The Commonwealth ‘Development’ and Post-Colonial Responsibility

The Commonwealth ‘Development’ and Post-Colonial Responsibility

Pusblished by: Elsevier Geoforum

Date: 30 March 2007


One important (though often neglected) part of the ‘development business’ committed to principles of partnership is the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of 54 independent countries, almost all of which were formerly under British rule. This paper focuses on the Commonwealth’s contemporary sense of ‘responsibility’ for shaping African development through ‘partnership’ and by promoting ‘good governance’ and examines the particular example of Mozambique, which joined the Commonwealth in 1995. In exploring exactly what membership of this post-colonial ‘family’ has meant for Mozambique the paper explores the neocolonial paternalism and sense of trusteeship that the Commonwealth has articulated in its often very apolitical vision of African development which seems to lock the continent into a permanent stage of tutelage and to repetitively reduce Africa to a set of core deficiencies for which externally generated ‘solutions’ must be devised. More generally, the paper also examines the wider context of the Commonwealth’s involvement in Africa by looking at the connections it has made to British industry, British charities and the British Department for International Development (DFID). The paper concludes with an assessment of the ‘showcase’ potential of Mozambique and its importance to Commonwealth and DFID narrations of an African ‘success’ story of peace, stability and growth since the end of the country’s devastating civil war in 1992.

Keywords: Mozambique Commonwealth Development Partnership Post-colonial Responsibility

1. Introduction: morality, responsibility and Britain’s Africa policy

‘‘The vanished empire is essentially unmourned. The meaning of its loss remains pending. The chronic, nagging pain of its absence feeds a melancholic attachment. This is. . .to a resolutely air-brushed version of colonial history in which gunboat diplomacy was moral uplift, civilising missions were completed, the trains ran on time and the natives appreciated the value of stability. These dream worlds are revisited compulsively. They saturate the cultural landscape of contemporary Britain. The distinctive mix of revisionist history and moral superiority offers pleasures and distractions that defer. . .” (Gilroy, 2005, p. 1).

When he took up office in mid-1997 few could have anticipated that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair would become more heavily involved in African politics than any British leader since decolonisation with an ‘‘almost missionary zeal to change the UK and the world” (Porteous, 2005, p. 286). Outlining Britain’s ambitions for moral leadership on the international stage Blair claimed that the new Labour government would make Britain a ‘‘model”, a ‘beacon to the world”. Following the military intervention in Sierra Leone in 2000 authorised by Blair, ‘Africa’ became an explicit priority for New Labour’s much trumpeted ‘ethical’ foreign policy that sought a sharper focus on issues like governance and human rights. For Blair the state of Africa was ‘‘a scar on the conscience of the world”, a scar that would become ‘‘angrier and deeper” if supposedly ‘responsible’ western leaders did not intervene to ‘heal’ it (Blair, 2001). Africa was thus positioned as a moral imperative whilst Blair claimed that Britain would seek to work in ‘partnership’ with African states and regional organisations to ensure that there was African ‘ownership’ of reform and development processes.

Key to this notion of Britain as a ‘beacon’ or ‘model’ was the creation of the Department of International Development (DFID) in 1997 (Power, 2000). Independent of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and under the stewardship of Clare Short MP, ‘Africa’ became the top policy priority for the new Ministry. In a multifaceted shift then in the UK government’s vocabulary around poverty, DFID policies were increasingly cloaked in a language of morality, ethics and responsibility with Short defining DFID’s approach as constituting a ‘‘new humanitarianism”, where every Briton recognised the ‘‘moral responsibility to help the poor” and where DFID would dispense ‘‘principled aid”. Thus, the labour government, vis-à-vis the discourse of development, set about narrating itself as leading a metropolitan nation that is ‘civil’, developed, modern and morally ‘advanced’ but in ways that exhibit very strong lines of continuity with earlier British colonial discourses of development1 (Biccum, 2005; Kothari, 2005). UK development discourses are posited as beneficently moral, selling the idea of poverty eradication as a moral imperative and an obligation of the British nation to its citizens whilst the possession of this moral duty and responsibility in part defines the UK as ‘developed’ and ‘‘writes this identity into the national consciousness” (Biccum, 2005, p. 1013). Such moral claims arguably echo the nineteenth century concept of trusteeship in the way they construct the UK as leader of a global project of managing development and globalisation whilst poverty is presented as having no historical links and as a ‘new’ global challenge within a reductive repetition motif. Here, Africa in particular is constructed as perpetually deficient and lacking in some way, with the noble work of DFID the only way to close the gap. Reductive repetition (as in Orientalist scholarship) reduces the diversity of African historical experiences and trajectories, sociocultural contexts and political situations into a set of core deficiencies for which externally generated ‘solutions’ must be devised (Andreas- son, 2005). An undifferentiated ‘Africa’ is here repetitively reduced to a uniformly and eternally deficient space, awaiting external intervention and ‘solutions’ to its many ‘problems’. Tropes of trusteeship and tutelage and traces of post-colonial paternalism thus closely shape New Labour’s envisioning of ‘Africa’ (Mercer et al., 2003; Power et al., 2006).

In January 2005, Brown completed his second tour2 of Africa on the eve of Britain’s presidency of the G8 and the EU. The tour included a whistle-stop 1-day visit to Mozambique where, accompanied by DFID secretary of state Hilary Benn, Brown visited Commonwealth war graves from World War I and met with Mozambican finance minister Luisa Diogo and the President-elect Armando Guebuza (BBC, 2005; AIM January 19, 2005). Brown had been seeking endorsement for his ‘Compact for Africa’ (a rival to the Blair-inspired Commission for Africa)3 or as the Daily Telegraph put it, the ‘‘Cash-For-Guilt programme” (Steyn, 2005). Brown’s Compact (or ‘‘mini-Marshall plan”) for Africa envisaged a massive boost in flows of capital to Africa, almost all of it aid, transmitting ‘‘the negative image that Africa is a perpetual beggar, dependent on western largess, rather than an actor in its own right with potential and a future” (Taylor, 2005, p. 309). Speaking in Mozambique to journalists from the Daily Mail newspaper Brown declared:

‘‘[T]he days of Britain having to apologise for its colonial history are over. We should move forward….We should celebrate much of our past rather than apologise for it. . .(Brown cited in Brogan, 2005). Britain has never even faced up to the dark side of its imperial history however, let alone begun to apologise or deal with the consequences of its loss of empire. The meaning of this unmourned loss ‘‘remains pending” (Gilroy, 2005). Addressing the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) the previous year Brown referred to his Compact as more than a contract but also a covenant between rich and poor founded upon ‘‘our moral responsibility to each other” and the need to ‘‘awaken our conscience to the needs not just of neighbours but of strangers. . .to see every death from hunger and disease as if it is a death in the family” (Brown, 2004, p. 2). Similarly, speaking in May 2006 at the Financing for Development conference in Abuja, Nigeria, Brown added: ‘‘this will only be achieved by partnership between rich and poor…a global new deal between developed and developing…A covenant for this generation and next founded not on the old colonialism of the past or the post-colonial dependency, but a covenant that is a partnership of equals…” (Brown, 2006, p. 1).

