by Constancio Nguja
Mozambican rebel group RENAMO (Mozambican National Resistance), once backed by the white-minority governments of Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe, and South Africa, fought a 17-year civil war against FRELIMO (the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique), until the signing of the Rome General Peace Accords in 1992. More than twenty years later, in October 2013, RENAMO has said that the peace agreement has ended, following an incident in which its base was attacked by government forces.
What is officially behind the disagreement?
Four presidential and legislative elections have been held in the country (in 1994, 1999, 2003 and 2009) since the end of the conflict and subsequent introduction of the 1990 multi-party constitution and market-based economy, and free elections. All of these elections were won by FRELIMO. Tensions have been rising between RENAMO and the FRELIMO government, with the former accusing the latter of not honoring the peace agreement they signed in 1992. RENAMO sees the existing electoral law as a vehicle for the government to rig elections and has demaned that it be abolished.
What is actually behind the disagreement?
Announcements of the discovery of large amounts of natural gas deposits, made by the government and international companies engaged in prospecting in the Cabo Delgado Province (bordering Tanzania) have been emerging since 2010. Estimates suggest reserves of natural gas in excess of over 100 trillion cubic feet. These announcements have given rise to many expectations, and it would appear that political parties are jostling to rule as this ‘gas fever’ takes hold, in what can be called the start of a ‘resource curse’ period. RENAMO may be feeling left out of this game of discovery, exploration and distribution of the gains from gas. Sadly, there are many examples of resource-rich countries in which resource wealth does not result in improved economic conditions or higher standards of living for the population as a whole.
|Gas pipeline in Mozambique|
What can be done to tackle the dispute?
The first positive thing is that both parts (RENAMO and the FRELIMO Government) have agreed that they do not want to fight a new civil war. That is a good starting point. The second thing to do is to ensure that both parties see each other as political adversaries, not enemies. The third thing to do is to clearly identify both the common and the divergent interests both hold. To overcome problems associated with the interests that are divergent, it would be wise to engage other actors such as the academia, civil society organizations, religious groups and the international group (if needed). The fourth step is to prioritize objectives for resolving the conflict. The fifth step to give is to settle a roadmap to transform objectives into policies. The sixth step is to identify a third party to monitor and assess the future implementing of the roadmap for conflict resolution. The seventh step would be beginning the implementation of the roadmap.
Last, but not least, it is important to consider the mindset in which these steps should take place. The stakeholders must take into account that they will not talk about problems, but solutions (problem solving approach). They must also be conscious of the people and lives that are at stake, putting these above self-interests. They must negotiate in good faith. It is also important that the parties recall the negative impacts of other examples of the resource curse, such as Nigeria, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The SADC region appears to be entering a phase of relative political stability – recent elections which somewhat stabilized Zimbabwe, hope that upcoming elections will stabilize Madagascar, and finally, the recent development in DRC. Let us hope that the parties in Mozambique keep up this momentum.
Constancio Nguja is Junior Researcher and Political Analyst at the Center for Mozambican and International Studies (CEMO).