After a jubilant arrival in Mozambique at the start a three-nation African tour, Pope Francis on Thursday will meet with political and civil leaders to encourage them to consolidate a fragile peace accord.
The pope’s three-day visit to Mozambique comes a month after the government signed a historic peace treaty with the former rebel group Renamo, which is now the main opposition party.
Mozambique’s 16-year civil war devastated the former Portuguese colony, killing around one million people, and Renamo had never completely disarmed.
Francis, the first pope to visit Mozambique since John Paul II in 1988, was whisked away in his popemobile after arriving on Wednesday as crowds waved and danced in welcome.
He starts Thursday with a private meeting with President Filipe Nyusi, who wants to run for a second term in an election scheduled for October 15. The two men had already met one year ago at the Vatican.
As well as discussing the peace agreement, Francis is expected to address the devastation caused by two back-to-back cyclones earlier this year in the poor southeast African country.
He will not travel to Beira, the second city of the country swept away in March by Cyclone Idai, which left 600 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless.
Even six months on, many people are without shelter and food.
“Even if I can not go beyond the capital, my heart is with you and embraces you all, with a special place for those who live in difficulty,” he said to the victims of the cyclone, before his trip.
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