Breaking the silence: Mozambique debates on national reconciliation

FCA and the Religious Network for Reconciliation and Peace, RRRP, hosted a historical meeting in Beira, Mozambique last week. This meeting brought together over one hundred delegates from ruling government party, Frelimo, and the main opposition party. They expressed the need for national dialogue and reconciliation.

Last week marked a momentous occasion in the history of Mozambique when over 100 delegates gathered at the Hotel Rainbow in the Beira province to voice the need for national dialogue, reconciliation and healing. This stems from decades of hard held feelings of betrayal, bitterness and political alienation following the civil war that rocked the country from 1977 – 1994.

Even though Mozambique succeeded in achieving independence in 1975, reconciliation and national cohesion remained elusive as is evident from the subsequent political conflicts and socio-economic unrest that engulfed the country in 2013 and 2014. Animosity has continued to characterize the relationship between the ruling government party, Frelimo, and the main opposition party, Renamo, as well as communities following strong political affiliations. With the emergence of a third powerful player in the opposition, the political terrain has been one of violence and fatalities in the recent past.

The National Conference on Reconciliation was run under the theme ’’The Mozambique we Want – Truly Reconciled and in Peace” and was hosted by the Religious Network for Reconciliation and Peace with financial support from FCA. The event was one of a kind and was graced by a government delegation represented by Mr. Joaquim Veríssimo, the Vice-Minister in the Ministry of Justice, Constitutional and Religious Affairs; Ms. Maria Helena Taipo, the Governor of Sofala Province, and key representatives of the Local and Municipal Governments. Represented also was the ruling party Frelimo and the two main opposition parties: Renamo, and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM). High profile representatives of the mainstream and minority Faith Based Institutions were also in attendance. These included the Catholic faithful, Protestants, Bahais, Hindus, Muslim community and others. The Civil Society was well represented with the UNDP, International NGOs, the private sector and a host of local players from the Sofala province present.

A key note address was given by Mr. Tomás Vieira Mário, who explored the theme “The role of different actors of society in reconciliation: action, challenges and opportunitie”. He explored the political, social and economic situation of the country given the turmoil and instability the country experienced in the past three years. However, he explored on the political, social and economic situation of the country given the turmoil the instability the country experienced in the past three years.

This was followed by a presentation and discussion on the importance of the work of networks for reconciliation – experience of the UN Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers by Aaro Rytkönen of FCA.

The conference was given different kinds of examples of reconciliation in other countries, like Somalia and Ireland. FCA’s acting Regional Representative for East and Southern Africa Office, Mahdi Abdile, spoke about the experiences from Somalia, and Doctor Ken Newel about Northern Ireland.

A religious dimension of reconciliation was taken up by Father Michael Kelleher from Northern Ireland; experience of Peace Clubs in Sofala province, by Rev. Lucas Amosse , and a presentation on the ‘’Commission of Justice and Peace in the Archdiocese of Beira’’ by Father Fidel Salazar,

A group of Mozambican political mediators drawn from a cross-faith background sharing their experiences was of utmost importance. The mediators have been working in the recent political conflicts between the government of Mozambique and the opposition.

An action plan was drawn on issues of concern that the country should look into through the RRRP. From across the delegation and representation, it was all praise for the organizers of the event, and the great step they took to initiate national reconciliation efforts, while the need for national reconciliation is profiled as a priority concern in the country. The government also confirmed that national reconciliation and cohesion is a top priority in its five-year National Development Plan – 2015-2019.

Text: Ruth Muthoni;  Pictures: Mahdi Abdile