The questions of responsibility and relationality between places, and between place and space, have always been central for geographers and are also key questions for post-colonial theory (Noxolo et al., forthcoming). Development geographers have been concerned to respond to ‘the claims of distant strangers’ (Corbridge, 1993) and have argued that responsibility for global poverty stretches beyond the bounds of place. Massey (2004) argues that global cities like London need to take responsibility for the exploitation that has brought them the resources to establish and maintain their status ‘‘not because of what we have done, but because of what we are” (Massey, 2004, p. 16). There is thus a need to recognise a sense of ‘‘responsibility towards the wider relations on which we depend” (Massey, 2004, p. 17). In the literature on responsibility and ethics the differences between responsibility to, responsibility for and responsibility over have been highlighted and in this paper the main focus is on the ways in which the Commonwealth claims and seeks to extend an (asymmetrical) sense of responsibility for and over post-colonial Africa and how this has been shaped by a growing British sense of moral obligation and responsibility to the continent. This discussion is centred upon the specific example of Mozambique, which joined the Commonwealth in 1995 (on the same day as Nigeria was suspended) and has considerably strengthened its economic and political linkages with Britain as a result. The discussion is also centred upon a particular example of governance reform in Mozambique, the Customs Reform Project, led by the British company Crown Agents.

The Commonwealth is an organisation once dominated by Britain, to this day largely based in London and aiming (after 1947 and in the context of decolonisation at least) to help staunch a haemorrhage of imperial pride and confidence. In recent years there have been no shortage of would-be pallbearers for the Commonwealth and no shortage of critics who see this as an irrelevant imperial relic. Whilst the Commonwealth is more than some ‘shadow Empire’ based on smoke and mirrors, there are clearly those who are still nostalgic for a London-centred past history. It is thus necessary to excavate the discursive parameters of the Commonwealth’s sense of responsibility for and over distant African others at the points of their origin (Lester, 2002) and to think about responsibility in relation to the (post)colonial. The concept of partnership, for example, made its first appearance in the context of British imperialism before World War I but its continued usage today by organisations like DFID ‘‘draws on the racialised colonial hierarchies established in the metaphor of the British Commonwealth ‘family of nations’” (Noxolo, 2006, p. 254). Thus, we can discern an attempt to ‘‘reassert an imperial British authority in contemporary development relationships with third world countries….[with] Britain playing the ‘adult’ role of disciplinarian and provider to third world governments who seem to be children presenting potentially ‘challenging’ behaviour” (Noxolo, 2006, p. 260).

In particular the paper seeks to trace the complex relationship between the Commonwealth’s sense of responsibility for development and reform and the wider regimes of discipline and governmentality in which the Commonwealth has increasingly become involved. How are these different notions of responsibility important to the dissemination of a neoliberal agenda around ‘good governance’, ‘international development’ and ‘partnership’? The ‘good governance’ agenda and the discourses that structure it (which have many colonial precedents) produce a form of knowledge about Africa ‘‘that has facilitated and legitimised certain forms of administration and intervention” (Abrahamsen, 2001, p. 22). This agenda has also become a means by which to secure further control and influence in African states in the interests of the penetration of global capital (Abrahamsen, 2001; Harrison, 2004) and represents Africa’s ‘‘third colonial occupation” (Nadubere, 2000, p. 23).

2. The Commonwealth, responsibility and post-colonial Africa

‘‘You name it, our family has got it. . .The power of the Commonwealth is its moral basis. Equality, based on partnership; of peoples, however different, however distant in terms of geography” (McKinnon, 2006, p. 2, 6).

In exploring the ways in which notions of responsibility shape and influence the work of the Commonwealth it is useful to consider some of the multiple metaphors that are often used to describe the association. Thus, the Commonwealth is often described as a ‘family of nations’, as a post-colonial ‘club’, a ‘bridge’ between continents, a ‘network’ or as a kind of ‘toolbox’ of development solutions. The Commonwealth ideal of a multiracial ‘family’ of nations has a long history (Rich, 1986) but has partly served as a means of reproducing British authority at a time of great global political flux and change. Using gendered and generational metaphors, the multiracial family metaphor gives the impression of a voluntary union for mutual good whilst at the same time maintaining the notion of hierarchy and placing white Commonwealth nations at the head of the family. From this metaphor comes a great deal of the Commonwealth’s sense of responsibility for and over Africa. The idea of a close-knit family presents a platform upon which the Commonwealth has argued that its aid missions are more sensitive, effective and relevant to its member states, offering a ‘‘more intimate forum than the UN” (McKinnon, 2006, p. 6).

The Commonwealth is today a strange mixture of former British Dominions, Protectorates, Colonies and Trusteeships, coupled with five former German colonies, one former Portuguese colony and seven members who also belong to the French Commonwealth, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF).4 With 18 members, African countries collectively represent the largest single regional constituency within the Commonwealth community whilst many African governments have seen the Commonwealth as a friend and champion and not as part of the ‘North’ or ‘West’ (Bourne, 2005). Today the UK covers around 30% of the costs of the intergovernmental Commonwealth5 (which total about £33 million) and remains the largest funding contributor despite the post-1965 project of ‘de-Britannicizing the Commonwealth’ with the establishment of a multinational secretariat (albeit one still based in London). Member states must also contribute financially to the Secretariat and some of its associated agencies.6 The Commonwealth’s structure is based largely on unwritten and traditional procedures instead of a formal charter or constitution and it developed from the Colonial Conferences dating back to 1887 and to the Imperial Conferences at the start of the Twentieth century where Britain began to recognise the equal status of its self-governing colonies and Dominions (the ‘Old’ or ‘White’ Commonwealth). The Commonwealth thus continues to have a pronounced British stamp and to serve in part as an instrument of British foreign policy. Secretary-General Shridath Ramphal (1975–1990) once described the Commonwealth as having ‘‘no centre and no periphery” but the term ‘British Commonwealth’ is still a widely used customary appellation for many both within and beyond member states even though the prefix ‘British’ was dropped in 1946. The Commonwealth today sees itself as a political network bound by a special sense of togetherness, a global ‘subsystem’ that can be most effective when it applies ‘friendly persuasion’ (CPA, 2004, p. 1) to member governments or acts as a ‘channel’, ‘catalyst’ and ‘broker’ for North–South assistance, or as a ‘spur’ to South– South and regional cooperation.

Multilateral Commonwealth resources are small however of which just under half are spent in Africa (including technical assistance and debt management). The Commonwealth’s ‘development’ related activities are principally led by the Secretariat based in London, by the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC)7 and by the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation (CFTC). The latter is the operative arm of the Commonwealth’s development programme and is attached to the Secretariat (although member states must apply to join the CFTC separately). Despite a good record of delivering assistance the CFTC is woefully underfunded with a meagre annual budget of just £25 million (though this is supplemented by the EU, DFID and its Canadian equivalent CIDA). The Commonwealth also works closely with the IFIs with whom it often liases on behalf of member-states. The Commonwealth Secretariat itself focuses principally on training, ‘capacity building’ and the provision of ‘expertise’ and advocacy for ‘LDCs’ and constructs itself as a kind of global ‘‘governance platform” that ‘‘adds value” to development, not by resource transfers (such as aid donations) but ‘‘with the force of experience and the moral power of authority” (McKinnon, 2006, p. 4). The basis of its interventions then are justified in terms of moral power, values and authority, which are seen to have accrued over many decades of involvement (colonial and post-colonial) in the ‘less developed world’. The invocation of this historical ‘force of experience’ and ‘moral power of authority’ is used to justify the Commonwealth’s assumption of responsibility over post-colonial Africa and its sense of responsibility for overseeing development and governance reform on the continent. Similarly, DFID has argued that the Commonwealth’s close historical relations ‘‘make it particularly well placed to mobilise political support for poverty elimination” (DFID, 1997: 2.18, p. 37). In many Commonwealth and DFID development discourses the menace of poverty in the ‘underdeveloped’ world is not seen as something actively produced by countries like Britain in the course of empire and colonisation however (Frank, 1970, 1979) and neither is there is an acknowledgement of how wealth extracted from Africa and Africans made possible the vigour and prosperity of modern Britain and its associated institutions.

