The Index on Human Suffering, released last week by the Population Crisis Committee in Washington, lists Mozambique as the country with the highest level of human suffering in the
World (followed by Somalia, Afghanistan, Haiti and Sudan). For comparison, the country with the lowest level of human suffering is Denmark (then Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Canada). The index is based on 10 indicators of human well-being including life expectancy, daily calorie supply, access to clean water, infant immunization, secondary school enrolment, per capita income, rate of inflation, communications technology, political freedom and civil rights. Of the total 100 points indicating the highest level of suffering, Denmark has 1 and Mozambique has 93, indicating the extreme conditions under which the people live.
We know that in 1980, five years after independence, most of these indicators were going up as health care and educational facilities were expanded and upgraded to include the rural
population which had been excluded from these amenities in colonial times. The reason for their dramatic plunge over the past 12 years to the lowest in the world is the brutally destructive war waged by the Mozambique National Resistance (MNR or Renamo}, supported and equipped over the years mainly from South Africa.
Many actions can be undertaken by the international community in order to improve the living conditions of Mozambicans – emergency food aid especially during the current drought, provision of security, development assistance, human resource training, balance of payments support, debt cancellation, etc. All of these are valid and necessary, but are temporary under current conditions. The only real, lasting solution is peace.
Therefore, the most important campaign. At this moment is the one for peace, to increase pressure on Renamo to discuss seriously the military agenda, including a ceasefire, and to support President Chiasano’s appeal for a truce while discussions on the modalities of peace take place.
Virtually all of Renamo a demands have been met by the government, and most observers, including Western diplomats, agree that Renamo has been stalling for two years, and continues
to stall, because it has been unable to transform itself into a political entity capable of competing in national elections. The people of Mozambique are paying for this inability with their blood.
Renamo has been refusing to discuss military matters as the next agenda item, and agreed only after a meeting in Malawi between Alfonso Dhlakama and Herman Cohen, the US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs. Renamo has insisted on discussing next the suspension of some unspecified clauses of the constitution, and will be able to continue to use this issue to stall because it will be discussed after military matters but before implementation of a peace accord.
The talks in Rome have not yet resumed, two months after the signing of Protocol No. 3, because Rename continues to delay in setting a date — originally proposed as the first week of May, then the middle of the month, and the latest proposal is the last week of May. That delay in resumption of the talks has added another month to the human suffering.
The devastating drought in Mozambique, part of a region-wide drought that is the worst in living memory, threatens the lives of 3 million people, most of whom are out of reach of food aid due to war-damaged infrastructure such as roads and bridges, and for reasons of security. Protecting food convoys is one way of dealing with this, although Renamo has refused so far to allow it, but the only sure way of getting this food aid through is if there is an immediate truce.
All governments in Europe publicly support human rights, and yet Renamo·s well-documented recruitment and training of children to kill is not an issue that is taken up. The use of children in military action in the south and centre of the country i.e. increasing And the age of the children is getting younger. Residents of the outlying suburbs of the capital, Maputo, consistently give the average age of their attackers as 15, which means some are older — and some are younger. Some of those captured have been as young as 10 or 12, and they have been interviewed by journalists and by Western diplomats, to whom they have told horror stories of learning how to kill and then doing it. This is morally unacceptable to the international community, and is among the worst imaginable violations of the United Nations charter on the rights of the child.
After peace, the next most important issue is reconstruction, physical and psychological. This is an incomprehensibly vast undertaking, including rebuilding of economic and social infrastructure and rehabilitation of a war-damaged population, especially the children. It is linked in some ways to regional reconstruction but its needs are in many other ways more specific, including the creation of conditions for the resettlement of over 2 million refugees (registered and unregistered) who fled the country, and the millions more displaced within.
Finally, senior Mozambican government officials believe that their peace process is inextricably linked to the negotiations in South Africa, and all possible pressure that can be exerted there is of benefit also to the people of Mozambique
Southern African News Features offers a reliable source of regional information and analysis on the Southern African Development Community, and is provided as a service to the SADC region.
This article may be reproduced with credit to the author and publisher.
SANF is produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which has monitored regional developments since 1985. Email: email@example.com
Website and Virtual Library for Southern Africa www.sardc.net Knowledge for Development