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File photo / A view of Beira city
“History is not something predetermined – we make it, and we have to make choices”, declared the governor of the central Mozambican province of Sofala, Helena Taipo, on Wednesday.
Speaking in Beira, at the opening of an international conference entitled “Mozambique: what paths for the future?”, Taipo claimed that major advances are being made in agriculture through mechanisation, and the districts in Sofala “ are being transformed into poles of development”.
She said there has been a “qualitative leap” in the production of basic foods in Sofala, such as maize, rice and beans, while “substantial achievements in the management of land and of forests have also been recorded”.
“We have the resources to overcome our levels of poverty”, she said. “We can meet the challenges of the current economic conjuncture”.
The current truce, declared by the rebel movement Renamo, had provided opportunities for increased food production, but Taipo stressed that the term “peace” should be understood, not just as the silencing of guns, but as “social peace”.
The mayor of Beira, and leader of the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), Daviz Simango, stressed that the conference was “an initiative of civil society intended to support peace and reconciliation in Mozambique”, which demanded “respect for others and for differences”.
“Through the exercise of citizenship”, he said, “it is possible to redefine the direction of society, and redesign the state. This can only be done by a society that is able to design an overall project of common welfare for all, and understanding the strategic priorities that have to be taken by the State”.
To attain national reconciliation, Simango added, “we must have the courage «to find our history anew, recognising the mistakes made, the injustices, and the causes of our conflicts. We must assume our responsibilities collectively, and make the present a lever for a better future”.
He called for “a climate of dialogue and free discussion; the legitimate interests of particular groups must also take into consideration the legitimate interests of other groups”
Simango restated the MDM’s call for constitutional amendments that would reduce the powers of the President and increase those of the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic. He also wanted to see directly elected provincial governors.
Simango called for the role of municipalities to be strengthened “in solving the problems of their territories”, while superfluous state bodies “such as district administrators in places where there are already elected mayors”, should be
The conference is organised by the Catholic University of Mozambique (UCM), which is headquartered in Beira, one of the country’s main think tanks, the Institute of Economic and Social Studies (IESE), and the MASC (Civil Society Support Mechanism) Foundation.
The organisers explained that the purpose of the conference is “to debate how the structure and nature of the political economy of Mozambique need to be adapted, so as to be less prone to instability, social exclusion and growth resting on unproductive rents”. The conference, they added, “seeks to identify and conceptualise fundamental elements of reform for a broader, socially just and cohesive political economy, oriented towards
development and less vulnerable to external shocks and internal political conflicts”.