disincentive to attempts at fraud.

Similar computer centres and observation facilities will be available in all the provinces, Carrasco said.

This may solve the problem of access to provincial and national vote tabulation - but it does not deal with decisions taken inside the CNE, whose meetings are held behind closed doors. The most important, judging by the experience of 1999, are decisions concerning whether to accept or reject editais that contain serious mathematical errors, or appear to have been tampered with.

On 2 November, the head of the EU observer mission, Javier Pomes had urged that there should be no "dark rooms" in the count.

CNE spokesman Filipe Mandlate rejected the accusation. He told reporters at a briefing on 4 November that there are no "dark rooms" in dealing with editais. Any observer at a polling station is entitled to a copy of the edital, as is any political party monitor, and a further copy of the edital is fixed to the polling station wall to inform the public. "There are plenty of opportunities to see the editais", said Mandlate. "If this is the ''dark room'' the EU was referring to, then it's no longer dark".

Frelimo leader campaigns in central provinces

Frelimo's presidential candidate, Armando Guebuza, has been campaigning in the centre of the country, in terrain that is considered to be hostile territory.

On 8 November Guebuza took his campaign into Dhlakama's home province of Sofala. Travelling by road from the neighbouring province of Manica, Guebuza entered Sofala in the district of Nhamatanda.

In both previous elections, in 1994 and 1999, Sofala was the worst province for Frelimo. In 1994 Frelimo took only three of Sofala's 21 parliamentary seats, improving somewhat in 1999 when it raised its total to four.

A smiling Guebuza urged the Nhamatanda crowd to "choose better" this time. They should not elect deputies "who transform parliament into a place for whistling" (a reference to the disruption caused by Renamo deputies on several occasions in the current legislature, when they brought whistles and other instruments into the parliamentary chamber to disrupt proceedings).

Guebuza's next stop was Caia, on the south bank of the Zambezi, where, for the first time in this campaign, a group of "regulos" (quasi-traditional chiefs) pledged support, and promised to do all in their power to secure victory for Frelimo.

At rally after rally they can be seen, seated in the front row, wearing their military-style caps, their brightly coloured sashes and their insignia. The regulos used to be regarded as natural allies of Renamo, but judging from the statement of the Caia regulos that might be changing, and the government's strategy of holding out the hand of friendship to these chiefs may be paying political dividends.

"We should vote for Frelimo because here in Caia we have witnessed the work done by the government in favour of the people", they said. "Here we have the centre-northeast road, the number of children attending school is growing, the bridge over the Zambezi will be built, and the Sena line is already being rebuilt. So we must have a strong leader like Armando Guebuza in the government to continue this work".

Certainly Guebuza needs to win support in Caia: in the 1999 election, his predecessor, Joaquim Chissano, only picked up 1,974 votes in the district, while Dhlakama won 18,451.

The head of the Frelimo brigade in Caia, Pedro Comissario, cited in "Noticias" on 9 November, was sure things would be different this time. He pointed to the eight new health units built in the district since 1999, the new water supply system in Caia town, and the fact that the district can now communicate through the fixed and mobile phone networks.

Guebuza has also campaigned in Zambezia province. On 4 November he visited Ile district, where he pointed out that the district now has 134 schools, as against only five at the end of the colonial epoch. He also stated that the district capital Errego is now linked to the national electricity grid, receiving power from the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi.

He pointed out that industrial undertakings destroyed in the apartheid regime's war of destabilisation have been rebuilt and are now functioning. This is the case with the Socone tea processing factory, which currently employs 500 workers, and with the Marropino tantalite mines that have a workforce of 124. "That's why we've come to Ile to ask you all to vote for Frelimo, and to vote for me, so that we can continue our development programmes in this district and throughout the province", Guebuza told a rally in Errego.

The district still faces serious problems - there is a dire shortage of sources of clean drinking water, the access roads are in poor condition, and there are no credit facilities for farmers and small businessmen. Guebuza promised that, should he win the elections, such areas would be prioritised as part of the struggle against absolute poverty.

Guebuza told "Noticias" that throughout his campaigning in Zambezia he had stressed Frelimo's determination to maintain peace. In Ile, he recalled, the war had been "very cruel, people still bear the scars, and it is important to reassure them that there will be no more war, and that people can continue living in peace, as they are doing now".