The Commonwealth, like New Labour and DFID, often seeks to promote development ‘partnerships’ and the local ‘ownership’ of development agendas, articulating an equalising rhetoric that attempts to disavow and displace European paternalism (Baaz, 2005) and remove the emphasis on external accountability for policy and its outcomes. Yet hierarchised relationships in the nuclear family (husband–wife, parent–child) are still the underpinning model of racialised authority that structures the Commonwealth’s interactions with Africa and they run through many DFID white papers on development (Noxolo, 2006). More generally there has been a persistent focus on parent–child relationships as the iconic reference point for questions of care and responsibility (Robinson, 1999; Massey, 2004). This model of authority illustrates the gendering and infantilisation at work in the Commonwealth and DFID’s conception of partnership, which denies the mutuality of post-colonial relations and puts Britain as ‘family’ head (Noxolo, 2006). The Commonwealth’s focus on democratic process, state capacity and ‘good governance’ is shallow, derivative and in many ways undistinguishable from the agendas of countless other international development organisations and the IFIs in particular. The focus on ‘adequate stateness’ and on building a model of the ‘steady state’ in Africa is deeply problematic and obscures complex trajectories of state formation. The Commonwealth models of democracy and good governance often foreground British experiences and there have been attempts to mould African state institutions along similar lines. While the talk is of tailoring the models (together with ‘partners’) to suit local specificities the model is almost always made in London. Similarly Commonwealth training courses, seminar and diplomatic attachments seem uncomfortable with the uniqueness of some histories of African governance (e.g. Mozambique) and seem premised on the assumption that such trajectories can and should be brought into line with the experiences of other (especially more ‘developed’) member states and particularly with that of the head of the ‘family’, Britain.

The structure and purposes of the Commonwealth remain blurry and inchoate and its mission is ambiguous whilst in recent years there has been a shrinkage of resources due to the rationalisation of Commonwealth activities (the Secretariat now has a budget of 1% of that of the UN). At times the Commonwealth seems to lack a clear focus and if it is noticed at all (outside the highly visible Commonwealth Games) the association is often regarded as backward, lethargic, elitist and of little contemporary relevance. Commonwealth day, the second Monday in March, makes little impact on world attention and there is little understanding of what the Commonwealth is or does within many African member states. None of this is immediately obvious from the habitual self-satisfaction one sees in Commonwealth documents and brochures that seem to needlessly exaggerate the qualities of its interventions and the moral power of its authority (Sriniva- san, 2005).

Many Commonwealth meetings seem to involve more consultation than combined action and it is not at all clear that what the Commonwealth has to say is worth saying and ‘‘not just a ‘me- too’ response” (Bourne, 2002, p. 5) that contributes little that is original and distinctive. In the words of McKinnon (2006): ‘‘When we travel to the global meetings we [the IMF, World Bank, WTO, etc.] are travelling together, with common ideas and proposals in our bags and in our heads, ready to do business with others. We often sit on the same plane going to these meetings. We have time to consider common approaches”.

Donor harmonisation and alignment are important concerns for the Commonwealth but this can be taken to extremes. The common voice donors articulate can become a ‘common front’ in an unbalanced power relationship, especially when donors agree together to withhold disbursement (Batley, 2005). So what are the terms of the Commonwealth’s ‘partnership’ with Mozambique and how has it worked together with other neoliberal development agencies to promote particular discourses of development?

3. Commonwealth ideals and Mozambique’s ‘Anglophone drift’

‘‘Mozambique’s adherence to the Commonwealth’s non- racial ideals of equality and common humanity is beyond question. Mozambicans have paid for these ideals with their blood, their children and the life of their first President” (SADC, 1997, p. 26).

The Commonwealth often makes a great deal of the commonalities between its member states (e.g. in parliamentary, executive and judicial systems, customs and tax) which, according to Secretary- General McKinnon (2006, p. 2), have provided a common language of institutions that enables member states to ‘‘understand each other very well, just as a family’s members might understand each other. Of course, like family members we can have our differences. . .”. The Commonwealth is also supposedly founded upon a ‘‘shared inheritance in language, culture and the rule of law” (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2005, p. 1). Given that Mozambique has a tenuous connection to this ‘shared inheritance’ what relationship does the country have to this wider Commonwealth ‘family’?

Former Commonwealth Secretary-General Shridath ‘Sonny’ Ramphal, described Mozambique in the late 1970s as a ‘commonwealth cousin’. Mozambique was thus a child (perhaps even an orphan) of another empire, but one that is ultimately related to Britain (although it is often not clear how). A 1997 report by SADC (the Southern African Development Community) on Mozambique’s accession also noted that the government of Mozambique wanted to ‘‘become a contributing partner in regional development, rather than a poor cousin who is a burden on the extended family” (SADC, 1997, p. 3). More recently the current Mozambican President Armando Guebuza also subscribed to the ‘family’ metaphor, claiming in December 2005 that the Commonwealth acted as a ‘united family’ and that it ‘‘never abandons one of its members in need” (Guebuza cited in AIM December 6, 2005). So what kind of relationship does this poor cousin of the ‘united family’ have with Commonwealth geographies of responsibility?

When Mozambique became the 53rd member of the Commonwealth in 1995, reactions in Mozambique and Portugal (the former colonial power) could at best be described as rather mixed. Press reports in Portugal centred upon the increasing evidence of Mozambique’s ‘Anglophone drift’, with the country being ever more closely drawn into the orbit of British influence in Africa, as Portugal ‘‘saw one of the eight ships of the Lusophone fleet sailing away to join the Anglophones” (Newitt, 2002, p. 234). Mozambique’s accession alarmed many in Portugal, creating ‘‘quite some consternation” (Ronning, 1997, p. 53) with many critics bemoaning the state’s failure to preserve the Portuguese language8 and culture through the use of aid packages, a post-colonial agenda in Lusophone Africa that the ‘British Commonwealth’ was seen to have usurped. The decision was also not well received in France following several attempts to bring Mozambique closer to La Francophonie and other ‘Latin’ language communities in Africa. It is worth remembering however that until 1930 northern and central Mozambique were ruled by British controlled charter and plantation companies (Newitt, 1995). As Frank (1979) has shown, Britain had a dominant financial relationship with the Iberian Peninsula for much of the ‘age of empire’ and through its informal and indirect imperial commercial networks Britain was structurally connected to many former Iberian dependencies. Thus, it could be argued that historically Mozambique did at times come within Britain’s informal economic empire in Africa despite not even a portion of Mozambican national territory ever being formally controlled by the British.

