NINE months after the signing of a peace accord in Rome, Mozambique's United Nations-sponsored transition to democracy is bogged down in delays and political posturing - provoking comparisons to the collapse of a similar accord in Angola following elections in September of last year.
"When it was signed last year the peace agreement looked like a good thing," says Lt. Col. Carlos Agostinho do Rosario, commander of government forces in Zambezia Province. "But now it seems to be unraveling and going in a contrary direction."
Colonel do Rosario's comments reflect a growing frustration here that the peace agreement, which ended 16 years of civil war, is in danger of coming apart unless urgent steps are taken to give the process momentum.
It appears that the UN effort in Mozambique, although at a relatively early stage, is starting to suffer from the same kind of difficulties that have troubled UN operations in countries such as Angola, Somalia, and Cambodia (Lessons of Mozambique, Page 20).
Delays in the deployment of the UN peacekeeping force in Mozambique, the failure to begin the demobilization of troops, and brinkmanship and boycotts by the rebel Mozambican Resistance Movement (Renamo) have already caused the original election target date of October this year to be delayed by 12 months.
The 7,500-strong UN peacekeeping mission is now fully deployed, and troops from five countries, led by Italy and Bangladesh, are guarding the country's major transport corridors. But some international observers and Western diplomats are questioning the feasibility of holding the country's first democratic ballot even in October 1994 unless military demobilization begins soon and proceeds swiftly.
Although the peace has held, there is growing dissatisfaction in the ranks of the Army of the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo). And the Renamo rebels, seeking to buy time to make the transition from a rebel army to a political organ-ization, are beginning to make unrealistic political demands.
The most recent of these is the demand by Renamo President Afonso Dhlakama that President Joaquim Chissano should appoint provincial governors from the ranks of Renamo - a demand that falls outside the peace accord.
Western diplomats say that General Dhlakama is beginning to come to terms with the prospect of losing a democratic ballot but only if he can ensure that Renamo retains control of the four central provinces - Sofala, Manica, Tete, and Zambezia.
In provinces like Zambezia, a movement of some 1 million people is taking place as refugees return from neighboring Malawi and peasants displaced by war return from towns and cities to their places of origin, such as isolated Renamo-held towns like Derre and Frelimo-held Morrumbala.
UN special envoy Aldo Ajello, who met with Mr. Dhlakama at his bush headquarters in Meringue on July 22, concedes that the administration issue needs to be settled before the peace process can proceed smoothly.
"If we can solve the problems of administration, then I think all other problems will become easier to solve," Mr. Ajello says. "Despite the accumulative delays I think we could still have an election by October 1994."
According to UN officials, the long-awaited meeting between Dhlakama and Mr. Chissano is due to take place soon, possibly as early as Aug. 6.
There are high expectations in political and diplomatic circles that the Dhlakama-Chissano meeting could help build trust between the two adversaries and boost the ailing peace process.
Renamo officials reject accusations that their call for governors to be appointed from their ranks is a bid to delay or sabotage the peace process but rather a step to promote reconciliation, national unity, and mutual trust.
"Chissano should accept the appointment of governors from our ranks," says Renamo Secretary-General Vicente Ululu, who now operates from neat offices in a renovated house in Maputo.
There was a glimmer of hope on July 28 when Renamo finally agreed to supply the UN with details of its troop strength and weaponry, one of several obstacles delaying the commencement of demobilization.
The demobilization of troops, due to have been completed by April according to the Rome time-table, has not yet begun. The UN has approved 29 assembly points. Six are ready to receive soldiers, and a further six will be ready soon.
Despite the gloom in diplomatic and political circles, many Mozambicans are hopeful that a lasting peace is still possible.
"I think Renamo is to blame for the delays in demobilization, but there is also a positive side to the delays," says Sgt. Maj. Philipe Fernandez, an artillery instructor at the Catembe base south of Maputo, which has been prepared as one of 49 assembly areas.
"Both sides must know and understand their rights before demobilization proceeds.... We are all tired of war, and we want to put it behind us," he says.