Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi and the main opposition party Renamo leader signed a permanent ceasefire agreement on Thursday, designed to end to almost half a century of hostilities that killed more than a million people.
Renamo and Nyusi’s ruling party fought a 16-year civil war before a ceasefire ended bloodshed in 1992.Violence flared up sporadically since then.
Thursday’s agreement is a step in a process that will culminate in signing a broader agreement in Maputo next week, expected amid much fanfare but whose effectiveness remains to be seen.
In a marquee on a packed football field in Gorongosa, Renamo’s heartland in central Mozambique, the crowd cheered after Nyusi and Renamo leader Ossufo Momade, signed the agreement. The leaders shook hands and embraced amid the din.
Nyusi said Mozambique was opening a new, more promising chapter free from war and conflict that slowed its development. “Gorongosa is no longer associated with violence,” he told the crowd.
Nyusi is keen to sign a final peace treaty ahead of presidential, parliamentary and provincial elections in October. Polls have historically been a trigger for violence and delivering peace would shore up support among voters and backing from international investors.
For Renamo – now able to stand in provincial elections for the first time and looking set to win a number of provinces – a peace treaty would affirm its status as a legitimate political party.
“The key event is 15th of October – the elections and the results,” said Alex Vines, research director for risk, ethics and resilience and head of the Africa programme at Chatham House. “It will be the initial litmus test of the sustainability of this process.”
Previously, accusations of fraud in elections put the peace process off course.
Renamo fighters need to be successfully disarmed and reintegrated, with some to be placed in the police or military. A small group of fighters disavowed Momade and said they would not hand over the weapons while he is in charge.
Momade, due to travel with Nyusi in the presidential aircraft to Maputo, said the party was committed to making sure elections are free, fair and transparent.
“Peace is here to stay,” he told the crowd of over 1,000 people, including international peace brokers and experts, prominent politicians and officials and locals.