Pope makes strategic visit to Mozambique after peace deal (Source Associated Press)
Pope Francis is opening a three-nation pilgrimage to southern Africa with a strategic visit to Mozambique, just weeks after the country’s ruling party and armed opposition signed a new peace deal and weeks before national elections. Thirty years after St. John Paul II begged Mozambicans to end their civil war, Francis is expected to endorse the new Aug. 1 accord and urge its full implementation when he meets with government authorities on Thursday, his first full day in the region.
He arrives Wednesday evening but has no public events scheduled after his brief airport welcome ceremony.
The timing of the visit is not coincidental, coming just weeks after the signing of the accord between the ruling Frelimo party and the armed Frenamo opposition and before national elections on Oct. 15. The vote is considered crucial because a new constitutional amendment has decentralized power so that provincial governors will now be elected directly, rather than appointed by the central government.
Mozambique’s 15-year civil war, which ended with a 1992 peace deal, killed an estimated 1 million people and devastated the former Portuguese colony. The permanent cease-fire signed Aug. 1 was the culmination of years of negotiations to end fighting that has flared sporadically in the 27 years since.
In central Mozambique, Gorongosa National Park warden Pedro Muagura said there are hopes the pope’s visit will strengthen the deal.