The Difficulties of Donor Coordination: Police and Judicial Reform in Mozambique

Anica Lalá, Laudemiro Francisco


After over a decade of SSR assistance in Mozambique coordinated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), what lessons have been – or could be – learned? This chapter considers the UNDP’s SSR activities in Mozambique from the organisation’s initial involvement during the last stages of the DDR programme to the beginning of 2005. It finds that a fragmented approach to police and judicial reform missed opportunities for mutual reinforcement and undermined sustainability. Managerial reform should be prioritised and short-term programme cycles extended.

The Polícia da República de Moçambique (PRM) has a staff of 20,000 to police 18 million people. In 2003, despite the absence of a legislative framework, the government approved basic regulations and a strategic plan for the PRM. However, deep managerial deficiencies and other institutional weaknesses impede its implementation. The PRM is seen as corrupt and inefficient, and unable to deal with increasing organised crime.

The formal justice system lacks trained staff, is confined to urban centres, and is too costly to be widely affordable. Most people rely on informal justice mechanisms. In relation to criminal justice, police investigations do not meet prosecutorial requirements, and with 73 percent of the prison population awaiting trial, the penal system is overwhelmed.

In 1996 a group of international donors sought UNDP assistance (as a neutral body) to manage SSR in Mozambique. Police reform was undertaken in three phases, and in parallel to judicial and penal reform:

  • Phase one (1997-2000): This focused on training and retraining and the provision of basic physical infrastructure, but did not develop an overall strategy or vision and left managerial structures untouched.
  • Phase two (2000-2003): This continued training activities, produced a strategic plan for the police (2003-2012), and planned to integrate ‘old’ police with newly trained cadets.
  • Phase three (2004-2007): This focused on modernising management, and planned to integrate the PRM into a new system of public order and security and to restructure criminal investigations.
  • Judicial and penal reform: This aimed to strengthen the national judicial training institution and to improve court infrastructure. A third aim of developing a strategic plan for the justice sector was dropped as it duplicated another agency’s programme.

Mozambique’s reform programmes were fragmented: military reform, demobilisation and police reform were not linked; police and judicial reform were addressed separately; and parliamentary and media programmes were not integrated with SSR. The initial lack of attention to the judicial sector allowed corruption to become established. Mozambique’s SSR programme still lacks an integrated implementation plan capable of coordinating the activities of different government bodies and international donors. Further:

  • Establishing greater police accountability and oversight is very important, yet the UNDP programmes omitted concrete accountability or oversight processes.
  • The militarised policing model was not challenged early enough.
  • The UNDP country office played an important role in acquiring knowledge and expertise that exceeded that of UN headquarters. However, lessons learned by the UNDP in Mozambique do not seem to have been disseminated throughout the organisation.

SSR programme design must begin with an awareness of other SSR initiatives and the possibility that programming in one area will affect the other areas. Both planning and implementation need to allow for flexibility. Key recommendations are that:

  • An overall vision must guide the selection of complementary, mutually reinforcing entry points in different security institutions.
  • The central role of management in SSR should be recognised. Too often, managerial reform is omitted, and training programmes focus on numerical outputs instead of impact, failing to affect staff members’ subsequent performance.
  • Short-term programme cycles must be extended. Time is needed to acquire appropriate local and international staff and to build trust with the government in order to reduce resistance to reform.


Lalá, A. and Francisco, L., 2008, 'The Difficulties of Donor Coordination: Police and Judicial Reform in Mozambique', in Managing Insecurity: Field Experiences of Security Sector Reform, eds. G. Peake, E. Scheye and A. Hills, Routledge, Abingdon / New York, pp.77-94