028_G18_Spotlight_Mozambique

Global_18

Spotlight Mozambique e long road to recovery As the country fi nds itself in a period of political stability, President Armando Guebuza has pledged to pursue dialogue, rather than armed response, in answer to threats from opposition party RENAMO and its formidable guerrilla arm Anver Versi It seems that Mozambique, a huge country straddling Africa’s south-eastern seaboard between Tanzania and South Africa, just cannot shake off the black dog of misery that has dogged its steps since the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama fi rst set covetous eyes on its pristine beaches back in 1498. After fi ve centuries of living under the whip during Portugal’s brutal colonial reign, followed by 16 years of a devastating civil war, it seemed that Mozambique had at last driven away the malign beast when a peace accord, between the ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) government and the opposition, Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO), was signed in 1992. The two decades that followed allowed the shattered country to begin the slow and painstaking task of reconstruction and the closing of deep wounds. With a ruined infrastructure, a million killed in the civil war and several times that number scattered either in neighbouring countries or internally displaced, Mozambique remained one of the poorest countries in the world. Attempts by the country’s majority, who still make their living farming small plots in the vast hinterland, to return to normal were severely hampered by millions of land-mines scattered at random, during the civil war, by the RENAMO guerrillas and their partners in crime, apartheid South Africa and the former state of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Two further plagues – fl oods of Biblical proportions early in 2000 followed by equally punishing droughts two years later – hammered an already prostrate people. “When calamity follows calamity until you think it cannot get any worse and then yet another calamity comes along, you only survive by learning to laugh in the face of disaster,” the country’s President, Armando Guebuza, told me when he was raising investments in London two years ago. True enough, tempered, hardened and strangely mellowed by their long ordeal, the people have made a remarkable recovery. Over the past decade, Mozambique has been one of the fastest growing economies in Africa – albeit from a low base – and is now primed to become one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of coal and natural gas (see article on Mozambique’s economy, page 31). But just when it seemed that Mozambique had fi nally shaken off its malignant companion and was about to step into the promised land, a dark shadow from the past reared its ugly head. Late last year, RENAMO and the remnants of its guerrilla fi ghting force declared that the peace accord had ended. Several soldiers, police and civilians have been killed by RENAMO fi ghters in the central region and reports indicate that 28 l www.global -br ief ing.org second quar ter 2014 global


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