RENAMO talks in Maputo, shoots in Sofala

Despite apparent progress in the Maputo dialogue between the Mozambican government and the former rebel movement Renamo, with the government making concessions to Renamo demands, Renamo gunmen in the central province of Sofala are continuing to attack both military and civilian targets.

On Monday the teams at the latest dialogue meeting announced the creation of a “central command” which will work to guarantee the cessation of hostilities between Renamo and the Mozambican defence and security forces.

This command will consist of 70 Mozambican observers and 23 foreign ones. It will be headed by a brigadier from Botswana, assisted by representatives of Italy and Zimbabwe.

Initially the government had ruled out any foreign involvement in military matters arguing that this was a purely internal dispute between Mozambicans that would be resolved by Mozambicans. Renamo insisted on a foreign presence, and the government conceded that observers from the SADC (Southern African Development Community) could participate.

That wasn’t enough for Renamo which demanded that European countries also be invited. Last week the government conceded that point too.

As for the 70 Mozambican observers, 35 will be chosen by the government and 35 by Renamo. They will be distributed among sub-units in Sofala, Tete, Nampula and Inhambane provinces.

The overwhelming majority of Renamo attacks have been in Sofala. Attacks in Inhambane and Nampula ceased weeks ago, and although Renamo groups have been seen in Tete, there have been no reliable reports of attacks there.

Speaking to reporters at the end of the session, the head of the Renamo delegation, Saimone Macuiana, said Renamo wants the disarmament to be dragged out for almost a year. “We continue to argue that it should take at least until 28 February 2015, or at least a period of 180 days that can be extended, since the programme is complex”, he said. “As you know this question of a ceasefire is linked to the question of defence and security”.

Macuiana wanted the dialogue to define a security policy, and to include Renamo men in the Mozambican armed forces (FADM), in the police and in the state security service (SISE).

The timetable suggested by Macuiana would mean that disarming the Renamo gunmen would continue into the campaign of the 15 October general elections and probably beyond.

As for admitting the Renamo men into the defence and security forces, they were given the opportunity to join when the FADM was formed, in 1994. Under the terms of the 1992 peace agreement, the FADM was to be formed of 30,000 troops, 15,000 from the government army, the FAM/FPLM, and 15,000 from Renamo. But the accord stipulated they all had to be volunteers.

The vast bulk of both the government and Renamo armies had no intention of remaining in military life, and when attempts were made to pressgang them, they mutinied. In mid-1994 a wave of mutinies spread across both the government and Renamo assembly points as the fighters on both sides demanded their immediate demobilization.

As a result, only 12,195 volunteers could be found – 8,533 from the FAM/FPLM and 3,662 from Renamo.

The Renamo gunmen on the loose in Sofala are men who were deliberately held back from demobilization in 1994. By now they must all be older than the normal maximum age of incorporation into the armed forces, which is 35.

As for joining the police, the government offered police training to members of the Renamo “Presidential Guard” in 1997, thus meeting a demand from Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, who said the police could take over his security, provided his men were incorporated into the police.

The government asked for a list of the men whom Renamo would submit to police training, but the then Prime Minister, Pascoal Mocumbi, pointed out “People cannot be trained as policemen and then take orders from the Renamo Central Committee”.

The scheme came to nothing when, in January 1998, Dhlakama categorically refused to allow his forces to join the police, and claimed that plans to disband his “Presidential Guard” were part of a conspiracy to “physically eliminate” him.

The Monday meeting broke off early, without agreeing the full terms of reference of the international observers, because members of the government team had other business to attend to. Nonetheless, the head of the government delegation, Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco, declared “the dialogue was excellent. If we didn’t have other matters to attend to, we would already have the terms of reference. Certainly we will have them on Wednesday”.

He claimed there were only “small details” left to agree in the terms of reference for the foreign observers “who are coming to observe the cessation of hostilities and the demilitarisation of Renamo”.

But in Sofala Renamo has kept up a steady string of attacks against positions held by the defence and security forces. According to Col Manuel Mazuze, the deputy national director of defence policy in the Defence Ministry, “on just one day we witnessed 12 attacks against our positions in Gorongosa district, and we see persistent attacks against the convoys carrying supplies for the defence units”.

Speaking at a Maputo press conference, Mazuze said that the latest attacks were on Sunday against positions of the government forces in Satunjira, Piro, Vunduzi, Casa Banana and Mussicaze, all in Gorongosa.

As for attacks on civilians, Mazuze said two community leaders were kidnapped on 13 February and 3 March. Their whereabouts are not known and he feared that Renamo had executed them.

“The defence and security forces must comply with their responsibility to protect the lives and property of the public”, said Mazuze, “but they must also protect themselves, since on countless occasions they have been attacked by these men”.

Post published in: Africa News

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