The principal Portuguese response to this ‘aberrant membership’ was the formation a year later in 1996 of the Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa (Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries or Lusophonie (CPLP), an equivalent ‘Portuguese commonwealth of nations’ with a similarly ‘special’ sense of togetherness (CPLP, 2006). Thus, began a process of mimicry between the CPLP and the Commonwealth, with the former very much modelled upon the latter (but yet seeking to express its differences too). Soon, for every Commonwealth electoral observation team or Commonwealth related investment promotion initiative, there was a very similar (if not identical) CPLP equivalent. The idea of a ‘Portuguese Commonwealth’ was first mooted in the mid- 1970s following the independence of Portugal’s African colonies (Canelas de Castro, 1998; Santos, 2003) but was delayed because of the civil wars in Angola and Mozambique that ensued and the indifference of Brazil. Following Mozambican accession to the Commonwealth the CPLP formation was accelerated however and the organisation was finally set up in Lisbon in 1996 with se- ven members (Angola, Brazil, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Portugal, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tomé and Principe with East Timor joining in 2002). A key pillar of the association is the dissemination of the Portuguese language (which members must have as their official language), the ‘shared house of Lusophonie’ as Nobel Prize novelist José Saramago has put it. Many Mozambicans however were sceptical about the project to create a global ‘lusophone space’ and the concept of a pluri-continental ‘‘Lusophony” and ‘‘Latinity” upon which the CPLP was founded (Ronning, 1997) arguing that Portuguese leaders are obsessed with their language and preoccupied with fears it will be overtaken in Africa by English. Mozambique’s accession to the Commonwealth in 1995 was never met with the same level of debate and controversy as the decision to join the newly formed CPLP the following year. To this day Mozambique remains by far the least active CPLP member.9 Two days after the founding CPLP session took place in Lisbon, the Mozambican weekly newspaper Savanna ran an article with the headline Uma communidade sem nada em comun (‘A community with nothing in common’) (Savana, 1996) whilst Mozambican journalist Carlos Cardoso claimed it was necessary to free Mozambique from its colonial dependency and that the creation of the community revealed how slow the process of decolonisation was in Portugal: ‘‘Portugal wishes to have her little zone of influence [zonasinha] and does not mind spending money in order to make the six clap their hands” (Cardoso cited in Savana, 1996).

The reasons for admitting Mozambique to the Commonwealth are complex and varied. On the website of the Commonwealth Secretariat, the fourth most frequently asked question is, ‘‘under what criteria was Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony, admitted as a member?” (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2007a). Commonwealth assistance to Mozambique originated in Mozambican involvement in the Rhodesian crisis of the 1970s and was even planned before Mozambique became independent in June 1975 (Hall, 1994). The ruling party Frelimo also has a long and successful history, dating back to the 1960s, of negotiating and keeping good relations with a diverse group of international supporters essential to its political survival and the Commonwealth has been a key part of this. Tanzania provided the rear base for Frelimo’s liberation struggle against the Portuguese and also (along with Zambia) hosted negotiations for the 1974 transition to independence.

Mozambique’s opposition to the rebel regime in Rhodesia and later to Apartheid South Africa was seen to have emerged out of a ‘‘deep moral obligation” (SADC, 1997, p. 22) that had also motivated UK and Commonwealth diplomatic initiatives in the region. The final communiqué from the 1975 CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) in Kingston included a passage on Mozambique, unanimously endorsing the Commonwealth Sanctions Committee’s call for support to Mozambique in applying sanctions against Rhodesia. In 1976, 1 year after independence, Mozambique closed its lengthy and lucrative border with Southern Rhodesia in compliance with sanctions initiated by the Commonwealth. Mozambique also sent a ministerial delegation to Lusaka for the Commonwealth summit in 1979. Canada, Australia and New Zealand later developed special bilateral relationships with Mozambique during the Apartheid era as did smaller Commonwealth members like Sierra Leone and Singapore. The civil war fought by Renamo (with backing from Apartheid South Africa) against Frelimo had disrupted or destroyed roads and railways, farms and agro-industrial complexes, aid projects, schools, health clinics and rural shops and had cost Mozambique well over $20 bil- lion (SADC, 1997). There was also the unlikely friendship between Samora Machel (Mozambique’s first President) and Margaret Thatcher (who considered Machel’s support critical in Rhodesia), a key objective of which was to encourage Mozambique to be non-aligned during the final years of the Cold War (Vines, 2006).

As early as 1976, The Commonwealth Fund for Mozambique was established to assist in managing the impact of international sanctions against Rhodesia. Additionally, the 1987 Vancouver CHOGM set up a Special Commonwealth Fund for Mozambique (SCFM) to compensate for Mozambican losses due to the destabilisation led by Apartheid South Africa which included the provision of educational scholarships for Mozambicans, technical assistance with telecommunications, agricultural and rural development schemes and assistance with export market development (Interview with Linford Andrews, COMSEC, August 2006). The SCFM also funded Commonwealth ‘experts’ to visit Mozambique and was fairly unique as a Commonwealth programme in that it attracted financial contributions not just from countries like Britain, Austra- lia,10 Canada and New Zealand but also from countries like Barbados, Malaysia, Pakistan, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Singapore and Zimbabwe. Mozambique opened its embassy (later High Commission) in London in 1988 because of the growing importance of UK aid to the Mozambican economy (Vines, 2006). In October 1991, the Mozambican state produced a ‘memorandum of understanding’ asking for Commonwealth support in various fields but was quietly advised to drop the memorandum, for which no precedent existed and which delegates at the CHOGM would be loathe to consider (Hall, 1994).

There was also strong support from key African leaders like Nelson Mandela (now married to Samora Machel’s widow, Graça) and Nigerian Chief Emeka Anyaoku (the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth throughout the 1990s). Mozambique is completely surrounded by Commonwealth member states and many argued that their officials needed to be able to communicate with Mozambican counterparts in English whilst many Mozambicans felt that membership would bring greater familiarity with institu- tions and procedures in use in Commonwealth member states. A SADC publication in 1997 noted that regionally Mozambique’s ‘‘exposure to Commonwealth methodology” would be a force for regional stability and development (SADC, 1997, p. 2) as would ‘‘wider bilateral exposure within the Commonwealth” (SADC, 1997, p. 25). Mozambique had also attended several of the biennial CHOGMs from the mid-1980s and was often present ‘in the mar- gins’ of various Commonwealth gatherings and conferences. Samora Machel, for example, attended the 1979 Lusaka CHOGM as the guest of Kenneth Kaunda and was even present at the formal opening of the meeting and some of the receptions (Hall, 1994). Formal participation and full membership was originally prevented by fears that the accession would establish some awkward precedents, opening the flood gates to membership applications and diluting the Anglophone focus of the Commonwealth. By the time of the decision to grant full Mozambican membership, Mozambique had increasingly come to be viewed as a ‘‘stable and predictable partner of the UK” (Vines, 2006, p. 6) whilst British High Commission, Commonwealth Development Corporation11 and DFID offices had been set up in Maputo along with the first British Council Office anywhere in Lusophone Africa.

4. The Commonwealth, British development policy and post- colonial Mozambique

The Commonwealth agenda in Mozambique has facilitated and legitimised certain forms of administration and intervention, in particular those focused on state capacity, ‘good governance’ and liberal democracy. Although the talk is of ‘equal partnerships’, the assumption running through much of the Commonwealth’s work in Mozambique is that post-colonial development in the country is in its infancy and needs ‘parenting’ by ‘responsible’ development actors like the Commonwealth with the access to British aid and British capital that this can bring. One example of this is the Commonwealth Secretariat’s ‘advisory services’ and ‘capacity building initiatives’ in debt data compilation and management. This comes in the form of the Commonwealth’s Debt Recording and Management System (CS-DRMS), a software package distributed through the British company Crown Agents that seeks to aid public financial management. The CS-DRMS system, run by the Debt Management Section (DMS) of the Secretariat’s Special Advisory Services Division (SASD), was first launched in 1985 in Sri Lanka and is now installed in 54 countries (44 of them Commonwealth member states) and involves strategic partnerships with the IMF, the World Bank and La Francophonie (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2006b). The problem of debt (which has been particularly acute in Mozambique, a HIPC member) is thus reduced to an ‘internal’ matter of data compilation and technical support for ‘building capacity’, avoiding more complex politico- economic questions about how the debts were incurred in the first place or about the concentrated power of the IFIs.

