Three peace initiatives in Africa

The African continent has experienced wars, but also peace, which could be conquered by a political will, as between Ethiopia and Eritrea, with the force of arms as in Costa d'Ivoire or with a external mediation as in Mozambique.

Peace by force

In the Ivory Coast, the French bombs, supported by a UN mission, forced Laurent Gbagbo to deliver the presidency to his competitor Alassane Ouattara.

Weapons can reduce conflict and contribute to peace. This is what happened in the Ivory Coast in 2011, after almost a decade of bothersome hates and kingdoms of small-scale leaders in territories abandoned by the Abidjan authorities. It all started in 2002 with a coup that forced President Laurent Gbagbo to lose control of the north, above Bouaké. Accuse Alassane Ouattara of being the "brain" of the rebellion. He asks France in vain to help him defeat the rebels.

The international community is appealing to the verdict at the polls. Six times, the presidential election is postponed. The tension rises in the country, until the second round of voting, in November 2010, against Laurent Gbagbo to Alassane Ouattara. This election does not solve anything. December 3, the country is left with two presidents: the Constitutional Council proclaims the victory of Laurent Gbagbo and the electoral commission that of its competitor. The UN, France and the United States ask Laurent Gbagbo to bow down.

He lives in the presidential palace, while Alassane Ouattara retires to the Golf Hotel. Fear begins in Abidjan. Supporters of the "Nordic candidate" fear Laurent Gbagbo's raid of Young patriots. Television transmits calls to clear the accounts. The memory of the Rwandan genocide floats in people's minds. The government is closing the borders. The non-Ivorian workers of the Sahel are fleeing from the capital. The fights will make 3,000 dead.

France, which had refused its support to Laurent Gbagbo a few years earlier, this time believes that the only weapons will avoid a massacre by resolving the crisis for the benefit of Alassane Ouattara.

After a ten-day battle in the capital, the bombs of the French force Licorne and the support of the UN mission in the Ivory Coast (Onuci), Alassane Ouattara manages to settle in the presidential palace.

The arms are silent, Laurent Gbagbo is arrested, Alassane Ouattara is hit by about twenty African heads of state and the French president Nicolas Sarkozy. The country regains international credit and international donors open their scholarships. Abidjan is enriched and during this period, international justice is interested in The Hague for the role of Laurent Gbagbo, accused of crimes against humanity.

Peace through politics

Last summer, in Ethiopia, a new prime minister reached his Eritrean neighbor who was under siege. Since then, the signs of peace have multiplied.

Political will can lead to peace. It requires compromises, gestures and popular support, often fueled by good propaganda. In the Horn of Africa, two policies seem to have decided themselves to conclude peace, with general surprise. One, Issayas Afeworki, was president of Eritrea for twenty-five years, the other, Abiy Ahmed, 42, has just come to power in Ethiopia and puts an end to the rule of tigrayan power. Northern ethnic group that had quarreled with Eritrea.

In 1998, the two neighbors went to war for a few hundred square kilometers of desert. 80,000 fighters will die in two years' time. The conflict pushes hundreds of thousands of Eritreans to flee. They wanted to escape the permanent enlistment of a dictator obsessed with the presence of the Ethiopian army at its southern border. Twenty years later, Abiy Ahmed said he was suddenly ready to apply the conclusions of an international arbitration – refused until then by Ethiopia – over the border. Everything is accelerating.

A few days later, an Eritrean delegation went to Ethiopia to discuss peace. On July 8, a historic meeting between the Ethiopian prime minister and the Eritrean president, unimaginable a few weeks before, took place in Asmara, greeted by the crowd, undoubtedly summoned by the dictator. The next day, the two leaders sign a joint declaration ending the state of war. Issayas Afeworki visits Ethiopia, where his country's embassy in Addis Ababa is reopened. A commercial flight connects Addis Ababa to Asmara.

Foreign countries have, without a doubt, helped politicians decide to surrender. Issayas Afwerki was for three years closer to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, allowing them to use the port of Assab to drive another war, that of Yemen. At the end of April, the American Undersecretary of State for Africa made the first visit of an American official to Eritrea for a long time.

In September, Ethiopia and Eritrea signed an agreement in Saudi Arabia to consolidate their reconciliation in the presence of the UN Secretary-General. Antonio Guterres said that the sanctions against Eritrea could no longer be justified.

Peace through mediation

In Mozambique, the Sant Egidio community managed to put the belligerents around the same table. And to convince them to surrender.

Convince the belligerents to make peace by talking to each other around the same table. This is what do the dozen members of the International Office of Sant 'Egidio since 1968. Peace in Mozambique, after sixteen years of fratricidal war, was the greatest victory of this Christian community established in Rome. Its strong point is not having "a hidden agenda", no geostrategic interest to defend.

In 1992, after two years of efforts and 11 meetings held in Rome between the Marxist power and the guerrillas supported by the South African apartheid regime, President Joaquim Chissano and Afonso Dhlakama, the leader of Renamo, decided to surrender. This civil war had killed one million people and forced two million Mozambicans into exile, not to mention the wounded, landmines and destruction.

It all began with the shipment in 1984 of three aircraft and two auxiliary ships to Mozambique. This support for a population suffering both from the conflict and from the Marxist regime has paved the way for dialogue. A first meeting was organized by Sant 'Egidio in 1988 between Afonso Dhlakama and Mons. Jaime Gonçalves, Archbishop of Beira. Without success

Two years later, another meeting between the government and Renamo is held in the Roman headquarters of the community. Mediation can start. It will last two years until peace.

It was not enough to help the fighters sign this peace. It was therefore necessary to make it effective. The mediators of Sant 'Egidio give way to the enormous machine of the United Nations. At the end of 1992, 7,500 peacekeepers were deployed. The United Nations mission in Mozambique guarantees the implementation of peace agreements from the demobilization of soldiers and their disarmament to the organization of the elections. For its part, the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees is investing 80 million euros for the return of refugees. Two years later, in 1994, Mozambicans could freely elect their president among the ten candidates for the first time and appoint 250 deputies for the next five years.

Twenty-four years later, the country is still governed by the same party, Frelimo, and Renamo is still the main opposition force with a strong presence in the north of the country. But since then, peace has reigned without interruption, despite regular clashes and rampant corruption.

Pierre Tick

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