Pope arrives in Mozambique hoping to consolidate peace

1 / 2
Pope Francis and Mozambican President Felipe Nyusi inspect the guard of honor upon the Pope’s arrival at the Maputo International Airport near the capital on Sept. 4, 2019. Pope Francis will visit Mozambique from the Sept. 4-6. (AFP)
2 / 2
Pope Francis boards the airplane as he departs Fiumicino Airport to begin his visit to the African nations of Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius, in Rome, Italy Sept. 4, 2019. (Vatican Media/Reuters)
Updated 04 September 2019

Pope arrives in Mozambique hoping to consolidate peace

  • Pope is opening a 3-nation pilgrimage to southern Africa with a strategic visit to Mozambique
  • Francis will also reach out to Mozambicans affected by back-to-back cyclones as well

MAPUTO: Pope Francis arrived to a vibrant welcome in to Mozambique on Wednesday to encourage the country’s fragile peace, starting a three-nation African tour where climate change, poverty and corruption will also be high on the agenda.
The former Portuguese colony emerged from 15 years of civil war in 1992 but it was only last month that President Filipe Nyusi of the ruling Frelimo party and the leader of the Renamo opposition, Ossufo Momade, signed a permanent cease-fire.
Nyusi greeted the pope at Maputo airport, where the 82-year-old pontiff, arriving after a 10-hour flight from Rome, was treated to displays of dancing and singing.
Tens of thousands of cheering and singing people lined the streets of his motorcade into the city. The pope had no engagements for Wednesday night and was scheduled to hold talks with the president on Thursday morning.
Francis told reporters on the plane that he hoped the trip would bear “good fruit.” With elections scheduled for October, some fear violence may break out again.
“He is coming at a time when we Mozambicans are trying to consolidate peace,” said Manuela Muianga, a biologist and disaster relief manager in the capital, Maputo.
“We Catholics feel that he is a visionary man who can help Mozambique to strengthen hope and make us forget all those things that make us fight against each other. The biggest concern is the fighting between the two parties. I’m sure he will address this,” she said.
Francis, who is expected to talk about peace when he meets Mozambique’s leaders on Thursday, mentioned his concern in a video message to the country ahead of the seven-day trip, which will also take him to Madagascar and Mauritius.
“I think he is going to give a forceful message to the country’s leaders about their responsibility to bring about peace and reconciliation, but also about addressing the root causes of the conflict,” said Erica Dahl-Bredine, Mozambique country representative for Catholic Relief Services.
Climate change is expected to be a topic in Mozambique and Madagascar. Deforestation, along with soil erosion, made Mozambique more vulnerable when two cyclones hit the country this year.
Francis, making his second trip to sub-Saharan Africa, will not be able to visit the city of Beira because of the devastation.
According to the World Bank, Mozambique has lost 8 million hectares of forest, about the size of Portugal, since the 1970s.
Aides say the trip is a key opportunity for the pope to renew appeals enshrined in his 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si” on environmental protection.
“CLIMATE EMERGENCY“
Francis challenged governments on Sunday to take “drastic measures” to combat global warming and reduce the use of fossil fuels, saying the world was experiencing a climate emergency.
In Madagascar, the world’s fourth-largest island, about 44% of forests have disappeared over the past 60 years, according to the French agricultural research center CIRAD. The environmental danger there is aggravated because 80% of its plant and animal species are not found anywhere else.
Poverty and corruption will also loom large.
According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), 80% of Mozambique’s population of about 30 million cannot afford the minimum costs for an adequate diet.
The WFP says more than 90% of Madagascar’s population of 26 million live on less than $2 a day and that chronic child malnutrition is widespread.
Francis has called for a fairer distribution of wealth between prosperous and developing countries, and defended the right of countries to control their mineral resources.
He has branded corruption “one of the most decimating plagues” in society.
Mozambique and Madagascar rank in the lowest quarter of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.
“Corruption is huge. Many Mozambicans have lost faith completely in their political leaders,” said Dahl-Bredine.
Francis makes an eight-hour stop in Mauritius, a small island in the Indian Ocean that is relatively rich compared Madagascar and Mozambique.
But anti-poverty campaigners say Mauritius’ tax treaties and financial services industry facilitate tax avoidance, draining desperately-needed revenues from poor countries.


South Sudan opposition leader returns to meet with president

Updated 19 October 2019

South Sudan opposition leader returns to meet with president

  • Riek Machar last met face-to-face with President Salva Kiir in September, when they discussed outstanding issues in a fragile peace deal
  • The civil war killed almost 400,000 people and displaced millions

JUBA, South Sudan: South Sudan opposition leader Riek Machar returned to the country Saturday to meet with President Salva Kiir less than a month before their deadline to form a unity government after a five-year civil war.
Machar last met face-to-face with Kiir in September, when they discussed outstanding issues in a fragile peace deal. His two-day visit includes a meeting with the US ambassador to the United Nations, who arrives Sunday with a UN Security Council delegation.
The delegation is expected to encourage progress in the peace deal signed a year ago but fraught with delays.
Both Kiir and Machar will meet with the delegation Sunday, government spokesman Michael Makuei said.
The opposition has said Machar won’t return to South Sudan for good to form the government by the Nov. 12 deadline unless security arrangements are in place.
The US has said it will reevaluate its relationship with South Sudan if that deadline is missed.
The civil war killed almost 400,000 people and displaced millions.
Before Machar’s return a unified army of 41,500 opposition and government soldiers needs to be ready along with a 3,000-person VIP protection force.
But so far there are only 1,000 unified soldiers and security arrangements won’t meet the deadline, deputy opposition spokesman Manawa Peter Gatkuoth said.
The previous Machar-Kiir meeting focused on speeding up the screening and reunification of forces, but parties left the talks with differing views.
Deputy chairman for the opposition Henry Odwar called the meeting “lukewarm,” while Makuei called it “highly successful” and said everything was on track for next month’s deadline.