Lessons for Afghanistan from Mozambique
After a 16-year civil war, Mozambique's transition to peace and a booming economy could be a model for Afghans.
Almost everyone here was touched by Mozambique's 16-year civil war losing a brother, a daughter, or a friend. And all remember the starvation and hardship of those brutal years.Skip to next paragraph
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But in the almost 10 years of peace, the bombed-out shells of ambushed cars and abandoned, bullet-marked buildings have been mostly cleared away. People have returned to the daily tasks of living. Children recite lessons in humble, but operational schools, and corn grows in small, family plots that feed millions who depended for years on international charity.
As the world works to reconstruct Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, the United Nations Development Program says Mozambique, which a decade ago made a successful transition to peace and is now one of the region's fastest-growing economies, may be the best model for rebuilding the war-torn Central Asian nation.
A UN-brokered peace agreement in 1992 ended the conflict between Mozambique's Marxist government and foreign-backed rebels. Since then, Mozambique has become a stable, democratic nation with free, multiparty elections, an integrated Army, and double-digit economic growth. But, most important, there is peace.
"I think one of the reasons that peace has lasted here is because there was a national will, a national commitment," says Marylene Spezzati, UN resident coordinator in Mozambique. "People are highly committed and have stayed to work for and consolidate peace.... That gives the international community confidence."
That commitment to peace is something the Afghans can emulate, says UNDP administrator Mark Malloch Brown, who has been appointed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to lead the recovery effort in Afghanistan.
Although there are barriers to successful peace building in Afghanistan such as ethnic rivalries, fundamentalist religious powers, and the presence of regional strongmen, not present in post-war Mozambique aid experts say the Southern African country can offer a model for how to channel international aid into a successful economic and political reconstruction program.
Like the Afghanistan of today, Mozambique 10 years ago was a virtual wasteland. Schools and health clinics were in ruin. Fields lay dormant, and the few roads that had not washed away were littered with land mines. An estimated 6 to 7 million weapons one for every three Mozambiquans and more than a million landmines were scattered around the country.
In the period immediately after peace, Mozambique successfully integrated the defeated rebels into an interim government and demilitarized the country. Soldiers from the two warring factions worked side-by-side to remove landmines and rebuild roads, as the rebels transformed themselves from guerrillas into politicians. The peace process culminated with general elections in 1994, for which a stunning 90 percent of the population turned out to vote.
TODAY, the former rebels still fight the government, but their battles are limited to verbal spats in parliament and biting critiques in the national media.