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Personality of the Week: Joaquim Chissano

Outgoing President of Mozambique steered his country masterfully from the brink of disaster to the pinnacle of success

Measuring the difference between Mozambique in 1986 and 2005, respectively when Joaquim Chissano took over from Samora Machel and handed over to Armando Guebuza, gives us a clear picture of the considerable contribution of Mozambique's second President towards his country, his continent and the international community.

Joaquim Chissano was Mozambique's first Foreign Minister, serving beside President Samora Machel from the country’s Independence in 1975 and taking over as President upon his death in an aircraft crash eleven years later.

Born on 22nd October, 1939, in Chibuto, Gaza, Joaquim Chissano studied at the Lyceum Salazar in Lourenзo Marques (now Maputo) and went on to study Medicine in Lisbon. Due to his affiliation in the Independence movement, he was forced to leave Portugal and took up residence in Poitiers, France, where he lectured in Law and Political Science, before moving to Uppsala, Sweden.

After founding the National Union of Mozambican Students, Joaquim Chissano joined the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) in 1962, holding a number of positions from Director of Education (1963-1966), Secretary to the Presidency (1966-1969), Defence spokesperson (1964-1974) and representative in Tanzania (1969-1974). In 1968, he became a member of the Executive Committee of FRELIMO and from 1973 to 1974, on the eve of Independence, was responsible for the movement's internal training programme.

Prime Minister during the transition to Independence (25th June 1975), Joaquim Chissano became Mozambique's first Foreign Minister, a position to which he accumulated the Presidency on 18th October, 1986 after the death of Samora Machel along with the Presidency of the Party and Leadership of the Armed Forces.

A skilful diplomat, President Chissano maintained close ties with the Soviet Bloc, while at the same time opening to the western countries and signed an agreement of non aggression with South Africa. The transformation of the Soviet Bloc in 1989 was reflected in Mozambique, when Chissano signed the protocol whereby FRELIMO abandoned the Marxist-Leninist line (July 1989) and on 15th August 1990, he signed another document which opened the country up to a multi-party political system. The transformation was completed on 30th November, 1990, when the People’s Republic of Mozambique became simply, the Republic of Mozambique.

The 1990s was dedicated to peace and ending the country’s bloody civil war, which claimed around one million lives. On 4th October, 1992, the Rome Peace Agreement was signed between Joaquim Chissano and the leader of RENAMO, Afonso Dhlakama.

The country's first democratic elections took place between 27th and 29th October, 1994, won by Chissano and FRELIMO, a result which was repeated in December, 1999.

President Chissano has steered his country masterfully from the depths of civil war and social upheaval, implanting a state in large areas where none existed, building the country’s infra-structure and seeing Mozambique welcomed into the CPLP and British Commonwealth, while at the same time Joaquim Chissano pursued broader policies in his continent.

As Vice-President (1999) and President (2000) of the Southern African Development   Community, he played an important role in the peace process in the DR Congo before being elected as the first President of the African Union in 2003. President Chissano has made a major contribution to the fight against AIDS and will be remembered for bringing peace and stability to a region of the world in which the lives of millions of people benefited greatly from his powers of persuasion and organization as he campaigned for peace and development.

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