Another example of this ‘parental’ sense of responsibility for directing reform is the attachment of several senior Mozambican state officials to the Secretariat’s Governance & Institutional Devel- opment Division (GIDD) in London. This division trains 3000 public officials from the Commonwealth each year either locally or through Pan-Commonwealth programmes (GIDD, 2004) and this has included (since 2004) temporary attachments to GIDD of Mozambican officials lasting on average 4 months. The attachment programme was developed in response to former President Joaquim Chissano’s request to the Secretary-General to help promote a better understanding of the Commonwealth and its Secretariat within Mozambique’s public sector but there have been many problems with translation in GIDD placements even though officials were chosen because of their grasp of English (Interview with Taboka Nkhwa, GIDD, December 2006). Between 1999 and 2006, GIDD also co-funded training programmes for Mozambican participants on transparency, accountability and good governance (both in-country and overseas) facilitated by some of the 150 consultants and field ‘experts’ the Commonwealth sends to member states each year.

Additionally, between 2000 and 2005 £1 million of technical assistance has been provided by the CFTC, which aims to ‘develop skills & capacity’ (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2006a). CFTC projects in Mozambique since 1995 have included assistance to the aquaculture industry, the construction of public housing, the pro- vision of English language training for state officials, assistance with maritime boundary delimitation and the construction of a tourism marketing plan (Interview with Terry Sinclair, CFTC, December 2006). Between 1995 and 2006, the CFTC dispatched short and long-term experts to work in Mozambique in areas like software development, trade standardisation, agricultural econom- ics, hydrography, epidemiology, customs and merchant banking, management, micro-credit and privatisation (Commonwealth Sec- retariat, 2007b). Typically, Commonwealth ‘experts’ involved in developing skills and capacity have come from the wealthiest member states like Britain (especially in short-term placements) but this is beginning to change and there have also been significant contributions from countries like Ghana, India, Kenya and South Africa. There is also the ‘Hub and Spokes’ project, a joint initiative between the Commonwealth, the European Commission and La Francophonie. This €20.63 million (£16.3 million) project seeks to ‘build the capacity’ of ACP countries in the process of trade policy formulation, international trade negotiations and implementation by placing Regional Trade Policy Advisors (RTAs) and ‘experts’ in regional bodies like SADC or the African Union.

Perhaps the strongest and most visible sense of Commonwealth responsibility for directing reform has been that centred upon the promotion of liberal democracy and the observation of multi-party elections. Again Mozambican democracy is presented as in its infancy, at least in relation to older Commonwealth states like Britain and the Commonwealth’s supposed long-standing democratic ‘traditions’. Mozambique has thus been encouraged to join the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA, formerly the Empire Parliamentary Association), which works to support ‘good governance’ and democracy and seeks the advancement of democratic culture and principles (staging parliamentary workshops in Mozambique in 1998, 2001 and 2004) (CPA, 2004). A Commonwealth Observer Group was present for the 1999 and 2004 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, whilst a Commonwealth Expert Team monitored the 2003 local elections and the results of the 2004 national elections (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2004). The 2004 Presidential elections were marred by allegations of fraud however although these are somewhat downplayed in the final Commonwealth Expert Team’s report on the electoral process which simply refers to some ‘irregularities’ but the recommendations issued following this fraud (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2004) tend to centre on the technical support structures of the Electoral commission, on the software utilised and on the appointment of technical staff. While the overall election result was not affected by the fraud, evidence suggests that ballot box stuffing, improper ballot nullification and (intentional) organisational failure did take place (Hanlon and Fox, 2006) but once again complex political questions are ignored in favour or technical or administrative recommendations.

Many Mozambican state officials point to the ways in which Commonwealth membership has enabled deeper political and economic linkages to be established with Britain (and with DFID in particular), with British charities, aid agencies and NGOs and with a variety of British companies. Commonwealth membership has certainly led to a deeper engagement with DFID who have provided support to Mozambique for some years now, mostly as co-financing for IMF/World Bank led adjustment programmes and through joint programmes of budget support which draw in other ‘partners’ from the international development community (such as the EU and several other bilateral aid agencies). DFID is one of about 60 bilateral and multilateral donors working in Mozambique today (along with around 150 international NGOs). British aid disbursements to Mozambique have grown significantly since the accession, increasing from under £8 million in 1991/1992 (Van Diesen, 1999) to £55million in 2005/2006 (DFID, 2005). Much of this was programme aid in support of structural adjustment programmes of which 64% is provided directly to the Government’s budget (making DFID the largest budget support donor). DFID also seeks to support the Mozambican Poverty Reduction Strategy Pa- per (PRSP) known locally as Plano de Acçao para a Redução da Pobre- za Absoluta (PARPA).12 Despite claiming that it wants to broaden ‘ownership’ of the PARPA, DFID has brought an army of consultants and development ‘experts’ along with a wealth of poverty reduction measures to Mozambique and has intensified the focus on development indicators and targets. Both DFID and the Commonwealth are heavily involved in the monitoring of Commonwealth countries in general normative terms through the extensive use of ‘benchmarking’ practices and in establishing and disseminating examples of development-related ‘best practice’.

DFID also supports particular ministerial projects in education, health, tax administration, agriculture and rural development and has funded the Customs Reform Project (see below) led by the British company Crown Agents (DFID, 2005). DFID support has also involved a number of particular initiatives and events such as the UK-Mozambique partnership and co-operation week opened by the Queen in 1999 and the Commonwealth-Mozambique investment conferences held in 2002 and 2003 where a variety of investors expressed an interest in the tourism and agro-industry sectors of Mozambique. These and other similar events (such as the 2003 investment conference in Maputo led by the Commonwealth Business Council) have increasingly drawn Mozambique into a number of international communities of investment promotion and have neoliberalised Mozambican notions of ‘best practice’ for attracting FDI (Phelps et al., 2007). This has also been supported by CFTC assistance, in conjunction with DFID, aimed at helping Mozambique to source foreign capital for investments.

Commonwealth membership has also opened up a range of trade and investment possibilities for British firms. Although UK- Mozambique trade remains relatively limited (UK exports totalled over £15 million in 2003 and UK imports from Mozambique stood at £9 million in the same year) (FCO, 2006) the UK is traditionally in the top three largest investors in Mozambique and in 2005 became the largest single foreign investor. UK companies now operating in Mozambique include BP, Shell, PWC, KPMG, Land Rover, Unilever, the Port of Liverpool,13 the CDC,14 Barlows, British American Tobacco, Rio Tinto, ED&F Man and BacTec (Vines, 2006). In line with the Commonwealth’s sense of responsibility for directing governance reform and improving state capacity, the involvement of one British company in particular, Crown Agents, has stood out.

5. Crown Agents and the ‘modernisation’ of the Alfândegas

‘‘…rather than conceptualising donor power as a strong external force on the state, it would be more useful to conceive of donors as part of the state itself” (Harrison, 2004, p. 22).

