Mozambique’s government and the former rebel organisation, Renamo, finally signed a peace pact on Tuesday.
President Filipe Nyusi and Renamo leader Ossufo Momade embraced after inking the landmark agreement at a ceremony on August 6 in Maputo’s Peace Square, witnessed by former presidents and regional and continental leaders.
The Maputo Peace and Reconciliation Agreement brought the curtain down on marathon negotiations initiated by Afonso Dhlakama, Renamo’s leader until he died in May last year.
Nyusi said Mozambique would “never be a theatre of war” again. “The process we have created is irreversible.”
Momade pledged to “maintain peace and national reconciliation”, describing the moment as “the beginning of new era”. He also paid tribute to Dhlakama, who he said was “our hero, who died without witnessing this agreement”.
The United Nation’s special envoy to Mozambique, Mirko Manzoni, said: “This agreement will bring ultimate peace in a country that has seen enough suffering.
“This agreement will be successful because it is peace made by Mozambicans and for Mozambicans. A break with the past.”
The deal comes just two months before general elections on October 15 that the ruling Frelimo party, the dominant political force for more than four decades, is expected to win.
“Peaceful elections should be the rule rather than the exception,” said the Renamo leader, whose party has disputed previous elections results.
Renamo, founded as an anti-communist guerrilla group, unleashed a civil war against the Marxist Frelimo government shortly after independence from Portugal in 1975.
The fighting — seen by many historians as a proxy conflict between East and West during the Cold War — lasted 16 years. About a million people died, many in the 1984-1985 famine. The country was devastated economically and left littered with landmines.
The war ended when the Soviet Union and apartheid-era South Africa scaled back their respective support for Frelimo and Renamo, leading to direct peace talks.
The rebel movement then entered politics after a 1992 peace pact was signed in Rome, paving the way for multiparty elections in 1994.
Renamo lost that vote and subsequent elections and became the official opposition party, although it retained an armed wing.
But in October 2013, Renamo renounced the 1992 peace deal after the Mozambique Defence Armed Forces raided its bush camp in Sathundjira in the mountains in central Mozambique. Clashes erupted between government forces and Renamo soldiers, lasting until 2016.
On August 1, the two rivals signed a precursor accord in Gorongosa National Park, under which they formally agreed to end military hostilities.
Among the leaders who attended Tuesday’s ceremony were President Cyril Ramaphosa and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.
“The signing of this agreement will pave the way for peaceful elections,” Ramaphosa said.
Portugal, Mozambique’s former colonial power, expressed “deep satisfaction” at what it called a “new chapter opening today”.
“This agreement, the result of a long negotiation process, represents fundamental progress in building peace,” the foreign ministry said in Lisbon.
Last week Renamo began disarming its members as part of the peace deal. Some of them will be absorbed into Mozambique’s army and police; others will be reintegrated into civilian life. More than 5 200 Renamo fighters are expected to surrender their weapons to the government.
But the rebel party is suffering from internal divisions.
A small number of disgruntled members are vowing not to turn in their weapons and refusing to recognise Momade, who has already been nominated as Renamo’s presidential candidate for the October elections.
Tuesday’s signing also comes as Nyusi’s government is battling conflict in the north that has claimed more than 250 lives since October 2017.
Analysts doubt the peace deal will hold for long.
“It is an agreement just to make elections possible,” said Domingos do Rosario, political science lecturer at the Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo.
“Neither Nyusi nor Ossufo have sufficient power to enforce the terms of these agreements, because they are very contested in their own parties.” — AFP