Salvaging Peace In Mozambique

SUSTAINED international attention plus diplomatic leverage is needed to secure the peace in Mozambique. Africa's most devastating war has raged there for 15 years. A peace accord was signed between the opposition Renamo rebels and the Mozambique government on Oct. 4, 1992; amazingly the cease-fire has held. But examples in Angola and Cambodia show how difficult the move is from peace agreement to peace itself. In both these countries one party to the United Nations-brokered peace agreement has returned t o the battlefield and tried to sabotage the process. In Angola this happened after UNITA lost the first round of elections; in Cambodia the Khmer Rouge picked up their weapons again even before the elections.

The civil war in Mozambique has left hundreds of thousands dead and caused five million Mozambicans to flee their homes. About one third of this number found refuge in neighboring countries. This carnage and devastation was inflicted on a nation already desperate and poor. Many observers doubted a peace agreement could be reached with the undisciplined and unpredictable rebels. When the 50-page agreement was signed nine months ago, largely brokered by a Catholic group based in Italy, most Mozambicans and

international experts questioned whether the cease-fire would hold.

Almost miraculously the guns on both sides fell silent and the cease-fire has been observed. But almost none of the other provisions of the agreement has been implemented and the whole agreement could collapse. A recent conference of 45 experts on Mozambique organized by the United States Institute of Peace noted with alarm the precarious nature of the situation and warned that without major efforts, the Angola experience could be tragically repeated in Mozambique.

The withdrawal of foreign troops sent by Zimbabwe and Malawi, mandated in the agreement, has only recently been completed. The demobilization of government and Renamo forces and the formation of a new integrated national army, which should have been completed by now, has yet to commence. Elections originally scheduled for October have been postponed for 9 to 12 months because of the delays in demobilization. Although 100,000 refugees have returned home on their own, a program of repatriation for the rema ining refugees has only recently been formulated by the international community.

The slow deployment of 6,000 UN peacekeeping troops and monitoring officials - they arrived only in May - was a major cause of delay. Military demobilization and several other provisions of the agreement depend upon UN involvement. In addition, Renamo has been reluctant to emerge from its bases in the bush and fully participate in the various peace commissions mandated by the peace agreement. The Mozambique government has demonstrated some ambivalence toward UN peacekeeping and has been reluctant to gran t full freedom of movement and other forms of support to UN forces.

Remarkably, both government and Renamo troops have been well disciplined during these months of waiting, and some spontaneous reconciliation between the two armies has occurred. At the moment, neither side is threatening to pull out of the peace process. But the situation remains tenuous. The history of anger, suffering and animosity is sufficiently strong that friction could develop and fighting could re-ignite the war. The international community needs to live up to its original commitments and adopt c reative additional measures to implement the peace agreement and bring a stable peace to Mozambique.

With the full deployment of UN troops, the UN has begun to make up for some of the lost time. A recent international donors conference has increased the amount of promised financial assistance for reconstruction. For its part, the Mozambique government has undertaken consultations to prepare for drafting an electoral law, and several political parties have met the official registration requirements. The government has also agreed to adopt more flexible attitudes toward UN troop movements and customs clea rance.

The Mozambique experts at the conference agreed these initial steps need to be augmented and accelerated. Progress must be made immediately, while both parties remain committed. The program to repatriate refugees must gain momentum. Military demobilization of both government and Renamo forces is the prerequisite to progress on most other provisions of the peace accord.

Job training and a resettlement program should be launched to assist with military demobilization. International expertise needs to be offered with election planning to help design an alternative to the winner-take-all electoral system that undermined peace in Angola.

Longer term economic assistance is required from the international community so that Mozambique can develop its rich land and valuable natural resources and lift itself above the desperate poverty that provided the original seedbed for armed conflict. Peace in Mozambique will help assure a peaceful transition to post-apartheid society in neighboring South Africa, and hence South Africa ought to assist Mozambique through investment, aid, and technical assistance.

To salvage the peace process, the international community needs to applaud the commitment to peace demonstrated by the Mozambique government and Renamo, but also combine technical, financial and military support with leverage on the two parties to push them toward greater accommodation.

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