THE two major parties to the Mozambican peace accord have joined Western diplomats in welcoming a decision by the United Nations Security Council to establish a 7,500-strong peacekeeping operation to oversee the cease-fire and supervise the first democratic elections by the end of next year.
UN special envoy Aldo Ajello, who has spent most of the past month in New York lobbying support for the plan, said yesterday that the first 2,000 troops would begin arriving next month in the central provinces of Sofala and Manica, strongholds of the former rebel Mozambique National Resistance Movement (Renamo).
At the same time, international donors, meeting in Rome Tuesday, pledged $320 million in response to a $400 million government appeal to help Mozambique care for an estimated 1 million returning refugees, integrate demobilized former rebels, and establish a new electoral system.
Mozambique has been reduced to one of the world's poorest countries after 17 years of civil war and a severe drought.
The UN operation will protect and repair key road and rail corridors stretching inward from the ports, remove mines, and destroy superfluous weaponry. The mission is 10 times the size of the UN monitoring operation in Angola, where the two major adversaries in that country's first democratic election in September have returned to hostilities.
"This is very good news," says a Western diplomat in Maputo. "The international community will have more resources and more authority to ensure the process goes smoothly here."
A successful 1989 UN peacekeeping operation in Namibia supervised that country's independence elections and paved the way for the UN's rapidly expanding role in southern Africa.
"There is a growing tendency in southern Africa to see the UN as the best means of keeping the peace while conflicts are resolved by political means," says John Barratt, director of the South African Institute of International Relations. "I am just concerned that the UN could over-extend itself and get stuck in conflicts which cannot be resolved quickly and will prove to be beyond the UN's financial means."
In Angola, a 700-strong UN operation was sent to monitor elections but lacked the resources and authority to achieve a military demobilization.
"Clearly, the UN has learned from the Angola experience where it tried to do things on the cheap with disastrous results," says Professor Andre Thomashausen, a professor of constitutional law at the University of South Africa and a constitutional adviser to Renamo.
Mozambique's Oct. 4 peace accord, the product of two years of negotiations in Rome, provides for the demobilization of the opposing armies of the ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) and Renamo.
Professor Thomashausen says Renamo, which still operates from the bush, would welcome the Security Council decision.
The arrival of the UN peacekeeping force will facilitate the withdrawal of about 5,000 Zimbabwean troops that have been guarding the strategic Beira road and rail corridor which is land-locked Zimbabwe's life-line to the Indian Ocean.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who has been a key mediator between Renamo President Alfonso Dhlakama and Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, met Mr. Dhlakama in Harare Dec. 10 and brokered a meeting between him and President Chissano. In his state-of-the-nation address to Parliament on Wednesday, President Chissano said Dhlakama had "promised he would not allow Renamo forces to commit cease-fire violations."
In terms of the UN plan, Italy will supervise arrangements for Mozambique's first democratic elections by the end of 1993. But UN envoy Ajello told the Monitor he would strongly resist any attempts to embark on the political process until the opposing armies had been fully demobilized.
Demobilization remains a difficult issue for the UN also in Angola, where two rival armies have yet to encamp under the terms of that country's peace accord.
Since the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola won the first democratic ballot at the end of September, the country has lurched from one crisis to another amid nationwide conflict.
US deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Geoffrey Davidow arrived in Luanda yesterday. The Security Council has agreed to maintain a UN presence in Angola until Jan. 31.