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close this bookThe Courier N 140 - July - Aug 1993 - Dossier: National Minorities - Country Reports: Dominica, Mozambique (EC Courier, 1993, 96 p.)
close this folderCountry reports
close this folderMozambique : Hope at last
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentInterview with president Joaquim Chissano
View the documentInterview with Afonso Dhlakama, RENAMO leader
View the documentEEC-Mozambique cooperation

Interview with president Joaquim Chissano


'Mozambique is not another Angola'

Joaquim Alberto Chissano, at 54, is a veteran of African politics. He helped found the Mozambique Liberation Front in 1962 and was secretary to its first president, Eduardo Mondlane. He was one of the leading negotiators of independence with the Portuguese authorities in 1974 and the obvious choice for Prime Minister of the Government of Transition whose job it was to prepare for the breakaway. In 1975, after independence, he became Foreign Minister and, firmly entrenched in the post, represented his country abroad for 11 years, investing all his verve and rare linguistic talents (he is equally at home in Portuguese, French and English) in a moderate, realistic approach to diplomacy which was in complete contrast with the more radical style fashionable in Maputo at the time.

In 1986, when President Samora Machel was killed in a (still unexplained) flying accident, Joaquim Chissano took over. At the fourth and fifth Frelimo congresses, he helped engineer the change of ideology which led to the liberalisation of the economy, the development of the private sector and, later on, a new constitution setting up a multiparty system.

However, the guerrilla movement launched by Renamo at the end of the 1970s, initially with encouragement from Rhodesia and then, after the independence of Zimbabwe, from South Africa, gained ground throughout this period, to the point where it brought the country's economic activity to a halt. After fruitless attempts at settlement, direct negotiations between the Government and Renamo in Rome in October 1992 were successful and a peace agreement, opening the way to free elections under UN control, was forged.

In this interview with The Courier, President Chissano talks about the difficulties of the post-agreement era and the country's longer-term prospects.

· Mr President, the fighting has stopped, but is peace as irreversible as the people like to think?

-Yes, I think they all do believe that peace is here to stay, for they all want peace and they are all doing their utmost to see it is consolidated. We have appealed to society at large, to all social organisations, churches included, to work for the consolidation of peace. A whole new state of mind is being created. But Mozambique is not an island and external influences could still come and change the course of things. If it was only up to us, however, the peace process would be irreversible.

· But hasn't your situation got a lot in common with the situation in Angola, Mr President, and aren't you worried that the same terrible things might happen here?

- Angola had elections before the conditions were right. The soldiers hadn't been demobilised and the country hadn't had time to set up a solid national army which was united and not mixed up in politics. There were still close ties between the political parties and their partisans in the army at the time the elections were held. We don't want that happening here and we have been working to avoid it ever since the negotiations in Rome. We want a proper national army, which sticks to the constitution and the law, under the leadership of a Head of State who believes in peace and would be in no position to use the armed forces to overturn the regime even if he wanted to. And the domestic situation in Angola wasn't as provided for in the agreement, I believe, because there were still many unsolved problems and many fighters in the underground forces.

· Are you learning from Angola's mistakes?

-Not exactly, because we chose a way which enabled us to find answers to the sort of problems Angola stumbled over. Angola did not have enough time. And perhaps our process started the other way round, because we had discussions and changed the constitution before the negotiations with Renamo and we worked on the law on parties while those negotiations were going on. We already had a preliminary draft electoral law too. It was the basis for the discussions in Rome and we are going to pick it up again now. The political parties have been formed. So things are moving more slowly in this country, but everything is being covered.

· All this cumbersome UN machinery is so difficult to get going here, isn't it? Is it the only way of consolidating peace?

-Renamo only has confidence in the UN, unfortunately, which is why we agreed to call the Organisation in. We knew that UN machinery could grind slowly, because we had seen it working in other parts of the world. That is exactly what we expected. But we never expected it to take so long to get here.

· Is it delayed because money is short?

-My belief is that it is late because of the way it works. When we signed the agreement, we expected to see UN troops arrive here a month later, in accordance with suggestions by the UN representatives who came to observe at the negotiations. But now the plan cannot be put into operation, although it was an emergency, with the ceasefire to be kept up and peace maintained, and it cannot wait for all the palaver in the Security Council or the debates in the General Assembly or the discussions in the Budget Committee, where they really do take their time. Mercifully, for the past six months, we ourselves have managed to have the ceasefire respected here in Mozambique without the help of the UN peace-keeping forces, but if it had happened anywhere else, peace would have been shattered long ago.

