Dhlakama returns to the bush

Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Mozambique’s main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, announced on Wednesday that he has transferred his residence from the northern city of Nampula to the central district of Gorongosa, near his old guerrilla base at Casa Banana, in the foothills of the Gorongosa mountain range.

According to a report in Thursday’s issue of the independent daily “O Pais”, there are more than 700 former Renamo guerrillas with him. It is not yet clear whether they are all armed.

Speaking at a Renamo rally on Wednesday to mark the 36th anniversary of the death of Renamo’s first commander, the Rhodesian agent Andre Matsangaissa, Dhlakama said he had moved to Gorongosa to put pressure on the government to revise the General Peace Agreement, which he had signed with the then president, Joaquim Chissano, on 4 October 1992.

He wants to revise the accord so as to include former Renamo fighters in the armed forces and in other state institutions.

The agreement envisaged that the new army, the FADM, would be 30,000 strong – 15,000 men from the old government army, the FAM/FPLM, and 15,000 from Renamo. But the agreement also stated that they all had to be volunteers – and very few people on either side had any desire to remain under arms. When attempts were made to pressgang them, a wave of mutinies spread through the assembly points for both government and Renamo forces in mid-1994.

As a result, when the FADM was formed later that year it had less than 12,000 men and more officers than privates. When Dhlakama complains that there are very few former Renamo fighters in the FADM, he forgets that the great majority of them refused to join.

Dhlakama is now using military language again, calling his new house, his “general staff headquarters”. Dhlakama’s base has rudimentary facilities. It consists of a series of huts with no electricity and no telecommunications. It is not on any of Mozambique’s mobile phone networks.

As usual, Dhlakama told the rally that he does not want to return to war, but claimed he was under pressure from others within Renamo to reconsider his position.

In a recent interview with the weekly paper “Savana”, a former Renamo general, Herminio Morais, claimed that Renamo still has the military power to bring the government to its knees.

Two weeks ago, on 4 October, the anniversary of the peace accord, Dhlakama boasted in the city of Quelimane that he would mobilise 5,000 former guerrillas. The independent newsheet “Mediafax” reported that there were about 3,000 people at the rally, including both former guerrillas and ordinary members of the public.

He also claimed that, since Tuesday, his men have been receiving military training in Gorongosa. Should President Armando Guebuza order the storming of his base, his guerrillas “will shoot to kill”, he threatened.

He gave the government a deadline of three days to send a delegation to visit him in his new base to renegotiate the Peace Agreement. He insisted that any negotiation between Renamo and the government must take place in Gorongosa.

“If they delay, they will be held responsible for the consequences”, Dhlakama added. “I will not leave here without solutions for everything I have demanded”.

Dhlakama’s rage even extended to people once regarded as his allies, such as the former Catholic Archbishop of Beira, Jaime Goncalves. Goncalves was one of the mediators in the lengthy negotiations in Rome that led to the peace agreement, and of the four mediators he was clearly the one most sympathetic to Renamo.

At a recent lecture on the peace talks at the Catholic University in Beira, Goncalves pointed out that one of the reasons why Dhlakama no longer wanted war in 1992 was that his men were starving (1992 was a year of catastrophic drought across much of southern and central Mozambique).

This simple truth greatly irritated Dhlakama who called Goncalves “a liar”, “an ass” and even “Satan”.

Meanwhile, in Beira, a group of Renamo members, including one member of Dhlakama’s “Presidential Guard”, destroyed the statue that Beira city council had erected in honour of Andre Matsangaissa in 2008.

One of the gardeners in the square where the statue stood told reporters “they arrived here at about 07.00, singing revolutionary songs and dancing. They invaded the square without giving me time to do anything to stop them. They smashed the statue and said it had nothing to do with Andre Matsangaissa”.

They said the statue symbolised “a family” and not Matsangaissa. They thus regarded it as an insult to the ideals of the founder of Renamo. They promised to come back by 30 October and erect another statue that would “really” represent Matsangaissa.

The “family” referred to is clearly the Simangos – Daviz Simago is the mayor of Beira, and leader of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), which is a breakaway from Renamo. His brother, Lutero, is head of the MDM parliamentary group.

When the statue was originally built, Renamo had no problems with it, since at that time Daviz Simango was still a member of Renamo. Indeed, it was the Renamo majority in the Beira Municipal Assembly that voted in favour of erecting the statue.

But Dhlakama refused to run Simango for a second term of office as mayor of Beira, causing a revolt among Renamo Beira members. Simango ran as an independent and cruised to an easy victory in the November 2008 mayoral election. A few months later he founded the MDM. Now Renamo has forgotten its own history, and regards the statue as the work of the MDM.

Simango told “O Pais” that those responsible for vandalizing the statue should be hauled before the courts. It was intolerable for them to destroy something that had been built with public funds.

“Renamo is a legally constituted political party and is thus able to claim whatever it wants through legal channels”, said Simango. “To resort to vandalism in the year of the 20th anniversary of the peace accord is a clear sign that the democracy Renamo preaches is empty”.

As for the promise to erect a new statue, Simango pointed out “there are legally established rules for raising statues. In a democratic state such as ours, there is no room for satisfying political desires without following the rules”.

“We shall go to the institutions of justice, and hold responsible those who destroyed the statue”, he promised.

The ruling Frelimo Party also disliked the statue and the Municipal Assembly’s decision to rename the square “Andre Matsangaissa Square”. Frelimo, however, did not resort to hammers, but asked the Administrative Tribunal to rule the municipal decision illegal, so far without success.

Post published in: Africa News

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