Mozambique rulers celebrate Marxist roots, in style

Sun Sep 30, 2012 11:04am GMT

By Marina Lopes

PEMBA, Mozambique (Reuters) - It was billed as a celebration of its socialist revolution, but when Mozambique's ruling Frelimo party marked its 50th birthday this week, Marx came a distant second to Money.

Reflecting their anti-colonial, revolutionary roots, Frelimo leaders pointedly chose a venue in the untamed corner of southern Africa where half a century ago guerrillas launched the uprising that would lead to independence from Portugal in 1975.

But beyond the symbolism of the location, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, the obligatory use of "Comrade" and the AK-47 rifle that still adorns the national flag, everything at the party congress pointed to the huge wealth accruing to the political elite in the fast-growing energy producer.

The venue itself was a lavish complex of VIP reception rooms and cavernous dining areas, set amid a village of apartment units, two on-site banks and a hospital clinic for 2,000 guests.

Just to the north lies the Rovuma Basin, where U.S. energy firm Anadarko and Italy's Eni are exploring some of the world's biggest untapped natural gas reserves - an estimated 130 trillion cubic feet, or enough to supply Western Europe for over a decade.

To some of Mozambique's 23 million people, the talk of "revolutionary war" by Frelimo leader and President Armando Guebuza - known as "Mr. Guebusiness" on account of his huge commercial interests - rings hollow.

"It is absurd to spend $8 million on a week-long conference when people are starving a block away," said Rudiger Franck, a hotel owner and Frelimo party member in Pemba, the run-down seaside town that hosted the seven-day jamboree.

"It gives the impression that the party has lost touch with the reality of life for most of its members."   Continued...

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