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Help for Mozambique

MOZAMBIQUE's tragedy of war and famine continues: Close to a million people have fled to neighboring states during the last two years. More than 2 million still at home risk starvation. Now a United States State Department study discloses a new development: At least 100,000 Mozambicans have been brutally massacred, largely by the Mozambique National Resistance Movement (Renamo) rebel forces. Refugees in Mozambique and four other nations have told much the same story of systematic violence: torture, forced labor, and rape. Renamo terms the report dishonest and politically motivated, but the evidence of a massive slaughter of civilians by Renamo is credible and strong.

Fortunately, Mozambique's Frelimo government is getting some much needed outside help.

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International donors pledged $270 million in emergency food aid in Maputo last week.

Those sending military help to Mozambique's underfed and poorly equipped Army now include Britain, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and four other African nations, in addition to Moscow.

South Africa, whose military intelligence forces continue to work with and supply Renamo troops despite Pretoria's official denials, has also stepped up its aid to the Frelimo government. South Africa's Foreign Ministry, which has long been helping to improve port facilities in Maputo, has pledged another $14 million in security help for Mozambique's Army. Of particular interest to Pretoria is restoring, and protecting against Renamo sabotage, the electrical power lines from a dam in northwest Mozambique. South Africa and Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano have also agreed to reinvigorate their 1984 Nkomati nonaggression accord; each side has accused the other of breaking the treaty.

South Africa's two-track policy appears contradictory but may not be: Some observers insist that a weak and dependent neighboring state is the aim in both cases.

Some US conservatives insist that the anticommunist forces of Renamo deserve Washington's support much more than Mozambique's Marxist government. Yet the administration in this instance is backing the right group:

Renamo, despite its talk of a need for negotiations and free elections, has made little effort to build a political base. Its clear record of terror and brutality, plus its abrupt walkout from 1984 cease-fire negotiations, suggests that continued chaos and overthrow of the government are more likely aims.

Mozambique's Frelimo government has moved pragmatically toward the West. Economic controls have been relaxed. Maputo's moderate position on a number of international issues suggests a growing independence from Moscow.

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The Reagan administration deserves support for helping Mozambique improve its relations with the West, gain a more solid economic footing, and end the destructive decade-old war with Renamo. Mozambicans clearly deserve better than they've been getting.

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