Lessons from S. Africa, Angola

Mozambique, under international pressure, grapples with the idea of power-sharing

MOUNTING international pressure on President Joaquim Chissano to emulate South Africa's example of a power-sharing arrangement with his main rival before this fall's elections has sparked a heated controversy here.

Mr. Chissano's ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) has in the past received encouragement from the United Nations for embarking on a negotiated settlement with the former rebel army of the Mozambican National Resistance Movement (Renamo), lead by Afonso Dhlakama.

Now Frelimo is feeling the heat of international pressure while Renamo, once an international pariah, is building a political movement from the proceeds of a UN-administered $19-million trust fund.

Mr. Dhlakama, keen to improve his international image and credibility, has seized the political advantage by committing Renamo to a government of national unity in the unlikely event that he wins Mozambique's first democratic elections on Oct. 27-28.

Chissano, who appears to be confident of victory, is hampered by hard-line elements in his Cabinet whose positions of power and privilege could be threatened under a power-sharing arrangement.

Diplomats worry that a post-electoral power-struggle - similar to the one that plunged Angola into renewed civil war after elections in 1992 - could destabilize the country. Yet they have to tread cautiously since the UN mandate does not stipulate a power-sharing arrangement.

Political tensions between the government and the international community finally erupted following a recent speech by US Ambassador Dennis Jett.

Without pointing a finger at particular parties, Ambassador Jett posed a series of questions regarding demobolization of the rival armies and training of the new national army that the pro-government media interpreted as an attack on Frelimo.

The question that brought the debate to the boil was: ``Has stability been ensured by making the arrangements necessary to share power, or is stability threatened by those who only seek to accumulate power?''

Against this backdrop, South Africa President Nelson Mandela arrived on a state visit to Mozambique July 20 to lend his support to the peace process and pursue his strategy of promoting regional stability.

His most powerful message was unspoken: Mozambique could learn from South Africa, where an inclusive government of national unity defused unmanageable conflict after the April elections.

Mr. Mandela's stature - and the timing of his visit - have put the question of a power-sharing agreement beyond reproach and have strengthened Chissano's hand in relation to the vested interests wanting to retain the status quo. Sensitive over the power-sharing issue, Chissano's ranks tried unsuccessfully to prevent a brief meeting between Dhlakama and Mandela.

The compelling argument for an arrangement to divide the spoils and accommodate the losers is starting to rub off on a government still grappling with its undemocratic past. In a country where about 200 international aid and development organizations account for more than 60 percent of the gross national product, the ruling elite of one of the world's poorest countries is learning that it has little option but to hear sound advice.

``The war is over, but the conflict will continue unless there is a government of reconciliation,'' says Irae Lundin, a social anthropologist who advises the Chissano government. ``That is how South Africa has maintained social order after the election, and it is the way conflict is defused in traditional African society.''

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Lessons from S. Africa, Angola
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today