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Heads up – Embassy 36

Peace dividends

As Mozambique marks the 20th anniversary of its peace accord this year, Carlos dos Santos, the newly-arrived High Commissioner to London, can take personal satisfaction in the contribution he made.

As Chef du Cabinet at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1991-92, he was involved in the final stages of the negotiations and was present at the signing of the Rome General Peace Accords in October 1992, which ended 15 years of bitter civil war.

“We rejoiced, but we weren’t sure whether peace had come to stay,” he reflects. “And then the real work started to make the agreement stick!”

Dos Santos was appointed Private Secretary to President Chissano (1992-96) where he was the point of contact between the various opposing parties as well as the UN in implementing the agreement, including thorny issues such as demobilization.

It was a process he had witnessed as a young diplomat posted to Harare in 1984-1990 in the years that followed the Lancaster House Agreement which ended the Zimbabwean conflict.

But what made Mozambique’s process more challenging was that it had almost no institutional capacity following years of Portuguese colonial rule and a long civil war.

Yet 20 years later, Mozambique is regarded as a success story, which the High Commissioner attributes to a combination of factors. “The first is good leadership as well as the desire of the people to want peace. We also had the strong support of the international community.”

Mozambique’s neighbourhood had also changed, he adds, especially in Zimbabwe and South Africa whose white minority governments – that had supported the Mozambican rebels – were no longer in power.

After four years assisting the President, the High Commissioner was sent to the UN in New York in 1996. He was appointed Secretary-General of the first meeting of the States Parties to the Ottawa Convention to Ban Landmines and continues to take a professional and personal interest in eradicating landmines in Mozambique – in fact his wife was a programme officer in Mozambique’s National Demining Institute.

Dos Santos also chaired the Preparatory Committee of the 2001 International Conference on Illicit Trade in Small Arms, a scourge which has fuelled conflicts not only in Mozambique but all over Africa.

“We wanted to find proper controls and management of small arms and light weapons,” explains the High Commissioner. “We still have weapons caches hidden in bushes that were left by the guerrillas. We launched Operation Rachel in 1996 to encourage those who have illegal weapons to trade them in for spades and hoes.”

Dos Santos returned to Mozambique in 2003 as Senior Adviser to President Chissano to find a country undergoing a remarkable transformation. “We experienced an immeasurable peace dividend. Over the past ten years, Mozambique has registered economic growth rates averaging seven to eight per cent per annum.”

Admittedly the country was starting from a very low base, but he stresses that these levels of growth need to be sustained in order to wean Mozambique off its dependence on donor funding.

“Almost half of our budget is supported by development partners,” says Dos Santos. Germany for instance, where he was posted as Ambassador in 2006, supports education, the HIV Aids Programme and the decentralisation of development as well as the growth of private enterprise in Mozambique and regional science and technology centres. Highlights of his posting included coordinating the first-ever state visit of a Mozambican head of state to Germany and arranging a week-long Mozambican cultural festival.

Now in London, the High Commissioner wants to build on ties with the UK, which is one of Mozambique’s key development partners. But as important as aid is, the High Commissioner wants to concentrate on encouraging British businesses to trade with and invest in Mozambique’s economy.

There is plenty of scope, he says, particularly in the burgeoning mining, agriculture, food processing and tourism industries as well as large infrastructure projects. Mozambique’s energy sector is undergoing rapid expansion with the discovery of large deposits of natural gas on its coastline, as well as renewable sources of energy such as hydropower, biomass, wind and solar energy.

With Mozambique being one of the newer members of the Commonwealth, Dos Santos also wants to use his time in London to learn from the experiences of other members – such as Trinidad and Tobago, which has a long history and expertise in the energy sector.

“There are still huge challenges facing us – we remain one of the least developed countries and there are issues such as corruption which we are trying to tackle. But like our country, our people are blessed with a lot of energy too!” smiles the High Commissioner, who hopes to share some of Mozambique’s infectious dance, music and culture with the British public.

He is not short of energy either, having captained the African ambassadors’ football side for two years running in the annual match against the German Foreign Ministry on Africa Day.

It’s a tradition he thinks could be imported to London. As a striker, no doubt High Commissioner Dos Santos will score many goals in London whether in the diplomatic or on the football field.

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HE Mr Carlos dos Santos

“We experienced an immeasurable peace dividend. Over the past ten years, Mozambique has registered economic growth rates averaging seven to eight per cent per annum”

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