During his visit to Zambezia's provincial capital, Quelimane, on 2 November, Guebuza told Radio Mozambique that the government and Frelimo have always sought to eliminate regional imbalances in the country. This was in response to opposition claims that Frelimo foments regional inequality and channels investment preferentially to the south of the country.

Guebuza stressed that imbalances were not simply a question of the south being more developed than the north. Imbalances could be found within the southern provinces too, he said. "15 kilometres outside Maputo, we find situations in which there are no clinics, no access to clean drinking water, and we need solutions to this", he said. "We intend to continue working so that the entire Mozambican population, rural and urban, can benefit from what the country can offer, what it can produce".

The limits to Frelimo support in the centre of the country were apparent when on 10 November Guebuza addressed a rally in the central city of Beira, generally regarded as a Renamo stronghold. Although President Joaquim Chissano flew up from Maputo to boost Guebuza's campaign, attendance at the rally was disappointing. The report in the Maputo daily "Noticias" put it at 4,000 - a poor showing for the second largest city in the country.

President Chissano, introducing Guebuza to the rally, said he was confident that he was leaving the future of the country "in good hands". He stressed the economic advances that the Frelimo government has brought to Beira - the city's port, although not the largest in Africa, was certainly "the most modern", he said, and now the railway from Beira to the Moatize coal mines in Tete province, was being rebuilt. Once again the country's coal exports would flow through Beira.

Likewise the government had revived the sugar industry in central Mozambique - an industry that had been brought to its knees by Renamo sabotage. "Many people did not believe that we would revive the Marromeu sugar mill", said President Chissano. This is the mill on the south bank of the Zambezi, utterly destroyed by Renamo in 1986, but now producing again, and run by Mauritian concerns.

"We know who burnt that mill down", said the President. "They are the same as the people who come here today, say there are no jobs, and make false promises".

Guebuza said that the residents of Beira already have some experience of a Renamo government, since Renamo won the municipal elections in Beira in November 2003. He recalled that before those elections Renamo had promised to cut fees paid by sellers in Beira markets, and that no Beira municipal workers would lose their jobs. But the opposite had happened. "Municipal Council workers have lost their jobs", accused Guebuza. "The market tax collectors have been removed, so that Renamo can put its own men there, and the market fees have even been increased".

Renamo leader campaigns in southern provinces

Renamo's presidential candidate, Afonso Dhlakama, has been campaigning in the south of the country, in terrain that has previously been strongly in support of the ruling Frelimo Party.

On 8 November Dhlakama toured markets in the southern city of Matola, a Frelimo stronghold. Dhlakama gave impromptu campaign speeches in the markets of the Matola suburbs of Benfica, Zona Verde, T3 and Patrice Lumumba, promising that a Renamo government would provide jobs for all unemployed youngsters.

Although his mother tongue is Ndau (a Shona variant spoken in central Mozambique), Dhlakama made a point of frequently addressing these rallies in the southern languages of Ronga and Shangaan.

Dhlakama declared that it was "absurd" that people who have achieved mid-level education should find themselves reduced to selling peanuts on the streets to survive. Dhlakama promised that, if he gains power, there will be no more unemployment, the markets will all be clean, and there will be no organised crime. "Vote for me, I shall change your lives", he declared. "There will be no more armed robberies, and no more unexplained murders".

Attempts by Dhlakama to campaign in Xai-Xai in Gaza province on 10 November were disrupted by Frelimo supporters who blocked his path. As could be easily heard from Radio Mozambique's live coverage of the scene, the Frelimo supporters kept up a deafening barrage of noise, making it absolutely impossible for Dhlakama to campaign.

They gathered at the entrance to the Limpopo Market (a market which was ironically rebaptised the "Dhlakama Market" several years ago). Unable to enter the market, Dhlakama beat a retreat. "There wasn't much damage, because I'm a mature politician", he told reporters later in the day.

Dhlakama spent just two days in Gaza, which has always been a Frelimo stronghold, and has never elected any Renamo members to the country's parliament. He said he was "satisfied" with his reception in the districts of Bilene, Chokwe and Chibuto, despite what he called Frelimo attempts to sabotage his rallies.

