UNDP Engagement in the Police and Judicial Reform in Mozambique


After becoming independent from Portugal in 1975, Mozambique, led by the Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (Frelimo), witnessed structural transformation from a colonial state into a modern socialist society. Shortly after, the party Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (Renamo) led an insurgency that slipped into a 15 year long civil war, at the end of which the armed forces were devastated. In 1990, Mozambique adopted a new constitution that transformed the political system and oversight of the security sector. The war ended with the signature of the General Peace Agreement in 1992, supervised by a United Nations peacekeeping force (UNOMOZ).

Later on, the Defense and Security Act (17/97) established a basic legal and institutional framework for the military, police, and intelligence services, but no similar framework was created for the Polícia da República de Moçambique (PRM). It is currently under the Ministry of Interior and is composed of several units: the National Police, the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC), the Special and Reserve Forces (Rapid Reaction Police), the immigration and border police, and the independent traffic police.

A new judiciary police body with investigative powers, the Polícia Judiciária, was also proposed in order to tackle the deficient interface between the PIC and the Public Prosecution Office (PPC), but the idea was blocked by the police.

Entry Point

The crime rate increased after the end of the civil war, leading the public to perceive the PRM as inefficient and corrupt. This pushed a group of international donors to form the Police Donor Group (PDG) in 1996. The PDG, working through UNDP, proposed a police reform agenda to the government of Mozambique. UNDP coordinated the activities of others in a project aimed at transforming the PRM into an accountable service, retraining existing officers through a new police academy (ACIPOL) and a police academy Training Centre, and afterwards integrating the new cadets with the old PRM police.

The UNDP also initiated a judicial and penal reform in order to strengthen the Centre for Legal and Judicial Training (CFJJ), the national institution aimed at training and retaining all judicial personnel, to address the sector’s weaknesses, rehabilitate the court infrastructure, and to develop an integrated strategic plan for the justice sector.

Lessons Identified

Neutrality in the management of propositions– UNDP acted as an impartial coordinator of the programme, managing the reform in the areas in which the government was opposed to external involvement and third party actors did not want to engage on a bilateral basis.

Support in the development of SSR tools – the supporting role of UNDP to the government and the international donor community in Mozambique was implemented through the facilitation of research and drafting of SSR reports and analyses, needs assessments, and policy recommendations. The UNDP approach to SSR combined the same standards and principles which apply to the rest of the public sector’s unique characteristics, ensuring a sustainable reform process.  This has been a first step in addressing a change in the institutions’ cultures.

Common guidance – all judicial institutions stated that even following their specific strategic plan, they were following a general guidance, provided by UNDP, for the design and the implementation of their annual plans. The common supervision generated a more holistic system with the result of an increase of 30% in the resolution of pending cases, according to the 2004 President’s report on the State of Nation.


According to two external evaluations commissioned by UNDP and the Swiss government the police reform in Mozambique still faces some problems. The Swiss report highlighted improvements in the police’ protection of human rights, but the biggest challenges facing Mozambique’s police reform are corruption, lack of adequate training programmes, legislative gaps, the absence of a long-term planning capacity, the need for legislation regarding police involvement in natural disaster management, and the need for a change of attitude with respect to domestic violence and HIV-AIDS interventions.

The evaluations about the judicial reform are also mixed. In 2005 the President of the Supreme Court stated that in the previous year the courts performed more efficiently and effectively, but the practice of each institution adopting a strategic plan without coordinating with the others created a reform project difficult to manage for all actors.

Despite external evaluations stressing the need for more reform, the involvement of UNDP stands out as a case of building local trust and political engagement thanks to its neutral stance during the reform process. As a mediator between Mozambique’s government and donors, UNDP was able to provide common guidance for police and judicial institutions.


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