Threat of instability shakes Mozambique

Zimbabwe’s eastern neighbour faces its most profound military and political crisis in 21 years of peace, writes FREDSON GUILENGUE. What happens when dialogue does not reach consensus?

With municipal elections due to be held in Mozambique this month and presidential elections in 2014, political parties have started jostling for power. The growing influence of MDM, currently the 3rd most popular political party, with a stronghold in Beira led by mayor Daviz Simango, has RENAMO fearing it is fast becoming politically irrelevant. Thus RENAMO subjected its participation in both elections to a number of guarantees and threatened to disrupt the election if those guarantees are not met.

The most relevant of these involves changing the electoral law to allow parity in political party representation under the non-executive supervisory board of elections at national level (CNE). The current law states that the CNE should be composed of a total of 13 members, eight of which are members of political parties with seats in parliament, based on their representation on the board. This has resulted in five being from FRELIMO and one each from RENAMO and MDM. The body also includes a judge appointed by the Supreme Judicial Council and an attorney by the Superior Council of the Public Prosecutor as well as three members nominated by civil society organisations who are later elected by members of parliament. According to RENAMO this composition gives enormous advantage to FRELIMO because of the politicisation of the state’s apparatus and of the electoral system.

Another guarantee demanded by RENAMO is the proportional share of the country’s wealth. This issue has gained impetus with the advent of the fast growing extractive industries and the growing benefits for the ruling FRELIMO elite and their patronage.

To resolve these divergences the parties, the government and RENAMO decided to appoint a task force. After 18 consecutive rounds of discussion they failed to reach consensus – the electoral law being the major stumbling block. Curiously, out of the 12 points and 19 sub-points of on the agenda the Government seems to have agreed with everything except the one on electoral law (Jornal O Pais 2013).

To force the government to put these guarantees into practice Dhlakama first withdrew from the Capital Maputo to Nampula, where he is said to have local support and finally, with some of his supporters, to his military headquarters in Satungira in the District of Gorongosa. Dhlakama started conducting guerrilla attacks on police stations and government troops in the past weeks. So far perhaps 60 people were killed, including civilians. Official accurate information about the number of victims is very hard to obtain.

On 21 October 2013 government forces attacked Satungira resulting in Dhlakama and some of his collaborators escaping to an unknown location. Neither RENAMO nor the government has so far openly declared “war” and both verbally maintain their commitment to peace and dialogue as the only solution for Mozambique’s most profound military and political crisis in 21 years of peace.

Meanwhile, on the ground attacks and counterattacks have been taking place sporadically but threatening to escalate. According to Christopher Mutsvangwa, Zimbabwean Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zimbabwe and SADC have already considered sending in troops to support the government of Mozambique because the conflict could destabilise the entire region.

The current situation in Mozambique poses the following questions: What happens when a dialogue doesn’t reach a consensus? What should the Mozambicans expect in future?

One thing is for sure. Every opinion appeals to both parties to resume the dialogue. Civil society organisations and churches have been very active in pushing for talks to continue. But this time, they ask for inclusive and constructive dialogue that is not confined to furthering only the interests of FRELIMO and RENAMO. It is important not to forget about this because the country is a multi-party democracy. Yet there is another obstacle. While RENAMO insists that the dialogue can only be resumed with the involvement of international mediators, from the UN for example, FRELIMO maintains that it is capable of resolving the issues without external support.

Given the current circumstances, there are potentially two different avenues to allay this crisis. The first and most probable, given the limited military capabilities of both parties and domestic and international pressure for dialogue, is that talks are resumed alongside a commitment to mutual compromise on certain issues that hamper progress. Some even agree that the government should accept parity to give legitimacy to the elections in Mozambique. The second and less likely is that guns continue to discharge forcing the government of Mozambique to ban RENAMO and stop financial state support to the party. This is actually the strategy that some say is favoured by the radical wing within FRELIMO to militarily destroy Dhlakama. Will the country go back to 1976?

Published by: Rosa Luxemburg Foundation www.rosalux.co.za

Post published in: News

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