In Chokwe, Dhlakama was able to address a rally at a market, but in Guija district, on the opposite bank of the Limpopo river, Frelimo supporters made it impossible for him to campaign. So he drove on to Chibuto, where Renamo supporters were awaiting him, and his brief appearance passed off without incident.

Dhlakama's decision to focus on the south of the country surprised many commentators. On 3 November he interrupted his campaign in the north of the country to turn his attention to the capital, Maputo.

During his campaign in the north of the country, Dhlakama promised public sector reform. On 2 November in Nampula city he declared that the public sector is working "very badly" because it is riddled with corruption. The main target for reform would be the administration of justice, he said, since "it is not serving citizens properly".

Dhlakama was confident he would win the election, because the new electoral law, passed by the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, in May, "prevents any possibility of fraud".

Nampula, he said, had always voted for Renamo, and he was confident of winning this, the largest of the 11 provincial constituencies, again this year.

Dhlakama's bid for election has received the backing of an international coalition of right wing parties. A meeting in Maputo on 7 November of the Democratic Union of Africa (DUA), a grouping of mainly right wing African parties, ended with a declaration of support for the election campaign of Renamo, and of Dhlakama, who is the current chairman of the DUA.

Dhlakama took his guests up to the central city of Beira to watch a Renamo election rally on 7 November. Speaking at the rally Dhlakama asserted that he will win the presidential election. He based this optimism on the large audiences that his rallies had drawn in the central province of Zambezia, and claimed that the rallies of his main rival, Frelimo general secretary Armando Guebuza, in the same province, were attended mostly by children. "My rallies were with responsible people, adults who have registered as voters, while my friend from Frelimo only had schoolchildren", he claimed.

Dhlakama stated that "When I am President of Mozambique, I shall do four or five things within 90 days of taking office". According to "Diario de Mocambique" he promised to bring "billions of dollars from our friends in America and Europe to provide employment for young people".

He then flew straight back to Maputo, and announced that he intends to continue campaign in the Frelimo strongholds in the southern provinces.

Southern Mozambique has been stony ground for Renamo. In the 1999 parliamentary elections, out of the 62 seats in the southern four provinces, Renamo won only five, and nobody is putting forward the scenario will change much this year.

Some commentators have found it odd that Dhlakama should choose to spend time in a Frelimo fortress, rather than warding off Frelimo challenges to his own territory in the central provinces of Manica and Sofala, or seeking to expand Renamo's position in the north (Cabo Delgado, Niassa and Nampula provinces), where the election could easily be lost or won.

The potential weakness of this strategy was highlighted by Mozambican Television (TVM) which went looking for a Renamo campaign in the Frelimo heartland of Gaza province. What they found was the head of the Renamo parliamentary list for Gaza, Jeremias Pondeca, marching through the streets of the provincial capital, Xai-Xai, with no more than a dozen others, waving a few Renamo flags and posters.

Challenged about the small size of this march, Pondeca insisted Renamo had "ten brigades" working in Xai-Xai. He said that people always recognised him in Gaza, which showed that he must be "very popular".

PDD launches election manifesto

The Party for Peace, Democracy and Development (PDD), founded by Raul Domingos, once the number two figure in Renamo, has published its election manifesto promising dozens of changes to state services, but not indicating how they will be paid for.

The PDD names education as its top priority, and declares that the Mozambican education system "cannot go on being a centre for low quality pedagogic experimentation". "Quality education is the basis for the future of our nation", it says. "A people without quality education cannot defeat poverty".

The "far reaching" reform proposed by the PDD includes school lunches and uniforms to be given free of charge to all primary school pupils.

Teachers' wages will be raised (the manifesto does not indicate by how much), and they will be paid on time. (A recurrent complaint by teachers is that they are paid late - sometimes months late).

Schools, institutes and universities are to be "rigorously assessed" in terms of their productivity and results - but the manifesto does not say what will happen to schools deemed to be failing.

One remarkable proposal is for the creation of "mobile schools and temporary courses that should function in communities where it is not possible to set up permanent schools". Their tasks would be to give literacy courses "to adults, isolated communities and poor children".

