Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003
This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).
Q: You mentioned Mozambique as a success and having learned lessons from the failure of Angola. What elements do you think made that a successful intervention?
A: There's two phases to Mozambique. There was the Sant'Egidio phase, which was actually negotiating the G.P.A. [General Peace Agreement], which was endorsed in 1992. That took two or three years and it was led by an Italian-Catholic lay organization called Sant'Egidio, which is pretty well described and documented in lots of places now, including Herding Cats. What made that a success was a very skilled Track II intervention, which had cultural linkages, as well as arguably political and other kinds of linkages to the country concerned. Interestingly enough, that country was Italy.
You may ask yourself, why Italy? Italy doesn't have a colonial history in Africa apart from Somalia and Libya. Italy, in part, because one of the largest foreign assistance programs in Africa for Italy was in Mozambique because the Catholic Church played an important role in Mozambique. It was a bridge to Mozambique, in a sense. I think the Socialist Party of Italy had some ambitions, and perhaps even some very practical considerations in wanting to do well in Mozambique;
a lot of factors came together. Sant'Egidio's tradecraft was that of a small, modestly funded NGO, but with very good linkages to the Italian government and to other Italian institutions. Their smartest move was to be able to build confidence among the Mozambiquean parties, and to link what they were doing to the actions of the major states, in the Track I sense, who would be players in any kind of future for Mozambique, including the implementation of an agreement. That meant that they were very open, put their cards on the table.
They talked a lot with the U.S., with the U.K., with the Italian government, with the Portuguese, with the South Africans, with the neighboring Africans, Zimbabwe and Malawi and so on-recognizing the limits of Track II, and the need for Track II to be there at the crucial moments when you get to defining military accords and guarantees for military commitments. You need states for that. NGOs can't do that stuff. There was a very good sort of a meshing of Tracks II and I. In the second phase, the implementation of the G.P.A., what accounts for success has a lot to do with that inherent structure and with the coherence, again, that an Italian international civil servant appointed by the U.N. secretary general. He's a very skillful guy. His name is Aldo Ajello, and he didn't know Mozambique before this, but he was given this assignment and he played his cards very well, maintained the unity of the donors and the key countries that had embassies in Maputo, so that the parties were not given a lot of slack. When parties are given too much slack, they mess around, they play games, they get divided, and they get greedy.
Q: Slack by whom? Who gives them slack?
A: The third party. If the third party gives the contending parties too much opportunity to mess around and play games, inevitably they will. There's got to be a sense of focus and intensity to make this thing succeed at the implementation phase. Agreements don't just self-implement, as a rule. They need some kind of adult supervision, going forward.
Q: That's an interesting way to put it. Let's explore, just for a second, the notion of slack. How much authority does a third party have to give or remove slack in an agreement?
A: Well, the idea of slack may sound like it's all top-down and controlling, and in some ways it is, but more than anything else, it's just keeping the parties engaged, keeping them in touch with each other.
If there are problems blowing up, then solve the damn problems, don't just let them fester. That's the point I'm making, you've got to keep the think alive, focused, and moving ahead. You don't want to leave long periods of inaction or drift, or periods when there are no meetings so parties begin to develop the sense that the other side is just engaged in massive cheating, and never intended to go forward in the first place. That's what I mean, really, by slack.
Q: It sounds like holding the parties to the agreements that they sign.
A: Yeah, and holding them to regular communications, and if problems arise, discussing them and working them out. In other words, what I'm saying is the settlement is really just one phase of an overall process. The signatures at the bottom of the page are just one phase. You have to assume that there'll be other issues to be negotiated going forward.