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Interviews

Interview with President Joaquim Chissano (Former President of Mozambique)

Interview conducted by Joel MacMillan.

download (10)Q1. You have played an integral role, and have seen Mozambique evolve as a colonial, to an independent state after it gained its independence from Portugal in 1975. You are credited with building peace, and opening up free markets to help build socioeconomic stability in Mozambique. How can Mozambique serve as a model to other African states that have faced similar challenges?

Well it’s true that we have done a lot but we have also come out from a lot of suffering. We had a struggle for independence and after independence we faced some difficulties because another war of destabilisation was imposed on us by the minority regimes of the region. We succeeded in bringing that war to an end and started a process of reconciliation. Of course we are a case to be studied but not a case to be taken to be utilised as it is elsewhere because each country has its own history. It is necessary for all those who want to get inspiration from our case to study their own past history and accommodate what is good, because we also were inspired by others who fought, for instance from Algeria, Vietnam, China, India, South Africa and the US. We were inspired by all of these but we could not copy any one of them; we had to be creative to build our own future. At the beginning we had to find the support where it was easier to find it, which were then socialist countries. Very soon after, because we had our own experience, we understood that we had to work differently and we started another process so that when I became president we had already started working intensely to consolidate our independence in terms of the relationship with the world. We did not want to rely on one side of the world, because we didn’t want to be against the other side of the world, we wanted to be ourselves. This is what is very important here. So yes, Mozambique can be a reference point but not a point from where one has to copy everything.

Q2. Upon your retirement, you were appointed to the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and helped to bring a comprehensive political solution to the problems surrounding Northern Uganda. What needs to be done in your estimation, to bring peace and stability in those regions? And who should have more responsibility when it comes to the peace building process, the UN or the individual state?

What we were trying to do was to try and find a peaceful solution, at least negotiated solution- violence had been there already so it’s a forced expression to talk about a peaceful solution, and rather we should talk of a negotiated solution. We were about to reach this but a certain number of factors contributed to the loss of confidence which we had already instilled in the two parties, the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army. We lost that partly because the rebels were afraid to be taken to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and so the attempt to resolve the conflict by military ways was resumed. This has caused dispersion of the rebel forces and we may even say the weakening of these forces, but we will not be satisfied until we find out where they are. The most important thing is to address the causes of conflict. This is being done with the cooperation of the whole UN system. As a special envoy of the Secretary General of the UN I had to work with this, all the UN organisations as well as other organisations which were not a part of the UN family, including civil society from Europe and America who were trying to help to create better living conditions of the people in Northern Uganda and other parts of Uganda too. All governments should be involved in trying to find solutions by addressing the root causes of conflict which range from poverty to the discrepancies of distribution that is demographic distribution or distribution of wealth which come from traditional regimes in the past through the colonial period or the religious divide which existed there. All this has to be tackled and many players who were the basis of this should now be players in a positive way. Of course the main responsibility is that of the governments of the day who should find the best approaches. It is the responsibility of the local authorities, of local civil society, to try and build on whatever which unites the people and decrease the importance of what divides.

Q3. AFRICOM is a very divisive issue in the international community, and most importantly the African continent. While some see it as American imperialism, others see it as an effective resource to help deal with various challenges that some African states face. Do you think AFRICOM would help bring a level of stability to the continent as a whole, or do you think that it would create more problems for Africa as a whole?

Well I think that in the past the US needed to have observation points to deal with its responsibilities in global security, especially at a time when they had an enemy in the other part of the world in the east, more precisely the Soviet Union. Today I think what they should think about is how it can enable the countries of Africa to take care of their own defence. In other words it should become a project on what should be done so that it becomes irrelevant. I would not say that they should go immediately, I’m not an expert on this matter, but one has to make a thorough analysis and the Americans themselves should make an analysis to see how can make this instrument a positive one in the present day since they have no more enemies. They were speaking about big superpower, but I think that the tendency should not be to speak about superpowers so that we enhance the notion of equality and equity in world relations.

President Chissano, thank you so much for your time.

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