In both education and health, the PDD announces that it will end corruption. Health care will be "humanised", there will be "better emergency services", better mother and child care, more hospitals will be built, and more beds installed in the existing ones.

In agriculture, the PDD wants to create a new bank to provide rural loans. Although the manifesto gives no details, presumably this would be a state owned bank.

A PDD government, the manifesto pledges, would also "improve water management systems", "set up agricultural and livestock micro-companies", and "set up projects linked to cash crops".

In industry, the PDD promises protectionism. It says that "developing industries" will be protected "until they can satisfy national demand". At the same time there will be "aggressive strategies to penetrate foreign markets".

Like all other political forces the PDD promises to fight against corruption. It pledges "to improve the functioning of the institutions linked directly or indirectly to fighting corruption". A PDD government would put in place "measures that ensure the transparency of the public administration", "repeal outdated and unnecessary procedures", "change the public tendering and procurement systems", and do away with "political influence" in anti-corruption units.

The PDD pledges to improve the performance of the civil service, by simplifying procedures and abolishing unnecessary red tape.

On crime and policing, the PDD promises to increase the number of police stations. put more policemen patrolling the streets, increase police wages and pay danger money. It calls for "zero tolerance of criminals and of agents of law and order linked to corruption".

As for the nature of the PDD, the manifesto characterises it as "a liberal party guided by the principles and values identified with promoting a social market economy".

PDD complains of lack of media coverage

PDD has complained that it is not receiving sufficient media coverage. On 8 November a member of its Political Commission, Maria Frechaut, accused the public television station, TVM, of ignoring the PDD campaign.

She told "Noticias" that PDD believes "that TVM is deliberately hiding us from view. the images of our candidate (Raul Domingos) campaigning are not transmitted, or the few times this happens, the pictures show him with children".

In Manica province, a man who described himself as a Renamo "security and information officer", Simao Patricio, has defected to PDD. The defection is embarrassing for Renamo, because it had chosen Patricio as one of its parliamentary candidates (he was number 14 on the list for Manica province).

Interviewed on Mozambican Television (TVM), Patricio said he had been a member of Renamo since 1980, but had decided to leave because of Dhlakama's abuse of power and mismanagement of Renamo funds.

He recalled that, after the end of the war, Dhlakama had ordered him to buy radio equipment and ammunition from members of the Mozambican army and police force. He could not understand what Dhlakama needed military equipment for when the country was at peace.

Patricio complained that nobody knows what the Renamo leadership does with the money it receives from the state budget due to its parliamentary representation. The party is unable to pay its staff, he complained, and in Manica there was a shortage of campaign propaganda, which was blamed on lack of money.

Violence mars election campaign

The election campaign has been marred by continuing acts of intolerance and violence by supporters of both the major political parties, Frelimo and Renamo.

On 10 November the head of the Frelimo election press office, Manuel Tome, accused Renamo of death threats and physical assaults against Frelimo members across the country. Tome stated that a local Frelimo secretary was "kidnapped and tortured" in Maringue district, in the central province of Sofala. Maringue housed the Renamo headquarters in the closing years of the war of destabilisation.

He also stated that in Mabalane, in the southern province of Gaza, Renamo district delegate Jose Uquieo and the Renamo-appointed deputy chairperson of the Mabalane District Elections Commission, attacked and severely injured a citizen.

Frelimo has also been accused of violence against Renamo supporters. Tome was asked about the attacks against Renamo election officials in the district of Chicualacuala, in Gaza province. Tome expressed regret, but denied that the attacks had been orchestrated by Frelimo. Renamo members of the Chicualacuala district elections commission came under attack, their homes were burned down, and they fled to the provincial capital, Xai-Xai, one of them with a broken arm.

The spokesperson for the National Elections Commission (CNE), Filipe Mandlate, on 4 November confirmed that there has been serious intimidation of members of the district elections commission in Chicualacuala. He told a press briefing that members of the Chicualacuala commission appointed by Renamo had abandoned their posts "because of personal problems of security".

They had been attacked by "members of the public", he claimed. The usual term for people who commit assault is not "members of the public", but "criminals", and AIM asked what measures the police had taken to protect members of the electoral bodies. Mandlate replied "I am not a spokesperson for the police", but he admitted this was something that the CNE would have to discuss with the police, possibly with a view to stepping up security.

