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Nations Say They Must Sink or Swim Together

April 30, 1995

LUWANI, Malawi (AP) _ Luwani, near the Malawi capital of Blantyre, is just 4 miles from the Mozambican border _ ``too close,″ said Esnath Nankhumwa, who remembers hundreds of people streaming across to escape Mozambique’s civil war.

``We didn’t have time to prepare a place for them, to prepare food,″ the Malawian nurse said. ``We were under pressure, there were so many of them.″

The United Nations, which helped care for the refugees, estimates that at the height of their flight, more than 1 million Mozambicans found shelter in Malawi _ one for every 10 of their hosts in one of the world’s poorest nations.

With peaceful elections in Mozambique last year after more than a decade of civil war, most of the refugees have gone home. What they’ve left behind is a lesson in regional interdependence.

Peace ``is a regional concern. You cannot have one country unstable and have stability in the whole region,″ said Lebona Moisa, a researcher with the South African Institute of International Affairs.

George A. Kanyanya, Malawi’s minister of relief and rehabilitation, said his country was ready to mediate if new conflicts threatened peace in Mozambique or elsewhere in southern Africa.

He echoed pledges from other leaders to build on the progress begun with Mozambique’s elections, which coincided with South Africa’s first all-race vote and the debut of multiparty democracy in Malawi.

``The whole region is coming together,″ Kanyanya told The Associated Press during weekend ceremonies in which schools, clinics and other facilities built by the United Nations for refugees were handed over to the government.

``It’s because of the refugees that we have this clinic,″ said H.M. Beni, director of a Luwani clinic built with money from international refugee aid organizations.

Earlier this year, Malawi joined a regional group that had originally been formed to fight apartheid in South Africa. The Southern African Development Community now includes South Africa and is committed to regional peace.

Charles Hove, a chief economist with the group, said countries that had suffered together have learned they can only move forward together.

Its first tough challenge is Angola, where civil war has killed 500,000 people since fighting broke out on the eve of independence from Portugal in 1975. The group working to ensure that a fragile truce does not collapse.

Other challenges involve the fallout from wars that have ended.

The war in Mozambique made mine fields of roads and farms and rubble of skyscrapers and bridges. In Malawi, water and sewage systems collapsed under the burden of the sudden flood of refugees.

Guns from conflicts in both Mozambique and Angola have found their way into the hands of criminals throughout the region. Mozambican soldiers and rebels have been blamed for banditry along the border.

The problem has persisted because Mozambique’s crippled economy can’t absorb former fighters. Not even Malawi’s army commander was safe _ Gen. Manken Chigawa was shot dead April 20 by car thieves in the border region.

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