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Mozambique peace process heralds new era for Africa

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Picture: Stringer/AFP – Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi, centre-left, and Renamo (Mozambican National Resistance) leader Ossufo Momade, centre-right, celebrate the signing of a landmark ceasefire agreement in Maputo, Mozambique, on August 6, 2019, to formally end decades of military hostilities. The peace process in Mozambique demonstrates the enormous potential on the Continent to conceptualise peacebuilding and implement peace agreements that endure and flourish, says the writer.

By Mirko Manzoni

After four years, Mozambique successfully finalised the disarmament and demobilisation process as part of the implementation of the Maputo Accord for Peace and National Reconciliation recently.

The remarkable achievement means that more than 5,200 women and men have been demobilised and are being reintegrated into communities across Mozambique. It also resulted in the permanent closure of 16 Renamo military bases, restoring peace and security across the country.

As personal envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Mozambique and a former Swiss ambassador, I have had the privilege of participating in and supporting Mozambique’s peace process. The country’s journey towards peace, particularly in the context of the AU’s (African Union’s) ambitious “Silencing the Guns” initiative, lays the foundation for enduring political and economic stability. I am certain it can serve as a catalyst for peacebuilding efforts in other parts of the world.

Peace process: key learnings

One of the hallmarks of the Mozambican peace process has been the value that has been placed on building trust. This was essential to take steps that would strengthen the parties’ confidence in each other and in the process. Confidence-building measures proved instrumental in building momentum and providing each side with a sense of achievement.

One such measure was communication. The mediation team supported the establishment of direct channels of communication between President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi and the late leader of Renamo, Afonso Dhlakama, as a first step in the negotiations. It quickly led to Dhlakama announcing a temporary ceasefire that became permanent and has been held ever since.

Soon afterwards, Nyusi travelled into the Renamo heartland to speak to Dhlakama, demonstrating his commitment to meeting the Renamo leader halfway in order to achieve peace in Mozambique. Throughout the process, the two sides have continued to use dialogue to settle their differences, safeguarding the gains of the peace process and the future prosperity of the country.

A second aspect witnessed throughout the process has been the flexible approach adopted by the principals, Nyusi and the leaders of Renamo the late Dhlakama and Ossufo Momade, and their willingness to employ innovative solutions to reach their goals. As all conflicts are different, no two peace processes will be the same. With a deep understanding of the conflict dynamics and country context, flexibility, agility and innovation can mean the difference between success and failure.

The onset of unforeseeable events, such as the death of Dhlakama or the global Covid-19 pandemic, had the potential to derail the progress made. However, thanks to the timely, strategic action of the parties, the two leaders were able to meet and resume the process within weeks of the challenging events.

Silencing the Guns

The Silencing the Guns initiative champions the power of African solutions for African problems as an effective means of resolving conflicts. The peace process in Mozambique demonstrates the enormous potential on the Continent to conceptualise peacebuilding and implement peace agreements that endure and flourish.

National ownership was the first building block of the Mozambican peace process. The principals took the helm from the beginning, which involved establishing a national peace architecture and building consensus on agendas, timelines and expectations. They were present and on the ground when the first group of the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) beneficiaries were demobilised, and they accompanied the process every step of the way.

Their constant presence encouraged Mozambicans to overcome their differences and join the call for comprehensive, nationwide peace. Leveraging the knowledge and understanding of local and national actors to design context-specific processes with tailored interventions is a relevant insight for other contexts.

Another key feature of relevance to the Silencing the Guns agenda is the long-term view adopted by the Mozambican process. Peace projects throughout the African Continent must be built to last. Processes that span the humanitarian-development-peace nexus have a higher chance of success in the short and long term. Each aspect of the Mozambican peace process has been designed with sustainability in mind, including the gender-sensitive design of disarmament and demobilisation, the emphasis placed on long-term reintegration of the DDR beneficiaries and the prioritisation of national reconciliation.

Enduring political and economic stability in Mozambique

The Mozambican peace process has incorporated into its design the economic and social prosperity of the DDR beneficiaries and the wider population. Through unwavering collaboration with the public and private sectors, along with development partners, employment, training, and education opportunities are continuously sought across three pillars – the individual DDR beneficiary, family and community – to secure economic and social well-being for generations to come.

In March this year, the government demonstrated its commitment to ensuring political and economic stability by passing a historic decree incorporating eligible DDR beneficiaries into the national pensions system. In addition to the sustained dialogue between the two parties, the landmark move required political will and serves as a sterling example of reconciliation for the African Continent and the rest of the world.

Roadmap for ending conflict

Mozambique is sharing its experience and learnings with the international community as part of its two-year term on the UN Security Council, a position it took up in January this year. One of the examples being shared is how the country is tackling the complex crisis in northern Mozambique. In 2019, attacks by non-state armed groups increased in frequency.

In response, national authorities promptly applied a peacebuilding model that has taken into consideration dynamic regional and local solutions. It has led to greater coherence and complementarity between humanitarian assistance with recovery and development, proving that a model of inter-African co-operation and solidarity can lead to quick results on the ground.

Lessons from Mozambique can be adapted and applied to other contexts, tailoring approaches to suit the unique dynamics of each conflict. The country has achieved remarkable results and is well-placed to share its experience and serve as a model for other contexts. Communication, flexibility and national ownership have been key factors for its success.

A long-term view to ensuring political and economic stability, through strengthening the social fabric of society, is integral to enduring peace. I am incredibly honoured to be part of the process and am looking forward to seeing what Mozambique will achieve in the future. Mozambicans can be assured of the continued and unwavering support of the UN as it continues its journey towards definitive peace and national reconciliation.

Mirko Manzoni is personal envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Mozambique