Mozambicans in the Spotlight

Mozambique examines the lessons of Angola's failed peace, but says the lesson is UN's to learn

MOZAMBICANS, relative newcomers to the international spotlight, are already learning that there is a price tag attached to the world's newfound interest in their country.

They have already begun to anticipate a stock question from visiting journalists: Aren't you afraid that the peace process in Mozambique will end up like it did in Angola?

Answers vary from a definitive "yes" to a definitive "no," but everybody has one.

"Sometimes I am more pessimistic about Mozambique than I am about Angola," says Lt. Col. Carlos Agostinho do Rosario, commander of government forces in Zambezia Province. "At least Angola had an election, but we can't even reach agreement on an electoral law," he says.

Secretary-General of the Renamo rebel movement Vicente Ululu says the key to avoiding a repetition of Angola is to ensure the creation of a new national army before elections are held.

Others are more optimistic.

"I don't believe we will follow the fate of Angola," says Adalberto Ossene, Renamo's top provincial delegate in Zambezia.

"[Renamo President Afonso] Dhlakama says he is not like [Angolan opposition leader Jonas] Savimbi," Mr. Ossene says. "He does not want to go back to war."

For now Mozambicans seem flattered with all the attention bestowed on their country, recovering from years of civil war and famine. To many it seems they suddenly have become the center of world attention.

"One has to try to bring home to the Mozambicans that this is one of many UN peacekeeping operations, which have stretched the world body's capacity to the limit, and that it cannot remain here indefinitely," says one exasperated UN official.

But Mozambicans are benefiting from the lessons of the Angolan disaster, which has been widely blamed on the UN and the international community for failing to ensure a proper demobilization of troops.

"I think that [what happened in Angola] should be a lesson for the United Nations," says Antonio Alfandega, district administrator of Morrumbala in Zambezia province.

As in Angola, at this stage of the process, the Renamo rebels are more comforted by the UN presence than their counterparts in the Frelimo government.

On balance, Mozambicans seem well-disposed toward the motley range of soldiers from Italy, Bangladesh, India, Uruguay, Japan, Botswana, and Zambia.

"It's good news and bad news," says Maputo taxi driver Arlindo Pindula. "It's good for business, but bad for rentals and prices generally," he says.

The presence of the 7,500 UN peacekeepers - including about 1,000 technical staff and monitors - has already begun making its familiar mark in a Mozambican capital bursting back to life.

The UN administrative staff has taken over one of Maputo's major hotels. Another has been taken over by the UN to house officials of Renamo who have long set accommodation in the capital as a precondition for emerging from their bush headquarters in Sofala Province. This has pushed hotel rates in the capital to unprecedented levels - $120 to $250 per night.

Given that an ordinary soldier earns less than the equivalent of $10 per month, it is not surprising that Mozambicans have mixed feelings about the sudden influx of international officials.

"It is remarkable how Mozambican attitudes toward the outside world ... have opened up in the past nine months," said one Maputo-based aid worker.

"They are really developing a sense of being part of the world."

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