Photograph — SFGate

In what represents a formal end to military hostilities in Mozambique, President Filipe Nyusi has signed a landmark peace treaty with the main opposition party, Renamo. This comes almost three decades after the infamous civil war and ahead of a national election scheduled for mid-October.

The permanent cease-fire was the culmination of years of negotiations to end the fighting initiated by Renamo’s former leader, Alfonso Dhlakama, who died back in May 2018. President Nyusi and present Renamo leader, Ossufo Momade, shook hands and embraced after the signing on Thursday, which took place at the opposition’s remote military base in the Gorongosa mountains.

“We are living in a moment of hope. This is the moment of our reconciliation,” President Nyusi told a cheering crowd in Gorongosa National Park, which he said was chosen for the signing because it was where the conflict began and would now be a “sanctuary of peace and biodiversity.”

Renamo leader Ossufo Momade also pledged that the warring sides had put aside their hostilities. “We are now brothers in peace,” he declared. “With this signing, we are showing all Mozambicans and the world that we have buried our legacy of violence and now we are committed to dialogue to resolve our differences.”

Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi (left) and Renamo leader Ossufo Momade, after signing a peace agreement. Photo credit: AP

Starting in 1977, Renamo fought a brutal 16-year civil war against the Frelimo government (Nyusi’s ruling party) that killed up to one million people before a peace accord ended the fighting in 1992. Despite the end of the civil war and the group transforming into a political party, it retained an armed unit. Fresh clashes then erupted again between government forces and Renamo soldiers from 2013 to 2016. Since then, both parties have been in talks, which continued after Dhlakama died from a suspected heart attack.

A working model?

Mozambique could be a model for other countries trying to resolve long-lasting rebel conflicts through negotiations. This, according to mediators, is because of the example of implementing key reforms before the actual signing of the agreement. 

“Here in Mozambique, there has been the implementation of 90 percent of the issues before the actual signing,” Swiss ambassador to Mozambique and the personal envoy of the UN Secretary-General, Mirko Manzoni said. This approach is unlike what is seen in other countries. For example, the agreement to end Colombia’s rebel conflict faced several difficulties in implementation after it was signed.

Mozambique’s different but effective approach was further emphasized by Neha Sanghrajka, a negotiator of the deal, who told the Associated Press that unlike in previous peace efforts in the country, the important issues had been implemented before the signing. Some of these issues include an amnesty for rebel fighters and a constitutional amendment which states that provincial governors and other local officials will be elected rather than appointed by the central government.

Amnesty law

Extensive peace efforts also saw the Mozambican parliament approve a new amnesty law for all crimes committed during the conflict between the government and Renamo since 2014. The law grants clemency to Renamo fighters who attacked civilians and government facilities and allows Momade the freedom to leave his hideout. He was expected to fly from Gorongosa to the capital, Maputo, after the signing ceremony, the first time he visits the capital in many years. 

On Monday, Justice Minister Joaquim Verissimo told parliament that the law was aimed at political stability and to guarantee an effective and long-lasting peace, as well as ensure mutual trust and help with national reconciliation.

In line with the terms of the amnesty law, Renamo on Tuesday began disarming its member fighters who will be reintegrated into the country’s army and police. Over 5,200 Renamo fighters are reportedly surrendering their weapons to the government, a condition for the agreed peace deal.

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