Pope urges Mozambique to nurture peace

Francis warns Frelimo, Renamo parties against slipping back into civil war

Pope Francis shakes hands with Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi at an inter-religious youth meeting at the Maxaquene Pavilion in Maputo on Thursday
Pope Francis shakes hands with Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi at an inter-religious youth meeting at the Maxaquene Pavilion in Maputo on Thursday
Image: TIZIANA FABI/AFP

Pope Francis urged the people of Mozambique on Thursday to nurture their hard-earned peace and strive to provide equal opportunities for all so as not to slip back into civil war.

Francis addressed President Filipe Nyusi of the ruling Frelimo party and leaders of the Renamo opposition at the colonial-style presidential palace, where peacocks roamed lush gardens in contrast to bustling streets outside.

The two sides in the former Portuguese colony fought a 15year civil war until 1992 that killed about a million people.

But only in August did they sign a permanent ceasefire.

“In the course of these years, you have come to realise how the pursuit of lasting peace – a mission incumbent upon all – calls for strenuous, constant and unremitting effort.

“For peace is like a delicate flower, struggling to blossom on the stony ground of violence,” the pope told them.

Some fear that as the country of 28-million people approaches new elections scheduled for October, violence could break out, particularly in rural areas where the former rebels have more sway.

Renamo leader Ossufo Momade was in the audience for the papal address and received a round of applause when the president mentioned him.

In his address to the pope, Nyusi vowed to help build a nation “where non-violence becomes a culture lived by all, where politics is practised through the force of argument and not the force of arms”.

But Francis said if they wanted lasting peace, leaders had to discourage any form of fanaticism and exaltation and strive to improve conditions and opportunities for the marginalised.

“Without equal opportunities, the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode,” the pope said.

According to the UN World Food Programme, 80% of Mozambique’s population cannot afford the minimum costs for an adequate diet.

“It’s definitely a good day for peace and reconciliation,” UN resident co-ordinator for Mozambique Myrta Kaulard said.

“For good elections you need peace. For development you need peace.”

Kaulard, who attended the meeting, said Francis’s message would give a positive boost.

Francis also touched on environmental problems, another big theme of the trip that will take him on to Madagascar and Mauritius.

He said Mozambicans should be vigilant against pillaging and unethical exploitation of natural resources.

According to the World Bank, Mozambique has lost eight-million hectares of forest since the 1970s.

The country is the 10th largest supplier of rosewood to China, according to Chinese customs data.- Reuters 

X