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Mozambique signs third peace accord amid divisions in opposition and public indifference

Signing the accord, 6 August 2019 . Screengrab, video by Televisão de Moçambique

Mozambique’s government and the opposition party RENAMO signed, on 6 August, the Maputo Peace and National Reconciliation Accord, amid general public disaffection and internal splits in the party and its armed wing.

This is the third such agreement signed between the conflicting parties since 1992, ending 16 years of civil war between government forces and the armed movement RENAMO, which then became a political party.

The 1992 peace agreement granted RENAMO permission to maintain an armed guard to protect the then party leader Afonso Dhlakama.

It was with these weapons that violence broke out again in 2013, which only ended with the 2014 peace agreement. Then, in 2015, clashes started once more, which were stopped with the signing of a ceasefire agreement in 2016.

Both outbreaks of violent clashes were caused by RENAMO's rejection of election results as it accused the ruling party FRELIMO of fraud. FRELIMO has been in power since Mozambique's first multiparty elections in 1992.

The 2019 agreement provides for around 5,000 RENAMO guerrillas to surrender their weapons, intending to ensure security for the upcoming visit of Pope Francis, scheduled for 4 to 6 September, and the general elections scheduled for 15 October.

The agreement was signed in Peace Plaza by the Mozambican president, and FRELIMO leader, Filipe Nyusi, and the leader of RENAMO Ossufo Momade. The event was witnessed by the heads of state of South Africa, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Namibia.

“We want to consolidate our march towards definitive peace”, Nyusi said at the event, adding “this is an agreement that proves that we do not want more war”. Ossufo Momade reiterated that the ceasefire must mark the beginning of a new era, characterised by free, transparent elections and government alternation.

The European Union, represented at the ceremony by its High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, provided 60 million euros to help bring peace.

Guerrilla fighters reject the accord

In a message released on 17 August, the self-proclaimed military council of RENAMO announced that it considers the recent agreement “null”. It also declared that the faction would dismiss Ossufo Momade as leader of RENAMO. The note said:

A Junta Militar da RENAMO determina e manda publicar oficialmente a partir de hoje a destituição imediata do atual presidente da RENAMO, Ossufo Momade, e anuncia a nulidade de todos os acordos que Momade assinou com o Governo da FRELIMO.

The RENAMO Military Council has decided and officially announces the immediate dismissal from today of the current president of RENAMO, Ossufo Momade, and announces the invalidity of all the agreements that Momade signed with the FRELIMO government.

The group, led by Major General Mariano Nhongo, argues that Ossufo Momade is “in the service of FRELIMO,” and accuses him of “violating the spirit of the peace agreements” concluded by former party president Afonso Dhlakama, who died on 3 May 2018.

João Machava, the armed faction’s spokesman, told the press that RENAMO’s military wing was not consulted by Momade on the agreement.

In a previous message released on 3 August, the Council also warned that it will not surrender its weapons until a new president has been elected by RENAMO.

Little public enthusiasm

This third peace agreement met little general enthusiasm, as the newspaper @Verdade reported. Businesses did not close, not even a few metres from the place it was signed. While the ceremony that ended Mozambique’s third civil war took place, the majority of Maputo's residents were at work, or trapped in the capital’s chaotic traffic

The Brazilian newspaper Nexo Jornal wrote:

Apesar do carácter histórico que as autoridades se esforçaram para imprimir no momento da assinatura do acordo, a verdade é que, dentro e fora de Moçambique, a notícia foi recebida com um optimismo cauteloso. A desconfiança é explicada pelo fato de esse ser ser o terceiro acordo do tipo firmado no país em quatro décadas. Nas vezes passadas, os acordos, que prometiam trazer uma paz definitiva, estabeleceram apenas tréguas temporárias.

Despite the historic image that the authorities endeavoured to evoke at the time of signing the accord, the truth is that, inside and outside Mozambique, the news was received with a cautious optimism. The distrust is explained by the fact that this is the third agreement of its kind signed in the country in four decades. In past occasions, the agreements, which promised to bring a definitive peace, established only temporary truces.

Hours before the signature, armed men attacked a passenger bus and a truck in Nhamapadza, in central Sofala province, injuring the driver and the assistant of one of the vehicles. It is not known who carried out the attack.

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