RENAMO demanding release of members arrested in Nampula

The arrest last week in the northern Mozambican province of Nampula of seven members of the former rebel movement Renamo in illegal possession of firearms has, according to a report in the independent newsheet “Mediafax”, thrown doubt over whether an agreement on the cessation of hostilities will indeed be signed in Maputo on Monday by the government and Renamo.

On Friday the Nampula police arrested a Renamo parliamentary deputy, Fernando Matuassanga, and the Renamo political delegate for Zambezia province, Abdala Ibraimo, who were accompanied by five former guerrillas, namely João John Buca, José António, Artur Mirasse, Manejo Dinis and Bernardo Mandequesse.

In the two cars used by the group, the police found five AK-47 assault rifles, five ammunition clips and about five hundred bullets. The seven men had travelled from the central district of Gorongosa (where Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama is currently living). Both Ibraimo and Buca said the guns were intended to protect Dhlakama when he visits Nampula in the near future – Matuassanga, however, initially claimed he was unaware that the cars were carrying weapons.

The police did not believe the Renamo claims and feared the guns were part of a plan to reactivate an old Renamo military base in the Nampula district of Morrupula.

Cited by “Mediafax”, the head of the Renamo delegation in the dialogue with the government, Saimone Macuiana, accused the authorities of bad faith. He claimed “it is normal to transport firearms for the security of the Renamo President”.

But he admitted that Renamo had not informed the police about the transport of these weapons, thus undermining his claims that the operation was somehow legitimate. If the police did not know about, and had not authorised the movement of the guns, then it is hardly surprising that they suspected the weapons were to be used for criminal purposes.

Nonetheless, Macuiana warned that the Nampula arrests might threaten the dialogue under way in Maputo, calling into question the advances made in recent weeks towards an agreement on ending the current hostilities.

He called on President Armando Guebuza to activate mechanisms leading to the release of the seven Renamo members.

“Once again, in the name of my party, I want to appeal to the good sense of the Commander-in-Chief, the President of the Republic, so that the Nampula police set free our cadres”, he urged.

In other words, Macuiana wanted Guebuza to dictate orders to the country’s judiciary. For the matter is now in the hands of a Nampula judge who is expected to rule on Monday as to whether there is sufficient evidence to keep the Renamo members in detention, or whether they should be released.

According to “Mediafax”, the government does not accept that agreement in the dialogue should be made conditional on releasing the Nampula prisoners. Instead, it believes that Renamo should agree to deal with the detention of its members in terms of the country’s laws.

Post published in: Africa News
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