Crown Agents (CA) was founded in 1833 in an attempt to reduce costs and increase efficiency in the procurement of goods and services to the Crown colonies. Acting as the British commercial and financial agent of the Crown colonies and protectorates, which were required by the Colonial Office to use its services (Abbott, 1959; Sunderland, 1999) CA reprinted the stamps and banknotes of the colonies, provided technical, engineering and financial services and served as arms procurers, quartermasters and paymasters for the colonial armies whilst seeking to improve colonial administration and facilitate colonial development (Kesner, 1977; Andromidas, 1997). It supplied all non-locally manufactured public sector stores, organised the provision of external finance, managed colonial investments, supervised the construction of railways, harbours etc. and performed various personnel functions (Sunderland, 1999). Although under the supervision of the Secretary of State for the colonies the Agency was financially and administratively independent of the government.

CA was privatised in March 1997 and the Crown Agents Foundation (which holds its shares in trust) includes a number of token ‘worthy’ NGOs (e.g. Christian Aid or Transparency International) to help illustrate its supposedly loftier ‘developmental purpose’ (Crown Agents, 2005) alongside permanent members, which include representatives of the CDC and DFID. This self-styled ‘international development company’ aims to deliver capacity-building and institutional development services in public sector transformation and claims to be a not-for-profit private corporation that carries out mundane, routine administrative and logistical work for DFID, various development agencies and foreign governments. Crown Agents has received a lot of publicity in recent years as the first British company to win a contract in the US programme to rebuild Iraq and specialises in working in ‘difficult areas’ with projects in 110 countries worth US$10 billion (Crown Agents, 2005).

The company first worked in Mozambique in 1979 (from its Zimbabwe office) on a power station project in Cabo Delgado and opened its office in Maputo in 1988, initially to support the Special Commonwealth Fund for Mozambique (SCFM) and the aid programmes led by DFID’s predecessor, the ODA. Crown Agents have also been closely involved with the Commonwealth’s CS-DRMS debt management project (winning the contract to distribute the software among member states) and have carried out aid validation work for DFID in Africa. The company was awarded the contract in 1996 for an ambitious Customs Reform Project, a contract that effectively gave it ‘operational management’ of Mozambican Customs services for the next 10 years, with many of the costs of the project met by DFID. The government’s reasoning was that corruption in the Customs service (Alfândegas) was difficult to break from within and so an outside company with no economic interests in contraband was needed. The first efforts to reform the Customs service began in 1988 and followed the beginning of Mozambique’s first structural adjustment programme. The Mozambican state quickly realised that donors and investors would be reluctant to enter into partnership without fundamental reform of the Customs service. The Commonwealth has also focused in on questions of public administration and governance in Mozambique which it regards as its ‘niche competencies’, noting that this is the area in greatest need of Commonwealth intervention in Mozambique given that the country has little in common with other member states. The Customs project is also seen as an important exemplar of harmonised joint donor planning and a critical part of wider public sector reform and trade liberalisation projects that began in the late 1980s and mid-1990s at the behest of the World Bank and the IMF (who as funding contributors both sat on the Steering Committee of the Customs reform project along with DFID).

In reforming the Customs system, Crown Agents was tasked with increasing Customs revenue, facilitating trade liberalisation, modernising services, providing staff training and reviewing legislation. This included addressing both the revenue function of the Customs service (e.g. collecting tariff revenues and charges on imports and exports) and also the control function (e.g. preventing illegal goods imports). It was believed that Customs officers prior to the reform project had been colluding with smugglers, deliberately misclassifying and undervaluing goods or extorting payments from traders (Hubbard, 2005). This heavily corrupt system was also seen to be too complex and restrictive (based partly on old colonial legislation), to be lacking effective disciplinary measures for corrupt staff, to include too many discretionary ministerial exemptions and to lack professionalism and independence. During the civil war Frelimo was unable to exercise central control over its disjointed Customs operations and much of the physical infrastructure of the service was destroyed whilst poorly paid staff became vulnerable to some of the divisions the war had created (OECD, 2005). The lengthy coastline and extensive land borders of Mozambique also presented their own problems (some border posts are 2000 km from Maputo) whilst sugar and tobacco producers often complained they could not compete with the lower prices offered by smugglers.

In mid-1997 the Customs service employed about 980 people (OECD, 2005) but almost 90% of these staff were either sacked or reassigned to other agencies whilst over 700 new staff were employed having followed the newly devised basic training courses (Interview with Vivienne Davis, Crown Agents, December 2006). There were also a large number of expatriates, external consultants and foreign ‘experts’ involved in the project as the company had a group of consultants in the country throughout (peaking at some 70 members) to provide technical assistance, train new and existing staff and to work at Customs points alongside Mozambican staff. The project also operated alongside and in tandem with the privatisation of the ports of Maputo, Beira and Nacala. The company completed its project in June 2006 and since then operational management of the Customs system has returned to the Mozambican state (AIM July 6, 2006). In the period 1996–2006 Customs revenue generation in Mozambique increased from US$106 million in 1996 to US$340 million (47% of total tax revenue) whilst Customs clearance times have been substantially reduced with the introduction of computerisation and the use of scanning equipment (OECD, 2005). The exact level of remuneration received by Crown Agents from the Mozambican government remains unclear however.

According to the general director of Customs in Mozambique, Barros dos Santos, the project has been so successful that it has since become a reference point for ‘‘successful reforms in Africa” (Dos Santos cited in AIM July 6, 2006). CA themselves talk of the project as providing a ‘‘model for Mozambique’s wider public sector” (Crown Agents, 2006, p. 2) a ‘‘model of partnership” (Crown Agents, 2002) and an example of ‘best practice’ that can be readily transferred to other countries in the South (such as Angola which has recently signed a similar agreement with the company). ‘Success’ in this case is however relative to a very low starting point. There remain some very real concerns about the lack of sustainability with many critics arguing that the maintenance of any gains from the reform remains dependent on foreign aid and ‘expertise’. Overall CA’s relationship to Mozambique is more one of trusteeship than it is of equal partnership.

The considerable resistance CA teams regularly encountered at border points like Ressano Garcia (Squires, 2000) is missing from most accounts of the ‘success’ of the project and there seems to be limited willingness to accept that reform may have increased revenues for the state and clearance times for companies but it has intensified the impoverishment of many Mozambicans who have so few alternatives to earn a living. The transborder networks that supported the war encouraged autonomous and resistant processes of what Duffield (2002) calls ‘actually existing development’, or development that has arisen in the spaces and lacuna created by structural adjustment and globalisation. While the project will relieve traders from the rent-seeking and corruption of Customs officials, the reality is that many small scale traders managed to evade Customs altogether. The cross-border flows which the project has attempted to control and manage are long-standing and there has been considerable resistance to CA’s attempt to dismantle them, leading to a series of acts of ‘fiscal disobedience’ (Roitman, 2004) and several challenges to the authority of CA and Mozambican state agencies. Business interests and trading companies were consulted during the reform process and a public relations section was set up to keep the public informed but there was little attempt to work with informal traders or those whose livelihoods would be negatively impacted and directly affected.

Despite all the talk of local ‘ownership’ the result of the reform process is less not more local capacity to manage the Customs services and a heightened dependence on foreign ‘experts’ and resources. Raising the revenue gathered by Customs is much easier than reducing corruption but the former seems to stand in for the latter. The obsession with ‘modernisation’ is misleading and apolitical, doing little to ensure the better functioning of the services on which Customs rely (e.g. the police, courts or immigration services) and which are crucial to reducing corruption. This is an incredibly technocratic focus, where reform is a question of ‘modernising’ technical procedures and equipment and where the complex politics of corruption is largely ignored. The principal consequence of this is the reproduction of corrupt practices within the Mozambican state. Even DFID has recognised that ‘‘the impact of successful ‘sector-based’ reform, such as we have supported in Customs, will eventually be threatened unless the wider gover- nance environment improves” (DFID, 2004, p. 15). There have been many concerns expressed by local observers that Mozambican sovereignty (in an already weakened state) has been undermined by the project whilst the cultural insensitivity of CA staff, the lack of holistic thinking and the limited links to an overall development strategy have also been widely seen as fundamental flaws in this project.