On Mozambique Island, groups of supporters of Frelimo and Renamo clashed during the weekend of 6 - 7 November. According to the Beira daily paper "Diario de Mocambique", on 5 November campaigners from the two sides threw stones at each other, and several people were slightly injured. The report said it was the Frelimo supporters who threw the first stones.

On 6 November, election campaign motorcades from both parties ran into each other in one of the island's narrow streets. Neither party would give up space to allow the other to pass. After a three hour stand-off, the police intervened to separate the two groups.

This follows serious incidents on 24 October, when Frelimo members were accused of attacking the home of the mayor of Mozambique Island - the Island is one of six municipalities where Renamo mayors were elected in the November 2003 local elections.

On the mainland, the Renamo Nampula provincial delegate, Luis Mecupia, has complained of unjustified arrests of Renamo members in Mossuril and Memba districts.

He told reporters that the Renamo delegate in Mossuril, Ramadane Assuate, was detained on charges of ripping up Frelimo posters. Mecupia denies this, and says that in reality Assuate was simply flyposting Renamo posters. "Our Mossuril delegate was detained just because he's from Renamo", he accused.

Meanwhile PDD has claimed that it is being harassed by Frelimo in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. The head of the PDD election office in Cabo Delgado, Bernardo Caixote, cited in "Noticias" on 11 November, alleged that in Montepuez district the police detained three PDD members after a minor clash, which Caixote insists was caused by Frelimo.

PDD leader Raul Domingos has criticised both Frelimo and Renamo for behaving as if they were the only candidates in the forthcoming elections. "There are no winners in advance, and the public knows this", he said. "So I want to call for a protest vote against both these forces who are trying to monopolise politics in the country".

New cholera prevention programme

The Health Ministry launched on 4 November a new programme to purify drinking water and thus help prevent diarrhoeal diseases, including cholera. The new programme, to be implemented by the NGO Population Services International (PSI), is for the distribution of a new water purification product, named "Certeza". The manufacture and marketing of the product is to cost $200,000 during the next 18 months.

Speaking during the launching ceremony, deputy national health director Avertino Barreto stressed the importance of this new product in public health in Mozambique, pointing out that it has been extremely costly to treat the cyclical outbreaks of cholera the country has suffered. "This is another product that will be good to improve public health", he said, adding, however, that "both this drug and the cholera vaccines are not the solution. These are simply instruments, and the solution still lies on prevention".

"Before, we had the problem of goiter, and we introduced iodised salt, then we needed impregnated mosquito nets to fight against malaria, and today we are introducing ''certeza'', that helps in the fight against cholera and the effects of HIV/AIDS", he recalled.

This product has been tested in other countries and showed an efficacy rate of about 85 per cent, It is described as simple and practical.

Barreto said that it is particularly important that the product is launched at the beginning of the rainy season, when the country is at risk of water-borne diseases such as cholera. "Thus we are certain that even without the cholera vaccine we will solve some of the problems", he said.

"Certeza" is to be sold in 150 millilitre bottles in chemists, shops, and even in informal stalls, at the price of 8,000 meticais (about 27 US cents). That quantity is enough to treat 1,500 litres of water.

UNICEF distributes mosquito nets

The Mozambican office of UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) on 4 November announced that it has expanded the distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets to the northern province of Cabo Delgado, as part of the battle against malaria. Distribution has begun in the districts of Montepuez, Ibo and Quissanga. UNICEF is providing 43,000 nets, which it estimates is sufficient for all pregnant women and under fives in the three districts in 2005.

UNICEF is paying $235,000 for the purchase, storage and distribution of the nets. The nets are being kept in a warehouse in the provincial capital, Pemba, managed by the NGO Medicus Mundi. Medicus Mundi will also assist in the distribution of the nets in Montepuez, while distribution in Quissanga and Ibo will be supported by the Aga Khan Foundation. These two organisations will train local activists, explaining how malaria is transmitted, and how to use the nets correctly.

The nets will be available at all health units in the three districts, and will be sold at the heavily subsidised price of 30,000 meticais ($1.5) each. The cost to UNICEF, including a publicity campaign, works out at 150,000 meticais per net.

