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Joaquim Chissano says that, before the start of negotiations in Rome, he travelled through all the districts of Mozambique to ask people if he should go talk to Renamo – and the answer was no.
On October 4, as Mozambique celebrated the 25th anniversary of the General Peace Agreement, Joaquim Chissano stepped back in time to reveal how the population he spoke to reacted to the idea of dialogue with Renamo.
The former statesman says that, before leaving for the Rome talks, he visited all the districts in Mozambique to ask the people whether he should agree to negotiations with Renamo to end the war.
“It was not an easy thing,” he recalls. The people always said that the president should not hold talks with Renamo. “Why shouldn’t I go? I asked. The population responded by saying that they were criminals, they were this and that … So, how do we end the war, the conflict, the destruction? They said ‘We understand, but you are not going’. Faced with such resistance, I asked if I could not delegate someone to go and negotiate for peace. The population gave in, but on condition: ‘First, they must put down their weapons. Only then can they speak’”.
The former president says that, after so much insistence, he got the endorsement to go to the talks, but he had to put a second question to the population. “If they leave their weapons and come home, because they are your brothers, cousins, parents, uncles and so on, are you willing to receive them, to accommodate them, to treat them equally to hug them, to kiss them? They said: ‘Never'”.
Chissano recalls that it took a heated debate that lasted almost a year to persuade the population to accept reconciliation. “There are districts where I had more difficulties, for example, the Guro district in Manica. There, they wanted nothing to do with it. And another district of Nampula, where they also said ‘Never’. And they were half-dressed in the bark of trees, their children naked. They said that they could not drink water from the river because it was full of blood, and that they would never accept these men returning to their homes to live among them. It took a very thorough discussion. I was accompanied by eight European and African ambassadors.”
For the man who signed the General Peace Agreement, reconciliation should not be understood as something between Frelimo and Renamo. Rather “It is between citizens who live in the same community.”
The former Head of State was speaking at a reflection meeting organised by the Islands of Peace Association to mark the 25th anniversary of the General Peace Agreement. Chissano recalled the “big embrace of Dhlakama – an embrace that has no end and must have no end. That is why dialogue continues: because we want to renew that embrace of October 4, 1992”.
Catholics were not the first to get involved in the peace process
Joaquim Chissano said that Catholic bishops were not the first to be involved in the peace seeking process. “It was those of the Ecumenical Council. During a visit, they said ‘The situation is very difficult for you, Mr President, but if you want, we can look for a Renamo interlocutor’. I said ‘You are welcome, because that was exactly what I was looking for’. But they said, ‘But we’re not going to do it alone, we have to involve the Catholic Church.’ I said, leave it to me. Then I invited all the Catholic bishops to a meeting, and told them of the Protestant Christians’ concerns,” he said.Source: O País
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