How Mozambique's Guns Were Silenced

Intense diplomatic pressure from neighboring countries and a cutoff of outside arms supplies made the Oct. 4 peace treaty between government and rebel forces possible

ON Oct. 4, a summit between Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano and rebel leader Afonso Dhlakama resulted in the settlement of all outstanding issues remaining in negotiations to end Mozambique's 16-year-old civil war. A peace treaty was signed in Rome, giving the first realistic hope - after two years of negotiations - the world's poorest nation will see an end to a conflict which has caused 1 million deaths and created 4.5 million refugees.

The settlement of Mozambique's civil war has its origins in domestic power ratios, international developments, and the hard work of a competent group of peace facilitators.

As early as 1984 it was apparent that neither the government nor the Renamo rebel group could win the war outright. For several years, however, this mutual ability to deny victory lent no urgency to the peace process.

In December 1989, South African President Frederik de Klerk, eager to begin the reform process at home, visited Mr. Chissano in Maputo. He reaffirmed his government's opposition to funding Renamo (unlike his predecessor, P. W. Botha) and stated that Pretoria was committed to preventing aid provided by private South Africans from reaching the rebels. Mr. De Klerk's high-profile statements caused Renamo to fear an independent future.

By early 1990, as the Soviet Union disengaged from many of its overseas commitments, the Mozambican government also faced the loss of much of its foreign military assistance. The loss of external support to both combatants was coupled with a southern African peace dynamic triggered by the December 1988 Angola-Namibia accords. These factors, reinforced by South Africa's liberalization in February 1990, made Mozambique's conflict ripe for resolution.

The first of an eventual 12 rounds of peace talks began in Rome in July 1990, but progress was slow. Renamo, a predominantly military organization, seemed to have difficulty forming its objectives. In addition, the rebels were thrown off balance by Maputo's "Mozambican perestroika," a program that effectively satisfied most of Renamo's demands.

The rebels, apparently not politically or financially prepared for the transition to becoming a political party, began a series of delaying tactics.

Despite roadblocks put up by Renamo and harsh government rhetoric that hindered reconciliation, the peace process acquired momentum. Both parties found themselves under pressure from southern African, American, and European governments to finish what they had started.

BY March of this year, government and Renamo negotiating teams had agreed to three protocols scheduled to take effect upon the signing of a general peace agreement. From March to August, however, the combatants remained deadlocked on several issues and thus were unable to proceed to a cease-fire and preparation for an election.

From Aug. 5 to 7 in Rome, Chissano and Mr. Dhlakama met for the first time in a summit that demonstrated the importance of effective mediation. Over the preceding two years, Italian and Mozambican Catholic mediators in Rome had done a commendable job. They were, however, not in a position to bring political pressure to bear on the warring parties.

At the Rome summit, a diverse group of public and private players pushed the government and Renamo to peace terms. President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, whose landlocked country has been badly hurt by the Mozambican war, was the key figure. During a marathon session that ended in the early hours of Aug. 7, he exerted intense pressure on Dhlakama to agree to a cease-fire.

0Later that day, Chissano and Dhlakama made a joint declaration of intent to solve all remaining issues by October. In mid-September, several persisting matters were settled and a treaty-signing ceremony was planned for Oct. 1. Dhlakama, however, got cold feet. Influenced by the recent poor showing of Angola's former rebel group UNITA in that country's post-war election, the rebel leader made a new set of demands.

Renewed mediation by Mr. Mugabe and by South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha again pushed Dhlakama toward compromise. Renamo will be permitted to retain their bases during the transition leading to elections in 1993, but government troops may patrol territory up to five kilometers from the camps.

If Oct. 4, 1992, is to be a historic day for Mozambique, it will have to mark the start of a difficult rebuilding process. To ensure that this reconstruction is not interrupted (or worse yet, dashed) by renewed fighting, the government and Renamo must enact confidence-building measures. A good place to start is a joint request to the international community for reconstruction aid. The presence of UN peacekeeping forces will also be stabilizing, but the UN's financial woes could hinder this key step.

There are several lessons to be learned from the process that seems likely to bring peace to Mozambique. First, the cessation of external assistance to combatants is an important step. Second, a stable balance of power between two adversaries cannot by itself end war; diplomatic pressure must be brought to bear on the antagonists. Third, in a world of numerous civil conflicts, a new mechanism must be found to finance UN peacekeeping operations. The proposition that member nations allocate donations from their (often untouchable) defense budgets is entirely proper.

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