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Human Rights Developments

Nineteen ninety-two was a year of both hope and disaster in Mozambique: hope, in that progress in the peace talks between President Joaquim Chissano and renamo (Mozambique National Resistance) leader Afonso Dhlakama led to the signing of a cease-fire agreement on October 4; disaster, in that much of the country plunged into the most severe famine in living memory, both causedby and in turn aggravating widespread violence, much of it by undisciplined soldiers from both armies.

The 15-year war has been the main cause of human rights violations in Mozambique, and the October cease-fire is a prerequisite for improvement. However, the cease-fire agreement was soon violated-for example, on October 18, renamo occupied four northern towns in Nampula province, which were later abandoned or retaken by government forces-and serious human rights abuses were committed.

It is uncertain whether the forces led by Chissano and Dhlakama will obey their leaders and lay down their arms. renamo has been known for its extremely abusive tactics, and it is unclear to what degree its forces are under a central command. There is also reportedly some disagreement within the organization's leadership over whether a cease-fire should be implemented. On the other hand, hungry and unpaid soldiers of the Mozambique Armed Forces (ufd) have mutinied in several instances. Disgruntled soldiers reportedly continue to attack people and extort money and food.

The effects of war and continuing insecurity have combined with the worst drought to hit the country in the past century to create what could be an unprecedented tragedy. According to a United Nations estimate, as many as 3.2 million Mozambicans face famine and are in need of urgent aid. However, attempts to secure overland "peace corridors" for the delivery of food aid have been stalled and blocked, mainly by renamo.

Throughout 1992, the famine and the war have strongly influenced each other. The scale of humanitarian need has added urgency to the negotiations, while the need for unpaid soldiers to provision themselves has led to looting and pillaging on both sides.

An important breakthrough in the negotiations came on July 16. In a meeting in Rome, where mediators led by the Italian government and the Catholic Santo Egidio community had been coordinating talks since July 1990, renamo and the Mozambican government signed an agreement to permit the nationwide distribution of humanitarian aid. The joint declaration guaranteed "free circulation and respect for personnel and means of transport" for vehicles and workers under U.N. or Red Cross flags and "unrestricted movement of people to allow them complete access to humanitarian assistance."

However, renamo was slow to implement the accord. Several weeks after its formal signing, no land route had been agreed upon and no food delivered. A U.N. representative in the capital, Maputo, blamed renamo for not responding to a proposal of possible relief routes.

On August 5, Chissano and Dhlakama met for their first face-to-face talks in Rome. The meeting was preceded by intense diplomatic efforts by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and efforts by the British businessman "Tiny" Rowland, chairman of Lonrho, a British multinational corporation. On August 8, following meetings brokered by the Italian foreign ministry, the two sides agreed that they would sign a cease-fire on October 1. PresidentChissano later told the press that he had asked for an immediate end to the war but that Dhlakama had declined. The renamo leader explained that there were still outstanding concerns about the disarmament procedures, the status of the security police, and the formation of a new army.

During the next meeting, held at Gaborone, Botswana, on September 18, Dhlakama and Chissano agreed on the size and composition of a future national army (30,000 soldiers with 15,000 each from the government and the rebels) and concurred that the State Security and Intelligence Service (sise) would remain under government control. The two sides also agreed on the eventual withdrawal of Zimbabwean and Malawian troops who were in Mozambique to guard transportation corridors.

However, renamo once again hesitated to accept a U.N. plan for the delivery of food aid to areas held by the rebels. The Government ratified the plan on September 14. After several delays, renamo accepted only two of ten proposed relief corridors, subject to certain conditions.

Food deliveries were also blocked in the field by rebel and government troops. In September, for example, foreign diplomats reported that three regiments of unpaid ufd soldiers rioted on the outskirts of Beira, putting the city under virtual siege for several days and cutting off the delivery of aid along this crucial transportation corridor. Diversion of food aid by government officials, soldiers and traders reached levels of 75 percent in many areas. The government also repeatedly accused renamo of blocking food deliveries and attacking relief convoys.

The next stage of the peace process was the signing of a cease-fire accord, set for October 1. Again, renamo hesitated. Two days before, the Italian mediators called off the signing, saying that renamo would not attend. Although Dhlakama did eventually arrive in Rome, he said that renamo still had objections which had to be resolved before the agreement could be signed.

The cease-fire agreement was finally signed in Rome on October 4, with the cessation of hostilities to occur upon enactment by the Mozambican Assembly of several new laws addressing renamo's concerns. The agreement stipulated that ufd and renamo troops were to gather in sites under U.N. supervision, where they would hand over their guns and receive food. Zimbabwean troops in Mozambique would leave the country within 30 days and the new, unified army was to be created. Special commissions to monitor the cease-fire, the operations of the State Security and Intelligence Service, the demobilization of the combatants and the formation of a new army were also agreed to. Elections were to be held within 12 months of the cease-fire.

