Dhlakama alive and well, claims RENAMO

The General Secretary of Mozambique’s former rebel movement Renamo, Manuel Bissopo, declared in Maputo on Monday that Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama is alive and well.

Afonso Dhlakama
Afonso Dhlakama

Addressing a press conference, Bissopo said that he had been with Dhlakama when the armed forces (FADM) occupied the Renamo bush headquarters at Satunjira, in the central district of Gorongosa, on 21 October. Dhlakama had left Satunjira on foot, he added, to avoid casualties.

In the FADM shelling, the head of Renamo mobilization, Armindo Milaco, was hit by shrapnel, and died of his wounds, Bissopo said. Milaco is the only confirmed casualty of the capture of Satunjira.

Bissopo said the last time he spoke to Dhlakama was seven days ago. He did not reveal Dhlakama’s whereabouts, but said the Renamo leader had not left the country. He added that Dhlakama “will shortly speak to the people” through the media.

Bissopo said that Dhlakama will only meet with President Armando Guebuza if his security is guaranteed by foreign forces. He suggested that United Nations “blue helmets”, or any other foreign force not under the influence of the Mozambican government, could be used to protect Dhlakama.

If this is a condition that Dhlakama himself has imposed, then it means that there will be no meeting at all in the foreseeable future, since the Mozambican government will not accept the presence of foreign troops.

Bissopo also demanded the withdrawal of all government military forces from the Gorongosa area, a demand which the government has repeatedly rejected.

Bissopo insisted that for Renamo to resume the dialogue with the government that began in May, domestic and foreign mediators and observers must also be present at the table. The government announced last week that it will accept Mozambican observers, but has ruled out inviting foreign observers.

Bissopo claimed that “Renamo and its president don’t want war”. But when AIM asked if this meant that Renamo would call off its sporadic ambushes against vehicles in the central province of Sofala, Bissopo would give no such guarantee.

“All the Renamo guerrillas feel that their father is being attacked”, he said. So it would “make no sense” to order them to stop.

In any case, Renamo had “military specialists who are prepared to discuss military matters”.

He was referring to the military commission that Dhlakama set up in October to discuss defence and security issues. The government responded by appointed its own military team to hold discussions with Renamo – but so far the Renamo team has not travelled to Maputo, and so the two sides have not met.

Bissopo raised the usual Renamo demand to amend the electoral legislation. The current laws were approved by the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, last December, with Frelimo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) voting in favour and Renamo voting against. Since then, Renamo has insisted that this vote should be overturned.

Bissopo demanded “parity” between the political parties in appointing not only the National Elections Commission (CNE), but also its executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), and even the staff at the polling stations.

It was over this demand for parity that the dialogue between Renamo and the government stalled. Renamo simply refused to move on to other matters on the agenda (an agenda that Renamo itself had proposed) unless the government cut a deal over “parity” and imposed it on the Assembly.

Bissopo praised the demonstrations in the major cities against violence, and in favour of a return to peace, organised by civil society organisations – even though Dhlakama is on record as stating that Mozambican civil society “does not exist”.

He claimed that the majority of those who voted in Wednesday’s municipal elections had voted against the ruling Frelimo Party. Renamo cannot possibly know this since it boycotted the elections, and so had no monitors at the polling stations.

Post published in: Africa News

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