UNICEF says that malaria is responsible for 35 per cent of all deaths among Mozambican children under the age of five - making it the largest single cause of death for this age group. This means that every day 125 Mozambican under-fives die of malaria.

The use of the insecticide treated nets both prevents mosquitoes from biting sleeping children, and kills the mosquitos that land on them. UNICEF says that studies on the effectiveness of the nets indicate that, when used on a mass scale, they can cut infant mortality by 20 per cent.

Currently, according to the latest health survey undertaken by the National Statistics Institute (in 2003), less than 10 per cent of under-fives sleep under mosquito netting.

To date, UNICEF has supported the distribution of these nets in 24 districts in Zambezia, Gaza and Maputo provinces. In 2003, it helped distribute 185,000 nets in these three provinces.

$189 million spent on demining

Since 1996 Mozambique has invested $189 million in the National Demining Programme, and a total area of 220 million square metres has been cleared of land mines, according to the director of the National Demining Institute (IND), Gamaliel Munguambe.

He was speaking on 2 November at a Maputo press conference announcing a "National Demining Week" that will run from 15-20 November. These activities will culminate in the launch of the 2004 report on land mines throughout the world, drawn up by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).

The report will be launched simultaneously in Maputo, Brussels and the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. It will precede a conference to be held in Nairobi from 29 November to 3 December to review the Ottawa Convention outlawing anti-personnel land mines.

Asked how much of the country still has to be demined, Munguambe said that no exact data exists. But the next steps involve "level II research" which should give a clearer idea on which areas are mined, so that the IND no longer works on mere suspicion.

Number of cattle on the increase

Numbers of cattle in Mozambique have increased from 280,000 to a million since the relaunching of the restocking programme, following the end to the wer of destabilisation in 1992, reports "Noticias" on 1 November.

The National Director of Livestock, Fernando Songane, told reporters in Chicualacuala district, in Gaza province, where he was launching a cattle branding programme, that this success is due to good cooperation between the Mozambican government and its different partners.

He said that his sector has been developing a number of actions to enhance cattle raising, which include the creation of conditions for cattle treatment and water supply in Maputo, Gaza, Tete, Manica, and Sofala provinces.

Songane recalled that the restocking programme was launched between 1996 and 1997, and relied on the participation of NGOs, the commercial and family farming sectors, all working with the government.

He noted, however, that the programme faced serious difficulties caused by cattle diseases such as dermatosis and foot-and-mouth disease. However, these diseases were controlled through vaccination and restrictions in the movements of cattle from the affected areas.

Foot-and-mouth disease affected Gaza in particular, where it infected about 200,000 head of cattle, causing heavy losses to the cattle farmers concerned. Cattle marketing was seriously affected because of restrictions to prevent the spread of the disease. In total about 200,000 cattle were treated at a cost of $1 per head.

Mozambique eligible for MCA funds

For the second year running, Mozambique is one of only 16 countries eligible for funding from the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), an initiative set up by US President George Bush with bi-partisan support in the US Congress.

The initial funding for the MCA was a billion dollars for the 2004 financial year. Bush asked congress for $2.5 billion for 2005, and has pledged to increase MCA funding to $5 billion a year as from 2006.

By no means all developing countries are eligible to receive MCA funds. Initially only countries that can borrow from the World Bank's soft loans arm, the International Development Association IDA, and which are not barred by US law from receiving assistance, may apply for funding. This means low income countries - the cut-off point for IDA assistance is a per capita national income of below $1,415 a year.

Countries reach that short list only if the US administration believes that they are, in the words of Bush himself, "ruling justly, investing in their people and encouraging economic freedom". The MCC uses 16 "objective" indicators to judge whether countries meet these criteria, and has given notice that it will pay particular attention to the level of corruption.

So far the funding for the 2004 financial year remains undisbursed. Last month, the MCC Chief Executive Officer, Paul Applegarth, visited some of the countries to discuss their programmes. In Maputo, he told reporters that the Mozambican government has applied for $150 million of MCA funding, which he regarded as "not an unreasonable request".

This does not necessarily mean that Mozambique will obtain all, or even any, of this money. Applegarth said the MCC would study the Mozambican proposal in detail, and hoped to reach a decision in early 2005.

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