“We’re here to see what Henri from DRC (/peacebuilders/drcongo/) can learn about disarming and demobilising ex-combatants, from Albino, who joined with 13 other child soldiers at the end of the Mozambique war, to do the same thing. One of the things we keep bumping up against, is how present the war still is, despite 15 years of peace…. for instance in the fact that there are several organisations of demobilised ex-combatants still seeing that as their identity and in discussion with the government on how their needs can be met. There are still camps where female ex-combatants live. And to bring it right down to the personal, one of the people from Albino’s organisation took a taxi with us, and found the taxi driver was his former commander who he had not seen for twenty years…
We keep being told that demobilisation is a very long process, but one that is often treated as a ‘quick fix’. But by doing it thoroughly Mozambique seems to have avoided the situation seen so often whereby armed groups morph into mafias when peace comes.
Driving through downtown Maputo is like driving through the second half of the 20thC – along with the familiar names of Mao Tse Tung and Ho Chi Minh, are the distant memories – Amilcar Cabral, Olof Palme, and of course the Frelimo heroes like Samora Machel. Frelimo and its socialist roots are omnipresent – today we saw a group of children in red neckscarves visiting the tomb of Frelimo’s founder. It seems a benign kind of socialism, that somehow coexists with the free market and the Catholic church, but gives a sense of morality and purpose to the Government that seems absent in many other countries (not just in Africa..)
In all the meetings here, I’ve been asking people how Mozambique managed not to relapse into conflict as 50% of peace agreements do. Lots of answers, but it seems three things keep coming up – people completely sick of war and fighting, a peace agreement that is inclusive of all parties’ issues, and a government committed to implementing the peace agreement. Compared to Mozambique the odds seem stacked against DRC, particularly in the Government’s less than active commitment to implementing the peace agreement. But people are certainly sick of war – only 25% of the ex-combatants choose the option of being integrated into the National Army, Henri says.
” Carolyn Hayman, June 2009. Mozambique