Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Mozambique’s former rebel movement Renamo, will only leave his bush hideout in the central district of Gorongosa, if consensus is achieved in the current dialogue between Renamo and the government, Dhlakama’s spokesperson, Antonio Muchanga, told a Maputo press conference on Friday
Dhlakama, he said, “will be seen by the people as soon as consensus is achieved in the dialogue room, as soon as international observers come to the country, and after reaching an understanding on a ceasefire”.
Muchanga added that Renamo hopes consensus will be achieved before the start of the official campaign ahead of the general elections scheduled for 15 October, so that Dhlakama can leave the bush and wage his campaign.
The campaign starts 45 days before the election – which will be on 1 September. Dhlakama’s main rivals, the candidates of the ruling Frelimo Party, Filipe Nyusi, and of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), Daviz Simango, are already criss-crossing the country in what is generally referred to as a “pre-campaign”.
But there must be serious doubts as to whether the consensus demanded by Muchanga will be achieved. For months, the government and Renamo delegations, meeting in Maputo’s Joaquim Chissano Conference Centre, usually every Monday, have been deadlocked over the terms of reference for the foreign observers.
Initially the government rejected Renamo’s demand for foreign observers – eventually, for the sake of peace, it accepted a foreign presence, only to find that Renamo did not want such observers to do any serious monitoring.
For the government, it made no sense to bring observers from across the world just to observe a simple cessation of hostilities. The leaders of the government delegation insisted that the observers must monitor the disarming of Renamo.
But Renamo shows no sign of disarming, Instead it has demanded for itself half of all senior posts in the military and the police, which the government has repeatedly rejected.
For the last two weeks, there have been no dialogue sessions. First the government delegation informed Renamo that it could not attend because of other pressing business, and the following week Renamo said there could be no dialogue because the members of its delegation had gone to Beira to attend a meeting of the Renamo National Council.
Muchanga asked whether the government is refusing to include Renamo men in the defence and security forces in order to use them at the service of the ruling Frelimo Party “as soon as it realizes it has lost the elections”.
In fact, there are, and always have been, former Renamo guerrillas in the unified Mozambican armed forces (FADM). Under the terms of the 1992 peace agreement the FADM was to consist of 30,000 troops, half from the former government army, the FAM/FPLM, and half from Renamo. But they were all to be volunteers – and there were nowhere near 30,000 volunteers. Most of the troops on both sides just wanted to be demobilised, and when attempts were made to pressgang them, they mutinied. Which is why the FADM was formed in 1994 of 11,579 troops, about two thirds from the FAM/FPLM and one third from Renamo.
Subsequently the FADM has grown by recruiting young people, both conscripts and volunteers. The 18 year olds who report for military service are not asked which party they support.
As for the police, the government offered Dhlakama police training for members of his militia in 1997, and he flatly refused the offer.
Muchanga also denounced claims made by the general commander of the Mozambican police, Jorge Khalau, on Wednesday that some of the Renamo gunmen have sold their weapons to criminals because Renamo has not been paying them.
Muchanga claimed that when Khalau said that Renamo men “are selling guns, he is saying that Renamo has armaments factories somewhere in the country”.
In fact, all Khalau had suggested, although he offered no proof, was that discontented Renamo members are selling the guns they possess (guns cached after the end of the war, or obtained more recently by other means).
No-one doubts that Renamo has guns and they were not manufactured in Mozambique.
Muchanga said the supply of guns, uniforms and handcuffs to criminals “is the entire responsibility of high ranking police officers”.
Certainly some members of the police have been caught hiring guns out to criminals, and Muchanga was also on solid ground when he accused policemen of involvement in poaching, nd in kidnapping. Last year three policemen were sentenced to lengthy jail terms for their role in a series of kidnappings.