In the following weeks, the Mozambican Assembly ratified several of the requisite new laws, including an amnesty that covers renamo members accused of crimes against state security and military crimes such as terrorism, kidnapping and treason, as well as battlefield acts. The amnesty reflects a consensus in Mozambique that holding accountable those responsible for gross human rights abuses during the war might jeopardize the process of nationalreconciliation. The cease-fire formally went into effect on October 15.

Despite the cease-fire, serious violence continues. Disputes and delays occurred regarding the formation of the verification commissions and the procedures for confining troops. renamo delayed sending its representatives to Maputo to sit on the commissions on the asserted grounds that it feared for their safety. Even more worrying, food deliveries were not been regularized due to ongoing fighting.

On other human rights issues, the government has finally begun to disclose the fate of dissidents detained and executed after independence in 1975. Prison conditions and the rights of detainees have improved compared to previous years, but remain well below international standards. A large number of political prisoners remain detained, although many are being released following the cease-fire accords which stipulated that the government and renamo should release all prisoners. The establishment of a viable judiciary is hampered by the economic problems of the country and an acute lack of qualified lawyers.

Mozambican citizens in the major towns have continued to enjoy the freedoms recognized in the 1990 constitution and related legislation. Political parties are able to function. The press law enacted by the government in 1991, which guarantees press freedom, has led to a flowering of independent journalism, including much candid coverage of the war, famine, corruption and banditry. However, there have been incidents of harassment and censorship of journalists, and in April a journalist at Notícias, Noe Ditimande, was dismissed after criticizing two senior government figures.

The Right to Monitor

As yet, there are no organized human rights organizations in Mozambique, although several prominent jurists, with the support of the Minister of Justice, have begun to set one up. The Mozambican government has allowed independent foreign observers to report on conditions in the country. In 1990, the government invited Africa Watch to undertake research in the country and allowed representatives to visit prisons without obstruction or interference. Africa Watch was also granted access to senior members of the government, including the President. This level of access, and the accompanying frankness of government officials, was unprecedented in Africa Watch's dealings with African governments.

U.S. Policy

The United States has continued to play a positive role in the search for peace and improved respect for human rights. In 1992, U.S. policy concentrated on supporting the peace process, in particular attempting to influence renamo to move forward.

The United States also continues to deliver more aid to Mozambique than to any other sub-Saharan African country. For fiscal year 1992, the Bush administration had planned to disburse a total of over $68 million dollars of aid, composed of $36 million in development assistance, $32 million in food aid and $100,000 inInternational Military Education and Training funds. It is believed, though, that due to the emergency famine situation in Mozambique, U.S. assistance for 1992 will top $150 million, mainly in food and humanitarian assistance.

Beginning in June 1992, the U.S. participated in the peace talks as an official observer, along with Portugal, the United Kingdom, France and the United Nations. The U.S. was particularly involved in working sessions on the cease-fire.

The U.S. played an important role in pressing renamo to cooperate in the peace process. On April 25, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen met with Afonso Dhlakama in Malawi and reportedly pressed the renamo leader to permit the distribution of food assistance and restart the stalled peace talks. Although Dhlakama objected to a U.S.-proposed temporary truce to facilitate the delivery of food aid, Secretary Cohen did secure Dhlakama's agreement to return to Rome for further talks. While the U.S. has increased its contacts with renamo to further the peace process, it has still not granted Afonso Dhlakama a visa to visit Washington, an important symbolic policy in light of the horrendous abuses committed under his command. The U.S. government has continued to condemn these brutal tactics, and has not allowed the imperatives of the peace process to soften its criticism.

During a trip to the United States in July, President Chissano met with Secretary of State James Baker, who reportedly expressed positive views on constitutional and economic reforms enacted by Chissano and assured him of continued support from the U.S. government. The U.S. has also promised to "participate generously" in the effort to "avert a large-scale human catastrophe." While Africa Watch applauds the humanitarian assistance donated by the administration, we also note that Assistant Secretary Cohen has expressed concern about "ballooning U.N. peacekeeping costs" and indicated that the United States will seek to keep the U.N. presence in Mozambique "as lean as possible." Africa Watch hopes that the U.S. will be prepared to fund U.N. operations in Mozambique to the fullest extent necessary.

The Work of Africa Watch

In July, Africa Watch released Conspicuous Destruction: War, Famine & the Reform Process in Mozambique, a 200-page report. The report was the result of extensive research carried out in Mozambique at the invitation of the government. It detailed abuses by the renamo rebels and the ufd, the role of the war in the creation of famine, prison conditions, and efforts by the government to move toward a liberal democracy that respects civil and political rights. It is the most comprehensive report on human rights in Mozambique available, both in the range of issues addressed and in its apportionment of blame for war-related abuses to both sides. The report was delivered to representatives of the government and renamo and to the mediators at the Rome peace talks.

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