US Seeks End to Mozambique War
Angola pact and more-moderate South Africa leave opening for government talks with rebels. FOREIGN POLICY
PEACE talks in Angola's civil war and South Africa's desire to improve relations with its neighbors may have opened the doors for peace in Mozambique. ``The whole regional climate has made it less sensitive to talk'' to your opponents, says Chester Crocker, former assistant secretary of state for Africa. ``In an era of peacemaking, it is easier for people to make concessions, to reach out,'' says Mr. Crocker, who mediated last year's Angola-Namibia peace accords as well as a failed 1984 agreement between Mozambique and South Africa.Skip to next paragraph
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United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen is on a swing through southern Africa. Exploring the possibilities for fostering peace in Mozambique is a top item on his agenda.
If invited, the Bush administration is very interested in helping, officials say. The US would not be a central player, they suggest, but it could facilitate a dialogue between Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo) rebels, the Mozambique government, and South Africa, which has been Renamo's main backer. Washington also could eventually help build international guarantees needed for a settlement.
The US is pressing South Africa to cut off aid to Renamo and last year issued a report accusing Renamo of responsibility for the deaths of up to 100,000 civilians. Washington is the largest donor of food aid to Mozambique.
US specialists in and out of the government say the parties have entered a ``feeling out'' period. Emissaries have passed messages between Renamo and the Marxist government, headed by the Frelimo Party (Mozambique Liberation Front). Mozambique and South Africa also have engaged in direct talks and have renewed cooperation on such projects as a major hydroelectric dam.
After consulting the government, for example, the Mozambican Christian Council recently offered a peace plan similar to one discussed in failed 1984 talks and reportedly had fruitful contacts with several Renamo representatives outside the country.
Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano welcomed last month's cease-fire accords in Angola's civil war as a possible example for Mozambique and asked Renamo to follow suit. He also sought United Nations support for efforts to start a dialogue.
Renamo spokesmen welcomed the government's overtures. But they said any cease-fire has to be mutual, not unilateral as the government suggests. Renamo's Washington spokesmen, Luis Serapio, says talks have to be among equal partners with out preconditions. The government is offering dialogue about ending the fighting and potentially about the conditions of amnesty for Renamo members, Mozambican officials say. But it is not willing to agree to power-sharing negotiations, they say.
US specialists say it remains to be seen whether South Africa is willing to fully give up Renamo - its lever for destabilizing Mozambique - and bless peace talks.
If a dialogue with rebels is to begin, the Mozambique government also has to find authoritative Renamo representatives. ``There are a lot of people on the outside who claim to speak in the name of Renamo,'' says a well-informed US specialist, ``but it is far from clear who is genuinely close to Renamo's inside decisionmakers or how united they are.'' Finally, the Mozambican government will have to offer enough political liberalization and other incentives to woo key Renamo players.
Mozambique has been ravaged by more than a decade of war between the Frelimo government and the Renamo rebels, who have long benefited from support by South African military intelligence.
Mozambique's rebels have much less international legitimacy and a less clear political identity than those in Angola, which the US backs. But Renamo has been very effective militarily. While neither side can win the war, US specialists say, more than 80 percent of the country is ungovernable. The economy and society are in ruins.