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How Africa’s Most Successful Peace Treaty Fell Apart

Mozambique has been a country on the rise in recent years. In 1992, it concluded 17 years of civil war with the Rome General Peace Accords. And after a period of dependence on international aid, its economy has begun to come into its own, as the country has attracted energy companies from around the world ...

Jinty Jackson/AFP/Getty Images
Jinty Jackson/AFP/Getty Images

Mozambique has been a country on the rise in recent years. In 1992, it concluded 17 years of civil war with the Rome General Peace Accords. And after a period of dependence on international aid, its economy has begun to come into its own, as the country has attracted energy companies from around the world to develop untapped oil and coal resources. The Mozambican economy was projected to grow 7 percent this year, but progress may be derailed if the country lapses back into violence.

That seems more likely today than at any other point since the Rome Accords were signed 15 years ago. On Monday, Mozambican government forces raided the headquarters of the opposition movement, Renamo, forcing the organization’s leader, Afonso Dhlakama, to flee. The organization then announced its withdrawal from the 1992 accords, and on Tuesday staged an attack on a police station in the town of Maringue (no casualties were reported). It’s not the first time Renamo has clashed with the government, which since 1992 has been headed by its civil war rival, the Frelimo party — Renamo skirmished with government forces earlier this year in April and June. But the withdrawal from the Rome Accords is a significant move, marking the end of one of Africa’s most successful peace treaties and the culmination of a five-year drift towards violence.

The accord’s success can largely be attributed to the country’s aid dependency and a working relationship between the leaders of Frelimo and Renamo, Carrie Manning, a professor at Georgia State University who has written extensively on Mozambican politics, explained to FP by email. Initially, she writes, "both Renamo and Frelimo needed the ongoing support of international donors, who had a large part in overseeing the peace process and worked effectively to provide good offices and financial contributions to help overcome stumbling blocks in the process." In the event of tension, Renamo could turn to stakeholders abroad. "it was a kind of second court of public opinion to which Renamo especially could appeal," says Manning.

Even as Mozambique began to move away from its dependence on foreign political interests, the Frelimo government, run by President Joaquim Chissano, maintained a willingness to engage with Renamo. "President Chissano was willing to indulge Dhlakama’s tendency to use direct negotiations between representatives of the two parties, outside of formal democratic institutions like parliament or the National Elections Commission, to resolve differences," Manning writes. But that began to break down when Chissano passed the leadership of Frelimo on to Armando Guebuza, who has been president since 2005. Guebuza "has sought to reinvigorate partisanship within Frelimo, and has made party loyalty an informal condition of public employment and access to other benefits, like credit," she explains. Under Chissano, despite the formal executive and legislative branches, "both sides behaved to some extent as if they were still negotiating partners as they had been during the protracted peace talks. That changed when Guebuza came into power."

Additionally, many of the natural resources under development in the country  are in areas where Renamo has historically had popular support. To ensure a portion of the oil and coal wealth, Dhlakama "did what he has always done before — he sought a back channel to negotiate that share," but Guebuza has shut down Renamo’s informal negotiations. "Failing [informal negotiations], or in addition to that," Manning writes, Dhlakama "has resorted to a show of force."

Renamo has grappled with internal shakeups as well, with part of the organization breaking away to form a third party in the 2009 elections.  And the opposition party’s efforts to reestablish its importance through informal negotiations with the government, along with attacks designed to disrupt commerce and bring the Chissano government to the table, could just be hardening the Frelimo government’s position. "[W]hat is important here is not Renamo’s stated withdrawal from the Rome accords," Manning explains, "but its general withdrawal from attempts to participate effectively in Mozambican politics."

J. Dana Stuster is a policy analyst at the National Security Network. Twitter: @jdanastuster

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