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Posted on on November 8th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

Africa is becoming better and better,” writes Globe&Mail on line’s Monkaagedi Gaotlhobogwe from Gaborone, Botswana, November 7, 2007.

Two of Africa’s most respected elder statesmen, Botswana’s former president Ketumile Masire and Mozambican ex-leader Joaquim Chissano, believe the continent is finally shedding its reputation as a theatre of conflict and corrupt governance.

In interviews with Agence France-Presse as Masire launched a new peace foundation this week, the two men both painted an upbeat assessment on Africa’s future based both on their time in office and recent careers as conflict troubleshooters.

“The future is bright. We are dealing with positive changes,” said Masire, who has served as a mediator in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Lesotho and Swaziland since standing down in 1998.

“The economies are better, elections are taking place in many African states, presidents are willing to leave offices, and there are no coups these days,” added Masire whose country is one of the few in Southern Africa to have escaped conflict since independence.

Chissano, Mozambique’s leader from 1986 to 2005, spent the first six years of his presidency trying to end a civil war which erupted soon after the former Portuguese colony gained independence in 1975.

He won widespread praise for not only overseeing the south-east African nation’s reconstruction but also standing down voluntarily and was awarded a new $5-million prize for leadership last month.

Chissano said continuing unrest in the DRC, Sudan and Uganda were “remnants of conflicts from long time ago” and did not reflect a broader picture.

Better and better
“They are not new conflicts. Uganda used to have many movements, now there are two or three remaining, the main one being the LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army], the one I’m working with right now,” said Chissano, who was last year appointed as a United Nations envoy to end the long-running conflict in northern Uganda.

He has played a similar role in Guinea-Bissau and also sits as the chairperson of a forum of 29 former African heads of state dedicated to peace efforts.

“We [the forum] have availed ourselves to help sitting heads of states, as well as helping in peace facilitations,” said Chissano.

“We are playing the role of advocacy in Africa, we believe the trend is changing, Africa is becoming better and better. The changes are good for peace, stability and integration.”

Asked about some of the continent’s worst conflicts of recent years, Chissano said “conditions for peace are ripe” in the DRC while the “situation is improving” in the Côte d’Ivoire.

“I believe in Sudan the leaders will discuss, Darfur will find a way out. Secession is possible but I believe they will first work for unity, I do not believe they are in a hurry for secession,” he added.

Masire said his foundation aimed to raise money to ensure peace efforts do not unravel due to a lack of funding.

“When I was the head of the mediation team in the DRC for instance, there was no funding for such a mission, and I had to pay the mediation team from my pockets,” he said.

“The aim of the foundation is to raise funds to enable peace facilitators to do work. They could be useful but they are often discouraged by lack of funds for transport, accommodation and other related activities.”

‘Not for the media to know’
Both Botswana and Mozambique have prospered at a time when their common neighbour Zimbabwe has been plunged into a crisis characterised by assaults on opposition leaders and the world’s highest rate of inflation.

Chissano was reluctant to be drawn on Zimbabwe but said there were signs that South African-led mediation talks were bearing fruit.

“Zimbabwe faced worse situations and found solutions before, so if helped, if given a chance, Zimbabwe could find a way,” he said.

Masire was also tight-lipped, saying the mediation efforts were sensitive.

“If it is happening behind the scenes, it’s not for the media to know,” he said. – Sapa-AFP

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