Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Soldiers Become Plowmen as Mozambique Revives Exhausted by Civil War, a Southern African Nation Rebuilds Itself on Its Own Terms

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Soldiers Become Plowmen as Mozambique Revives Exhausted by Civil War, a Southern African Nation Rebuilds Itself on Its Own Terms

Article excerpt

If you want to judge the effects of war and peace, check the wares sold by the street kids of Maputo, Mozambique.

The boys used to hawk carvings of helicopters and United Nations airplanes carrying emergency food aid. Now they peddle models of holiday boats, trucks, and portable cassette-radio players.

Four years after the end of one of Africa's most vicious civil wars, Mozambique is a place of unexpectedly long-lasting peace. With 75 percent illiteracy and ruined infrastructure, Mozambique is an unlikely candidate for success. But on a continent better known for peacekeeping failures in Somalia, Rwanda, and Liberia, it is an oasis of hope.

"It's gone remarkably well," says Moises Venancio, a program officer of the UN Development Program, who is overseeing projects to reintegrate thousands of former soldiers into civilian life. "The transition to peace has gone much, much better than we anticipated."

He and other development officials cite several reasons for Mozambique's modest success:

*The UN learned from the example of Angola, another former Portuguese colony that underwent a similar civil war in 1975. Although a peace agreement was signed in 1991, Angola's conflict resumed after 1992 elections, in part because the armies were not disbanded.

In Mozambique, following a 1992 peace agreement and before 1994 elections, the UN stationed 7,000 peacekeepers in the country to oversee the demobilization of troops. Neighboring states also exercised pressure on the former adversaries to comply with the peace accords.

*Most of the nearly 80,000 former combatants from the government Army and the Mozambique National Resistance Movement rebels have enough to eat. Some 80 percent of Mozambicans live in rural areas. Most soldiers went back to their villages, where there was land to till.

They were helped in part by a bumper harvest last year, which erased the hunger that lingered after a devastating drought in 1991. …

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