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The Social Science Research Council’s African Peacebuilding Network (APN), in collaboration with the African Leadership Center (ALC) of Kings College London, and Wilton Park held a virtual two-day webinar on “Conflict and Peacebuilding in Mozambique,” from September 21 to 22, 2021. The webinar was the latest in a “Peacebuilding in Africa series” launched in 2015 aimed towards ‘moving peacebuilding beyond state and elite-centered approaches to encompass the wider communities involved in conflict, including youth and women’s networks on the continent.’ Participants included high-level practitioners, scholars, activists, and staff and fellows of the African Leadership Centre (ALC), African Peacebuilding Network (APN) and Next Generation Social Science in Africa (NextGen) programs of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC).
The webinar commenced with an introduction and welcome remarks by Robert Grant, program director at Wilton Park, followed by a Town Hall discussion on “The future of Mozambique.” The panel of speakers included Adriano Nuvunga and Constancio Machanguana, both of Eduardo Mondlane University, Maputo, Mozambique and Ambassador Welile Nhlapo of African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), South Africa. The panel was moderated by Funmi Olonisakin, the Vice President (International) of Kings College, London. The presenters spoke to the fragile peace in Mozambique, noting the ways in which elite-centric extractivism and global trade in natural resources are undermining governance, peace and development in the country. Other identified challenges included the unfinished business of Security Sector Reforms (SSR), disputed election outcomes, marginalization of certain regions of the country to the point of the near absence of state authority and development, aid dependency and the effects of climate change. During the discussions that followed, participants noted the issue of a lost historical opportunity to rebuild the country after the Rome Agreement of 1992, the lost connection between the ruling FRELIMO ruling party and its social base after independence, corruption and the need for more transparent and accountable governance. Of note were discussions around the activities of extremist groups in Cabo Delgado province and the terms of engagement of international peacekeepers from the South African Development Community (SADC) and Rwanda.
The second day was a closed session that afforded presenters a greater opportunity to delve deeper into some of the issues discussed the previous day. The webinar commenced with opening remarks by Robert Grant, program director at Wilton Park, Cyril Obi, program director of SSRC’s APN and Shuvai Nyoni, executive director of the ALC. Their remarks were followed by a session on “Identity and Statehood,” followed by breakout sessions on, “Strengthening the role of next generation peacebuilding actors.” The breakout sessions were divided along the lines of the following sub-themes: Mozambique corridors: regional dynamics; Gender and reconciliation; Future Governance; and Intergenerational contestations. The speakers at the session on identity and statehood were Joao Honwana, a retired UN official and consultant and Brian Kagoro, director of the Africa Regional Office of the Open Society Foundation (OSF). They described how the Mozambican state exists in conjunction with multiple identities that did not exist in harmony. It was noted that the ruling FRELIMO party and the ruling elite have yet to build national unity and some hope was expressed that a new elite would emerge to bridge the division between the haves and have-nots and embark on a new national conversation that would move the country towards social transformation. It was argued that the local context “should be read transnationally” and solutions must be approached from the local, regional and global levels.
Discussions focused on the local challenges: regional disparities, widespread poverty, youth unemployment, marginalization of women, fragile peace agreements, and regional challenges — including the relatively poor response of the SADC — particularly its penchant for state-centric elitist responses and weak peace and security architecture. At the global level, the extractive nature of big business was noted alongside aid dependency and the activities of transnational criminal networks and extremist groups. Emphasis was placed on paying attention to the role of non-state approaches to peacebuilding, including the role of civil society in engaging the state and big business, the need for psychological support to marginalized and traumatized groups. The need for additional research, education, youth and women’s empowerment and devolution of power to local communities, including a role for traditional leaders, were also emphasized.
In the closing and wrap up session, Monde Muyangwa of the Wilton Center, provided a succinct summary of the discussions over the two days, pointing to the shortcomings of the Mozambican state as well as a global power structure that had fallen short of protecting African people. She also underscored the centrality of inclusive governance as a key ingredient for transforming peacebuilding in Africa, noting that the “people are the owners of peace.” She then explored the possibilities for building networks of solidarity and emphasized the need to “re-envision the state in Africa” in ways that would make the state serve the ordinary people—and help build inclusive and sustainable peace and development.