Peace talks around Africa are often a hit and miss affair, but Mozambique shows it can be done

You need a lot of patience to tie up a deal as South Sudan would suggest, but there are success stories to be had.

THE past few weeks have been “peace talk season” around the continent, but getting a deal signed—and followed—can be notoriously difficult in Africa; mediators have to figure out who to invite to the talks in order to be “inclusive enough”, but not too many to throw needless spanners in the works. 

And sometimes, negotiators can be more interested in enjoying the swanky hotel life during talks than actually negotiating an end to violence. 

South Sudan is the classic example: Last week, another round of peace talks between the country’s warring factions opened in Ethiopia. Several ceasefire agreements have been signed since January, but each time, both government forces as well as rebel troops violated the deal within hours.  The latest treaty mediated by regional bloc IGAD requires the setting up of a transitional government of national unity by the first week of October. 

But getting the deal finalised has dragged on, as including former political prisoners, religious leaders and civil society organisations in the peace process led to more confusion instead of inclusive solutions, leading to their dismissal from the negotiating table. IGAD even felt the need to relocate the talks to Bahir, a quieter town 550 km north of Addis Ababa as it is rumored that delegates were “not serious” about reaching peace. The hotel bill for the talks is said to be over $25 million as South Sudanese delegates would mostly hang around lobbies of luxurious hotels in Addis Ababa. 

Remains suspended
A newer crisis needing talks this week is Lesotho. Representatives of the regional bloc SADC, led by South African deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, intervened to restore stability in the mountain nation after Prime Minister Tom Thabane fled the country following an abortive coup three weeks ago.

An observation team made up of Southern African countries will be placed within the Southern African kingdom for three months to monitor developments and ensure peace. Even though regional leaders told the Prime Minister to re-open parliament with immediate effect as this was one of the main reasons for the coup, parliament remains suspended.

But there seems to have been success in Mozambique, with the recent conclusion of talks that led to a ceasefire deal between former rebel group Renamo and Mozambique’s ruling party Frelimo. A deal was signed late August after a year of negotiations. The deal is expected to clear the way for peaceful presidential election on October 15. Renamo had been fighting Frelimo since independence in 1975 for the following 16 years, leading to a peace deal in 1992. 

In 2012, Renamo - the largest opposition party - accused the government of not abiding to the 1992 agreement, and launched attacks and highway ambushes. Negotiations will continue, as economic and political grievances still need to be addressed. One of the main issues to be tackled will be the reintegration of Renamo’s militia members into the army and society.

On paper
While the integration of rebels into the army seems great in theory, it doesn’t always achieve the desired objectives as we have seen in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A 2009 deal between rebels and the DRC government included the integration of rebels into the national army. 

The rebels, known as M23, captured several cities late 2013 after complaints the government was not making any efforts to implement the 2009 deal. M23 rebels and the government struck a peace accord in February last year that included disarming the rebels. Concerns have been raised on slow progress of reforming legal, political and military structures to meet demands of citizens, the international community and rebels.

More peace talks have been ongoing in Algeria since early September to settle disputes between the Malian government and several militant groups. Mali endured chaotic times since 2012 after an uprising of Tuareg insurgents, followed by a military coup and an occupation of the North by Islamist militants. The French were invited by the Malian government early January 2013 to intervene, but the conflict continues to drag on.

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