Mozambique on the edge: violence threatens to reverse progress
As fighting erupts between government and rebel forces international
pressure is needed to protect political and economic gains
Tomás Queface in Maputo
A market in Mombane,
Mozambique. War threatens to come at a moment when the country has experienced
huge discoveries of coal, natural gas and petroleum that could change the lives
of a large part of the population who live in extreme poverty. Photograph: Andy
In 2012, Mozambique appeared
on the list of the 50 most peaceful countries in the world in a report
published by UK organisation Global Peace Index.
In 1975 Mozambique gained independence
from Portugal and the following year witnessed a civil war between government
forces led byFrelimo and a rebel movement Renamo that
lasted for 16 years. The internationally-brokered 1992
Rome Peace Accords signalled the end of civil war and since
then, peace has prevailed for 21 years.
In the largest cities in the country, at
the end of October and the beginning of November, citizens from all over the
country organised marches calling for the end of hostilities and a return to stability.
But the voices of citizens appear not to have moved politicians who have
demonstrated little interest in putting an end to the political-military crisis
in the country.
With the intent of reaching an understanding, the Frelimo government and
Renamo have completed 21 rounds of negotiations, but none have produced any
Religious institutions, civil society
and the international community have done little to nothing to help end the
political crisis in Mozambique. One of the few international figures publicly
involved in searching for a way out of armed conflict is Swedish Ambassador to
Mozambique Ulla Andrea, who confirmed on Twitter she has been in
contact with members of government to discuss a way out of the current
situation, but that few had really lent their ears.
The fear of a new war is evident. It
threatens to come at a moment when the country has experienced huge discoveries of coal, natural gas and
petroleum that could change the lives of a large part of the
population who live in extreme poverty.
The economy has been boosted by the entry of large projects dedicated to the
exploitation of mineral resources, that have employed thousands of Mozambicans.
It also comes at a time when the first generation born after the civil war
voted for the first time, in November's municipal elections, which were boycotted by Renamo.
Mozambique has been a success story in terms
of its preservation of peace, and now it runs the risk of becoming a failed
state. Absolute poverty (people
living on below $1 per day), which affects 59,6% of the population, could get
worse if nothing is done to reduce tensions.
An armed conflict would have major
implications at regional and international levels since Zimbabwe, Malawi and
Zambia depend extensively on Mozambican ports. An armed conflict would also
undermine all foreign investment in Mozambique that has been significant in
recent years. The United States has invested billions of dollars in oil exploration in northern
Mozambique and there has been a major foreign investment in the
heavy mineral sands in Nampula Province .
Mozambique could lose all it gained with real effort in recent years.
One of the first measures needed to overcome the crisis is a serious
dialogue and a commitment by the two sides. Inclusive political dialogue, where
representatives of civil society and religious institutions can take part, is
The international community, that
contributes more than 40% to Mozambique's state budget,
can exert pressure on the government to propose an urgent solution for the
conflict. The Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union,
the European Union, the UN and so many other international organisations can
equally play an important mediating role in negotiations between the government
These organisations cannot just sit by
and watch the country that is considered the "pearl of the Indian
Ocean" to sink into a new civil war. Mozambique is not a country isolated
from the rest of the world, and the need to consider international intervention
in mediation stems from this. A new war would have regional and continental
implications, causing a flux of refugees to neighbouring countries and
forcing Africa to
shift its attention from fighting poverty and promoting economic development to
solving yet another armed conflict. The world would witness yet another sad
episode of civil war in the 21st century.
So there is a great and urgent need for intervention not only from national
actors and institutions, but from international ones, to find a solution to the
political and military crisis that comes from dialogue and not military action.