· With all these delays, when do you think the elections can take place now?

-We shall see. The electoral law will decide the date. We are doing the groundwork for the elections at the moment, but the signs are that they will not take place before June 1994.

· Many of Mozambique's people have done nothing but fight for the past 14 years. Are they going to be willing to lay down their arms for the hard job of making a living from their devastated land?

-What the soldiers want-Government soldiers at least-is to settle down as civilians and have a job, so we have set up a resettlement committee to look after demobbed soldiers, refugees and displaced persons. The effort which the Government is making, in accordance with the peace agreement, has the support of the international community too. But the Government cannot do it all and we have made a general appeal for help with finding projects which will make it easier to reintegrate the soldiers. We are also encouraging the soldiers to help themselves. As a one-time national freedom fighter myself, I have helped set up an association for demobbed soldiers, which will be looking after former Renamo guerrillas too, forming an interest group of something like 100 000 people. It will be running personal initiative schemes and we have already applied for financial support for them from such institutions as the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

· Finance -just where the shoe pinches. Never before have the rich countries been called uponfor so much help and every crisis, ultimately, costs money, be it in Russia, the former Yugoslavia or Somalia. With resources in such short supply, what priority do you think will be given to Mozambique's projects?

-Our projects will have whatever priority they get. That is all there is to it. And we shall be very grateful for any assistance we are given. Time and time again, we have said that donors will always give priority to whatever affects them most. And as there is every interest in stabilising the situation in central Europe, they will tend to give that part of the world priority and think about Africa afterwards. So we are looking at a different formula which does not involve relying on charity and waiting for handouts and we are trying to encourage private investment by Mozambican interst groups. That will be quite another picture for the donors.

· The Government is not the only one worried about the lack of financing, is it? Renamo too is complaining about not receiving the promised funds and thinking it has been betrayed by the donors.

-I don't think Renamo is right here. It's too early to start complaining that promises haven't been kept. The conference in Rome was only three months ago and it wouldn't be reasonable to start saying that the donors haven't stuck to their commitments yet. The plan was for the funds to be released when the soldiers were demobbed, in particular to help them settle down again in ordinary society. But they haven't been demobbed yet.

· How much are we talking about?

-The figure mentioned in Rome was more than $200 million.

· Assuming that you can complete the process you have got under way, how do you see the future for Mozambique in a Southern Africa in the throes of change?

- Mozambique is one of the key countries of the region and, with peace on our side, there will be a transformation. It is worth remembering that even while the war was going on, we were able to continue providing a service to the countries in the region. We have already modernised and rebuilt the Maputo Zimbabwe railway-a difficult job and all done during the civil war- and rebuilt the railway and the road between Beira and Zimbabwe. We have rehabilitated and modernised the port of Beira, we are doing the same for the ports of Maputo and Nacala and we have completed more than half of the Nacala Malawi railway. We did all that during the war. With peace, we shall be able to do a lot more.

Our country has always had great agricultural potential. If we can get everyone's shoulders to the wheel, we shall be able to produce enough to feed ourselves and to export too-which will be a good thing for the balance of payments and our per capita income. We think we can manage this in ten years at the most, but some people say that, at the present rate of progress, it won't take anything like that long.

· You have been President for nearly eight years now, haven't you? Will you be standing again in the next presidential elections?

-I am always being asked to stand again, but the party still has to meet to decide whether I should. Some people in the party take it as read, let me tell you, but I shall only stand if I am asked to stand, in the same way as I was asked to take the country's destiny in hand all those years ago. They all think I am going to stand, but we shall have to wait for the party to meet and discuss it. If the party decided to put up another candidate, I should be just as happy to support him...

· You have led Mozambique through some hard times, haven't you?

-Very hard. I have been a member of the party's leadership ever since it was formed-I was elected to the central committee when I was 23. What we need are candidates who are worthy of the people's confidence and who devote themselves to the people's wellbeing. I shall have the strength to wait for many of those candidates to appear, however long it takes.

Interview by A.T.