Mozambique and Renamo sign deal to end civil war

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The Independent Online
GRAVE doubts hang over the ability of President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique and Afonso Dhlakama, the rebel leader, to enforce a ceasefire which they pledged yesterday in Rome to sign by 1 October.

The six-page 'declaration of intent' came after three days of talks, the first between the two long-time foes, brokered by President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Tiny Rowland, whose Lonrho corporation has interests in Mozambique and throughout Africa. It commits the government to enshrine into law guarantees for the safety and political freedom of the rebels, who have been fighting a 16-year war against the government. Under the accord, Mr Dhlakama's Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo) would halt its insurgency once the legislation was in place. The Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) government has already approved a liberal constitution which guarantees human rights and a multi-party political system.

'It would undoubtedly have been more honourable if our meeting had meant the end of the war today . . . There is no reason why the guns should fall silent,' said Mr Chissano, who called the rebel leader 'dear brother.' Mr Dhlakama justified his refusal to sign an immediate ceasefire by saying it was 'not enough just to call a ceasefire. You must have the proper mechanisms set up to supervise it.' The war, which erupted after Mozambique gained independence from Portugal in 1975, has cost at least 600,000 lives, forced up to 3 million people to flee their homes, and shattered the economy, which now depends largely on foreign aid.

While both sides agreed on a supervisory role for the United Nations in a ceasefire and future elections, there was no firm agreement where the truce would be signed, when it would take effect and what specific issues must be negotiated over the next seven weeks. Important outstanding points centre on the composition of the national army and Renamo's demand that the formerly Marxist government's entire security apparatus be abolished.

The failure of previous accords between Frelimo and Renamo do not inspire great confidence in the declaration signed yesterday. A December 1990 ceasefire agreement along two strategic transport routes, the Beira Corridor in central Mozambique and the Limpopo railway in the south, was violated by Renamo within a month of its signature. A humanitarian declaration on 16 July committing both sides to allow international aid free passage to hundreds of thousands of drought victims has not yet been implemented.

Both Mr Chissano and Mr Dhlakama face severe problems with their respective armies and commanders who have profited from the war. Last month, elite government soldiers trained by British instructors went on strike and blocked roads in the southern province of Maputo to protest against the lack of pay and food. Similar unrest among other crack troops was reported this week in the town of Marracuene, north of the capital, Maputo. Mr Chissano quoted Mr Dhlakama on Thursday as saying he could not guarantee that his rebel field commanders would obey a ceasefire now.

(First Edition)