6. Conclusions: post-colonial geographies of responsibility

‘‘States cannot be made to work from the outside” (Ches- terman et al., 2005, p. 384).

Mozambique is very much a ‘donor darling’ so much so that it has become a testing ground for so called ‘new aid modalities’, such as the sectoral and general budget support provided by DFID, in the context of shifting international debates around aid effectiveness. As McGreal (2006: 2) has put it: ‘‘Mozambique continues to shine in the eyes of Downing street” and is held up as an example of what a combination of free market economics and foreign aid can do for a poor country. Tony Blair made his first and only visit to Mozambique in 2002 because his PR planners believed the country ‘‘represented the best showcase for his commitment to Africa” (Butcher, 2002, p. 2). Similarly in September 2005 Mozambican finance minister Luisa Diogo was invited to address the Labour party conference in Brighton (having endorsed Brown’s Compact for Africa and described him as a ‘‘great friend of Mozambique and of Africa”). Diogo spoke of the Labour party’s ‘‘solidarity and friendship to sisters and brothers all over the world”, and was given a standing ovation when she noted that ‘‘it is not our destiny to be poor” (AIM October 5, 2005). It could be argued then that both DFID and the Commonwealth engage in a process of ‘paradigm maintenance’ around the narration of Mozambique as a post-colonial ‘success story’, as an example of what can be achieved in Africa with successful neoliberalisation. This is despite the extreme level of dependence on aid in Mozambique where one donor mission arrives every day (Killick et al., 2005). The UK regards Mozambique as a ‘strategic development partner’ but also as a rare governance and development success in Africa ‘‘especially after other UK favoured aid recipients in Africa such as Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda have gone sour” (Vines, 2006, p. 6). Such narratives depend on spurious and often contradictory figures15 about Mozambican economic growth rates and overlook the fact that Mozambique relies on $1.2 billion of foreign aid every year and that this constitutes 50% of the state budget. Perhaps then Mozambique is a success story for donors, the elite and Frelimo but whether this is a success story for ordinary Mozambicans remains highly questionable.

President Guebuza has argued that the Commonwealth pro- vides important ‘‘moral and material support” and represents a for- um ‘‘with a great deal of weight and influence in international politics” (AIM December 6, 2005). During his first official visit to the UK in December 2006, Guebuza claimed that ‘‘we depend on what countries like Britain can do for us” (Guebuza cited in McG- real, 2006) and met with the Queen, Hilary Benn, Lord Triesman (former Foreign Office Minister for African Issues) and the Com- monwealth Secretary-General. During the visit Lord Triesman noted that Mozambique had taken ‘enormous steps’ in recent years: ‘‘Mozambique’s commitment to addressing issues is the sort of attitude that others can learn from. . .we intend to underline to the President that we will continue in our commitment to a democratic Mozambique within the Commonwealth, setting an example of what can be achieved in a post-conflict African country.”

Mozambican leaders like Guebuza are depicted as a ‘new breed’ of African politician that Britain wants to align itself with but this faith is perhaps misplaced given the narrow, ‘predatory’ interests of the state and leading families presided over by Guebuza. Donors have a limited awareness of the history of the political parties and state institutions with which they deal in Mozambique as Guebuza has been party to some of Frelimo’s worst abuses, overseeing (for example) ‘Operation Production’, a bungled attempt in 1983 to evacuate unemployed Mozambicans from the cities to the Northern province of Niassa in the middle of winter where many died. Over the past decade he has made a fortune by becoming a ‘‘stakeholder” in large companies by providing foreign investors wanting to do business in Mozambique with a well-connected partner (McGreal, 2006).

The Commonwealth agenda for Africa has many echoes of trusteeship in the way that it implies a sense of responsibility over Africa and constructs the Commonwealth as somehow leading a global project of managing development. The force of Commonwealth ‘experience’ and the ‘moral power’ of its authority are used to justify this global leadership. Here Mozambique seems permanently confined to a state of tutelage, forever under the guardianship of supposedly ‘responsible’ development actors (with their historically accrued niche competencies) where the Commonwealth (and by implication Britain) play the role of adult disciplinarian and provider to Africa’s childhood and adolescence in this very hierarchical Commonwealth ‘family’. The Commonwealth’s apolitical conceptualisation of development is however structured around a reductive repetition that reduces Mozambique to a set of core deficiencies that need externally devised solutions and reduces complex political economies to a set of technical and administrative concerns. The Commonwealth contributes then to the production of Mozambique as a ‘governance state’, focusing on questions of ‘capacity’ whilst ignoring the fundamental causes and consequences of ‘corruption’ and ‘bad’ governance.

Every day Mozambican citizens experience petty administrative corruption at police checkpoints, health institutions, schools and government offices alongside the more serious and larger-scale corruption and state capture that exists right at the uppermost levels of the Mozambican government. Donors like the Common- wealth (and DFID) have however been much less active in exercising their latent leverage in the fight against corruption on behalf of Mozambican citizens. Donors will even turn a blind eye to major corruption allegations and even evidence of electoral fraud in order to maintain this paradigm of ‘success’. De Renzio and Hanlon (2007, p. 13) refer to this as ‘pathological equilibrium’ in which donors accept a certain level of corruption in exchange for policy compliance. The Mozambican state has chosen not to question donor positions too deeply for fear of losing aid or alienating commercial interests but also partly because engaging with aid and the donor community presents opportunities for personal advancements and enrichment. DFID’s country assistance plan even urges the government to ‘‘retain the goodwill of donors” (DFID, 2004, p. 10).

Budget support may increase ‘ownership’ by recipient governments like Mozambique but it might also be seen as introducing donors more deeply into the heart of government (Batley, 2005) meaning that donors are now engaged in all aspects of the policy process, having access to key documents and information and influencing government policy ‘from within’. There has thus been a blurring of ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ in this era of ‘post-conditionality’ (Harrison, 2004) as the institutions and mechanisms of Mozambican governance become increasingly inseparable from the international mechanisms of governance with which they are engaged. The production of ‘governance states’ in Africa and the focus on state capacity as the key to development lays responsibility for the failure of development and structural adjustment at the door of African states themselves and involves an abdication of responsibility by western states and institutions for political decision-making or accountability for outcomes (Chandler, 2006). Despite the talk of ‘empowering’ African states and of ‘partnership’ or of African state ‘leadership’ and ‘country ownership’, responsibility for the failure of African governance reform and ‘development’ has removed the emphasis on external accountability for policy and its outcomes: ‘‘the governance sphere of non- Western states is both the target for Western interventions and the excuse for their rhetoric not being matched by reality” (Chan- dler, 2006, p. 1).

