Maputo — Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi and the leader of the former rebel movement Renamo, Ossufo Momade, signed in Maputo on Tuesday evening an Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation, which Nyusi described as "an unequivocal sign that Mozambique will never again be a stage of war".
This accord follows the agreement on a definitive cessation of hostilities that Nyusi and Momade signed in the central district of Gorongosa last Thursday.
The reception given to the new peace agreement was one of euphoria. Among all those interviewed by the media, whatever their nationality and whatever their political hue, there was scarcely a murmur of criticism.
Yet few people know exactly what is in the Agreement. So far it has not been published, and copies were not distributed to the press.
Nonetheless, Nyusi declared categorically that "Mozambique must never again become a theatre of war, and the results of elections must never dictate the state of peace in the country".
Nyusi was referring to Renamo's excuse for resuming its insurgency in 2015. The Renamo leadership claimed that the victory of Nyusi and the ruling Frelimo Party in the 2014 general elections was achieved by fraud - even though local and international observer groups believed the elections were generally free, and the parallel count done by observers was in line with the official results.
"Today is a day for celebrating concord and harmony among Mozambicans", said Nyusi. "Today politics has overcome the abyss of division and violence which, over the years has caused death and the destruction of the country's economic and social fabric".
This is the third peace agreement signed by successive governments and Renamo. The General Peace Agreement signed in Rome on 4 October 1992 between President Joaquim Chissano and Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, allowed peace to flourish for about 20 years.
But in violation of the terms of the agreement, Renamo did not demobilise all its forces, but held back a militia which allowed it to resume military operations in 2013.
On 5 September 2014, Dhlakama signed an agreement on cessation of hostilities with Chissano's successor, Armando Guebuza. The disarming of Renamo envisaged under that agreement did not happen, and after losing the elections of that year, Renamo slid back into war in 2015.
On taking office in January 2015, Nyusi pledged to return the country to peace, and established regular phone contact with Dhlakama, who had returned to Renamo's main military base in Gorongosa. These contacts led to Dhlakama declaring a truce in late December 2016. There have been no significant violations of the truce.
Nyusi told the Tuesday ceremony that from the experience of the previous agreements, it was clear that effective and lasting peace requires permanent effort and commitment as well as the elimination of factors that feed conflicts.
He drew the lesson from the 1992 agreement that decent socio-economic reintegration into society of former combatants was necessary in order to remove any desire they might have to become involved in further acts of violence.
He stressed the importance of his direct negotiations with Dhlakama in 2016. "This is the first peace agreement for Mozambique which is the product of direct negotiation between the government and Renamo", he said. (Previous agreements had depended largely on mediators, both local and foreign).
The direct interaction between the two leaders, he said, "evaporated distrust and created a better understanding between us. Brothers became aware that there is no further reason to kill each other".
"This is not an agreement between enemies", declared Nyusi, "but an agreement which proves we don't want any more war between us. With this accord, we are saying that we can have our disagreements, which is common in families, but we will always resort to dialogue to handle our differences".
For his part, Momade, who succeeded Dhlakama after the latter's death from diabetes in May 2018, called for greater unity in order to keep the country one and indivisible. He declared that the democratic rule of law has come to stay in Mozambique.
He stressed that the separation of political parties from state institutions must be permanent. "We repeat our appeals not to commit the same mistakes again", he said, and pledged that Renamo will scrupulously respect the terms of the agreement.
"It is our conviction that, with the ceasefire, Mozambicans can enjoy the beauty and wealth of the country God has given us", he added. The forthcoming visit, in early September of the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, will be "a privileged occasion for purifying our hearts".
The agreement, he continued, should also mean the elimination of any barriers to the exercise of Mozambican citizenship, allowing civil society to become one of the actors in democracy. "Civil society should be the lantern for transparency and for respect for the common good, and should not be subject to restriction or reprisals", Momade said.
He believed the agreement marks the start of a new era characterised by the acceptance of different ways of thinking and by peaceful political coexistence.
"Our vision should empower what unites us and not what divides us", he added.
The signing of the agreement was witnessed by the two previous Mozambican presidents, Joaquim Chissano and Armando Guebuza, by the president of the African Union Commission, Moussa Mahamat, by the presidents of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, of Namibia, Hage Geingob, of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, of Zambia, Edgar Lungo, by the former president of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, and by the Vice-President of Zimbabwe, Kembo Mohadi.