Sant´Egidio Helping to Keep Mozambique From War

Founder Addresses Republic´s Assembly

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MAPUTO, Mozambique, MAR. 7, 2001 ( Andrea Riccardi, founder of Sant´Egidio Community, today addressed the Assembly of the Republic of Mozambique and called for respect for the 1992 peace agreement, which followed 17 years of civil war.

Riccardi spoke at a moment when the confrontation between the country´s two majority parties, the ruling Mozambican Liberation Front, or Frelimo, and the anti-communist Renamo, could degenerate into violence.

The peace Mozambique reached in 1992 was due, to a large extent, to the efforts of the Sant´Egidio Community of Rome, an ecclesial movement.

Following the 1992 peace agreement signed in Rome, a period of military demobilization began, and a joint National Electoral Commission was created to prepare legislative and presidential elections, held at the end of 1994. These elections brought to power President Joaquim Chissano, who had worked to move the regime from socialism toward private enterprise.

The 1999 summer elections reconfirmed Chissano in power. However, Renamo leader Alfonso Dhlakama contested the result, accusing the government of manipulation. In September of that year, he threatened the secession of the northern, pro-Renamo part of the country, which is poor and lacking in infrastructure.

Confrontations in several provinces last November between authorities and Renamo protesters left 22 people dead and more than 100 injured. The killing of six policemen and the fear of further protests caused severe repression by the ruling Frelimo. Recent flooding has caused devastation and increased tensions.

Once again, the prospect of war loomed. However, the two leaders met in Rome, thanks to the mediation of Sant´Egidio. Renamo agreed to accept the result of the elections and Frelimo agreed to end the repression, but true reconciliation remained a daunting task.

«The people want peace,» Andrea Riccardi said Monday, when he landed in Maputo.

In his work for peace, Riccardi has had the help of John Paul II and the Church in Mozambique. As early as 1985, Frelimo leader Samora Machel met with the Pope, and so the country began to emerge from isolation. «He is not a communist; he is just a nationalist,» John Paul II said at the time.

Three years later, the Pope visited Mozambique, and negotiations for peace began immediately, as well as an opening to a multiparty approach and the signing of agreements Oct. 4, 1992.

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