Mozambique is not only one of the world’s poorest countries; it also has been home to one of the world’s longest-lasting rebel conflicts. On Tuesday, however, the southern African nation claimed a much better distinction. A final peace pact was signed in the capital, Maputo, but one that differs sharply from similar agreements in other war-torn places: Key elements of the accord were already in the works before the signing.
International mediators had applied a key lesson from attempts to end other world conflicts: Good-faith intentions about a cease-fire, forgiveness of past atrocities, or national reconciliation must first be made concrete by actions. Trust but verify, as Ronald Reagan once famously said. Mozambique needed this lesson, given its record of previous peace pacts breaking down.
The signing ceremony was preceded by the start of a disarmament of the former rebel group Renamo. The ruling Frelimo party, meanwhile, had amended the constitution to decentralize power and allow gubernatorial elections. In addition, the parliament passed an amnesty bill last month that exempts forces on both sides from prosecution for crimes committed since 2014.
“Here in Mozambique, there has been implementation of 90% of the issues before the actual signing,” said negotiator Mirko Manzoni, the Swiss ambassador to Mozambique and the personal envoy of the United Nations secretary-general.
Such steps are also necessary because the country faces an election in October. If the voting process is relatively clean and free of violence, Mozambique will have passed a critical test. And it will have joined other African countries, such as Kenya, that have relied on mediators for political reconciliation to end violence. In fact, many leaders from other democracies in Africa attended the signing in Mozambique. An average 75% of Africans say they want to choose their leaders through “regular, open and honest elections,” a recent poll found.
Mozambique still faces issues in how to reintegrate the former rebels. It also has a small Islamist insurgency in the north. But with foreign help, it has so far applied the lessons of peacemaking and defied a destiny of endless conflict.