How Maria Barroso asked Dhlakama to stop the war

Maria Barroso

(2015-07-09) “I said to President Dhlakama, ‘May I ask you something? (…) Can you stop the war in Ressano Garcia?` And, tired of my persistence, he said, ‘Okay, I will stop the war there.”

Former first lady of Portugal Maria Barroso, who died in Lisbon on Tuesday, was at the birth of a ceasefire in southern Mozambique in 1991, when the country was still engulfed in civil war.

Such is the episode narrated by Barroso in her book ‘Journey to Mozambique’, when she committed herself to achieving an understanding between the Mozambican government and the guerrillas of the Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo) covering the cross-border region of Ressano Garcia, a year before the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the two parties was signed in October 1992 in Rome.

When she presented her book in Maputo in 2011, Maria Barroso told Lusa that she managed to persuade former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano and the Renamo leader, Afonso Dhlakama, to declare a ceasefire in Ressano Garcia, southern Mozambique, and bring relief to people displaced by the conflict.

“I knew that my husband [Soares] had a meeting with President Dhlakama and I immediately said that I wanted to attend. “Do all you can,” said the then Mozambican president, she recalls.

At the meeting, I said to President Dhlakama, ‘May I ask you something? (…) Can you stop the war in Ressano Garcia?` And, tired of my persistence, he said, ‘Okay, I will stop the war there,” recalled the former first lady about the meeting in Lisbon with the leader of the guerrilla movement.

Before meeting with the leader of Renamo, the former first lady had also met Joaquim Chissano and asked him, too, to agree to a ceasefire in Ressano Garcia.

It all started when Maria Barroso met the ‘Masungulo’ project, a relief organisation for Mozambican refugees who had fled the war between Frelimo and Renamo by the thousands and were living in difficult conditions in South Africa, helped by priest Jean-Pierre Le Scour.

In June 1991, Maria Barroso visited the camps and was moved to tears. She promised that the help would come that year.

“We achieved the first break-out of peace in Ressano Garcia (…). When today the Community of Sant’Egidio [Joaquim Chissano], for whom I have the highest regard, say that they were the ones who did it… Well, we put together a modest patch of peace there. We played a role, though modest, but we did,” Barroso said.

It’s a role recognized by the former Archbishop of Maputo, D. Alexandre dos Santos, former President Joaquim Chissano and Afonso Dhlakama, all of whom contributed testimonies to the book.

Maria de Jesus Barroso, founder of the Portuguese Socialist party, former MP and wife of former President of Portugal Mário Soares and president of the ‘Pro Dignitate’ foundation, died Tuesday aged 90 at the Red Cross Hospital in Lisbon, where she had been hospitalized for 11 days following a fall.

She was buried on Wednesday in Lisbon’s Prazeres Cemetery.

source: TVI 24

Photo: TVI 24 (File) / Former Portugal’s first lady Maria Barroso

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