The joint responsibility donors have in Mozambican development means the stakes in maintaining narratives of ‘success’ are now higher than ever. Further, a pattern of accountability to donors (rather than to the centre of government or to the public) has emerged during the last 10 years as donors can dictate the composition, distribution and pace of expansion of government services. Thus, a sense of responsibility for the direction of Mozambican development and reform is articulated by the Commonwealth and DFID at the expense of a sense of responsibility to ordinary Mozambicans. Policy processes around development in Mozambique now involve hundreds of donor and government staff and dozens of committees and subcommittees and Commonwealth membership has only added to this, leading to bureaucratic over- load as Mozambican ministers and officials spend so much time in dealing with donors that they have insufficient time left for their government and party responsibilities. For all the fanfare about donor harmonsiation, co-ordination16 and alignment, at the country level donors are often unable or unwilling to reduce this bureaucratic burden, despite the talk about ‘weak’ state capacity. Thus, the first decade of membership has coincided with a wider erosion of government’s capacity to manage these increasingly complex interactions with the donor collective. As a result of almost two decades of ‘aid subservience’ (De Renzio and Hanlon, 2007) there are fears about the extent to which Mozambique is ‘‘able to express its national sovereignty through a locally defined development strategy” (De Renzio and Hanlon, 2007, p. 5) or has the ability to define an independent position to insist on in negotiations with donors. The sustained structural impact that DFID (or for that matter the Commonwealth) have had on poverty reduction is not readily apparent.

The Commonwealth’s sense of responsibility for directing development and reform in Africa has only reinforced, extended and accelerated the neoliberalisation of Mozambican development around discourses of ‘partnership’ and ‘good governance’. Whatever the rhetoric, Brown’s ‘covenant’ between rich and poor is founded on aspects of the ‘old’ colonialism and more generally it could be argued that the Commonwealth has developed a neocolonial sense of paternalism toward Africa, drawing upon a distinctly British sense of moral obligation and responsibility to the continent. In both cases the meaning of the loss of Britain’s unmourned empire is still pending. Thus, it becomes critical to think about questions of responsibility in relation to the post-colonial and to think about the historical foundations of these senses of moral obligation and responsibility. The good governance agenda articulated by the Commonwealth and DFID has become an increasingly important means of influencing and controlling African states like Mozambique in the interests of the penetration of global capital. The Commonwealth is thus an important vehicle through which Britain competes with other first world countries to secure influence in Africa and it is important to recognise the significant economic benefits that accrue to Britain through Mozambique’s Commonwealth membership as well as the multiple opportunities the development industry creates for Britain, British companies and Britons in Mozambique. The Commonwealth’s contribution to the production of Mozambique as a governance state has facilitated and legitimated particular forms of administration and intervention such as that involving the Customs services reform (overseen by a ‘neocolonial’ British company). In this sense the Commonwealth is in many ways the ‘‘after-sales service of the British Empire” (Marshall cited in Srinivasan, 2005, p. 136). It is also a part of the ideological closure around development in Mozambique and is ultimately responsible for being complicit in the donor-dominated hegemony that forecloses the space for alternatives.


This research has been made possible by a grant from the Nuf- field Foundation. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Royal Geographical Society/Institute of British Geographers conference in London in August 2006 and the University of New- castle Upon Tyne in March 2007. I would also like to thank the edi- tors of this special issue, Pat, Clare and Parvati, for their support and encouragement in preparing this paper and the anonymous referees for their useful comments. The usual disclaimers apply.

1. Biccum (2005) argues that DFID’s Developments magazine is reminiscent of the efforts of the Empire Marketing Board.

2. Gordon Brown first visited Mozambique in December 2004 to meet with former President Joaquim Chissano and announced Britain’s cancellation of all Mozambique’s bilateral debt and that Britain would also pay 10% of the servicing of Mozambique’s debt to the World Bank. Brown noted that Mozambique was ‘‘making notable progress in poverty reduction” and that Britain should ‘‘join in promoting the country’s prosperity” (Brown cited in AIM January 19, 2005).

3. When the Commission published its report in March 2005 the term ‘responsi- bility’ appeared some 65 times, outlining for example ‘‘a historical responsibility to help Africa break free [of colonialism]” (CFA, 2005, p. 86).

4. The impetus for the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) came not from France but from Leopold Senghor of Senegal in 1965, seconded by Presidents Hamani Diori of Niger, Felix Houphouët Boigny of the Ivory Coast and Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia (Srinivasan, 2005). Since Senghor’s original proposal many OIF agencies have looked to the Commonwealth as a reference point. The OIF however has a budget three times the size of that of the Commonwealth.

5. There is little interaction between the governmental and non-governmental commonwealth organisations (e.g. at CHOGMs and Ministerial meetings where they are channelled into parallel conferences and consultation often seems tokenistic).

6. In 2003/2004 Mozambique contributed £69, 632, or 0.59% of the Secretariat budget, £25,000 to the CFTC budget (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2005).

7. The Commonwealth also comprises a number of freestanding bodies such as the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) based in London. The CBC was set up at the 1997 CHOGM to involve the private sector in the promotion of trade and investment.

8. Portuguese mother-tongue speakers represent about 3% of the population of Mozambique whilst around 40% speak/understand the official language (Lopes, 1998).

9. CPLP meetings have even become a point of conflict between Mozambique and Portugal. At the July 2006 CPLP meeting in Bissau city, President Guebuza was very critical of Portugal’s failure to conclude the 2005 agreement for the transfer of ownership of the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi river (the Portuguese state owns 82% of the Cahora Bassa operating company but claimed the transfer needed approval by the EU).

10. The SCFM was replaced in 1994 by the Commonwealth Capacity Building Facility for Mozambique, a technical co-operation project co-funded by AusAID Australia.

11. The Colonial Development Corporation (CDC), now the Commonwealth Devel- opment Corporation, was set up in 1948 but was established as a Public–Private Partnership in 1997 and now focuses on ‘emerging markets’ investing profits into new investments in poor countries. The CDC (which opened its Maputo office in 1995) has worked with the Commonwealth Secretariat to set up special funds to invest in private sector businesses in Commonwealth countries (CDC, 2005).

12. PARPA aims to reduce the incidence of absolute poverty from its 1999 level of 70% to less than 50% by 2010 but beyond Maputo ‘ownership’ of PARPA remains narrow and shallow (DFID, 2004). The Government has also set up a Poverty Observatory (PO) as a tool for government and its ‘partners’ to follow up the implementation of PARPA.

13. The port of Maputo was in 2004 leased out by the Mozambique Port Development Company (MPDC) for an initial 15-year period to a consortium led by Britain’s Mersey Docks and Harbour Company. Rui Fonseca, chair of the publicly-owned ports and rail company CFM recently described this as ‘‘completely wrong” and a ‘‘serious mistake” noting that the lease had been ‘‘imposed on Mozambique by foreign interests” and that the MPDC is not paying the agreed rent to CFM for its lease (AIM November 7, 2007).

14. The CDC was involved in the construction of the US$ 1.3 billion MOZAL aluminium smelter at Beluluane (near Maputo) that began in 2000 with CDC loan capital. This ‘mega-project’ has required an investment equal to 50% of GDP but only employs 1200 Mozambicans whilst the state receives only 4% of the dividends distributed.

15. Many of these figures take no account of the extent of Mozambican impover- ishment during the war or seem to acknowledge the low starting point from which the Mozambican economy has grown. Most of the GDP increase has been driven by a small number of ‘mega-projects’ (with few jobs created for Mozambicans) such as the Mozal aluminium project and much of this growth is focused along the Maputo corridor.

16. DFIDs development thinking was not so ‘joined up’ during the floods in Mozambique in 2000 however with lengthy delays in aid delivery because of petty squabbles between UK government Departments (The MoD, DFID & FCO) over questions of responsibility.


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Agência de Informação de Moçambique (AIM), January 19, 2005. Britain scraps Mozambique’s debt. AIM Bulletin 291.

Agência de Informação de Moçambique (AIM), October 5, 2005. Labour Party gives Luisa Diogo warm welcome. AIM Bulletin 306.

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