Dhlakama arrives in Maputo for meeting with Guebuza

Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Mozambique’s former rebel movement Renamo, returned to Maputo on Thursday evening, after an absence from the capital of over five years.


His plane landed at Maputo International Airport at around 18.20, where he was greeted by hundreds of jubilant supporters, some of whom had been waiting since before midday.

Bringing Dhlakama to Maputo, and arranging a meeting between the Renamo leader and President Armando Guebuza, was an international effort, and he was accompanied on the aircraft by the ambassadors of Italy, Portugal, the United States and Botswana, and the British High Commissioner. These are all representatives of countries who have agreed to provide military observers to the mission that will monitor implementation of the cessation of hostilities signed on 24 August.

Crucial in persuading Dhlakama to come to Maputo was the intervention of an Italian delegation that went to meet him last Saturday in the Renamo base in the central district of Gorongosa, where he had been living since late October 2013. The delegation consisted of the Italian Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Carlo Calenda, Italian ambassador Roberto Roberto Vellano, and Matteo Zuppi of the Catholic charity, the Sant’EgiDio Community.

Zuppi is one of the four men who mediated between Renamo and the Mozambican government in the lengthy negotiations in Rome which led to the peace agreement signed in Rome on 4 October 1992.

According to a report on Dhlakama’s journey, carried in Friday’s issue of the independent newsheet “Mediafax”, the ambassadors were making their way towards Dhlakama’s base on Thursday morning, when, accompanied by some of his militia, the Renamo leader strode out of the bush to meet them.

With the ambassadors was a government security contingent headed by police general Carlos Rungo, in charge of guaranteeing Dhlakama’s safety.

At the meeting point, Dhlakama made a brief statement to the press pledging that there would be no more war in Mozambique. Dhlakama has made such statements frequently over the past two decades – but they did not prevent Renamo from relaunching its insurgency in June 2013, in an entirely successful attempt to rewrite by force the country’s electoral legislation.

The government, and the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, capitulated to Renamo’s demands to politicize the electoral bodies. As a result, about 3,000 appointees from the three political parties represented in parliament (the ruling Frelimo Party, Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement, MDM) have been catapulted into the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE) at central, provincial, district and city levels.

The journey to the central city of Chimoio, capital of Manica province, was slow since Dhlakama greeted cheering crowds along the route, waving from the open back of the vehicle carrying him to the airport.

At Chimoio, Dhlakama changed into a suit and tie, before entering the Embraer-120 aircraft that was to take him to Maputo. The aircraft belong to the company Mex, a subsidiary of Mozambique Airlines (LAM).

The plane only carried Dhlakama, the ambassadors, the head of the Renamo Youth League (and Dhlakama’s niece), Ivone Soares, and about ten Renamo militiamen, charged with their leader’s security.

Speaking to reporters shortly after his arrival in Maputo, Dhlakama said the “sacrifice” of spending five years outside Maputo had been worth it. For much of that period he had been living in a house in the northern city of Nampula. But in October 2012, he moved to a major Renamo military base at Satunjira, in Gorongosa district. About a year later, the armed forces (FADM) occupied Satunjira, and Dhlakama retreated to a base somewhere on the slopes of the Gorongosa mountain range.

“This sacrifice was not in vain”, he declared. “There have been many gains, not only for Dhlakama or for my family, or for the cadres who are here, but for the entire Mozambican people, and for all the political parties, including the ruling party”.

Turning to Renamo’s main reason for taking up arms again, the electoral legislation, Dhlakama declared “the electoral law hasn’t come for Dhlakama, it’s come for the people of Mozambique, to improve democracy in Mozambique”.

As a matter of hard fact, the law which Renamo objected to was adopted in a democratic vote in parliament in December 2012, after almost three years of discussion in which Renamo took a full part. Although many concession were made to Renamo in those discussions, when it came to a final vote the Renamo parliamentary group voted against the legislation, while the Frelimo and MDM deputies voted in favour. It was to overturn that democratic vote that Renamo returned to war.

Dhlakama also claimed victory in maters of defence and security, “because any government which mixes up armed forces and parties uses those forces to fight and kill those who are afainst its ideals, and now the time has come to depoliticize the armed forces”.

Dhlakama also denied that rumours that he is seriously ill.”The story that I’m in a wheelchair is untrue”, he said. “The story that I’ve lost a leg is also a lie”.

Indeed Dhlakama did not look remotely ill. The only visible change is that the advancing years have taken their toll: he has lost much of his hair, and what remains is white. But the same can be said for many other Mozambicans in their sixties. Stories floated in some of the media, notably the daily paper “Noticias”, that Dhlakama was desperately seeking evacuation to South Africa for medical treatment were clearly nothing but a disinformation campaign.

Dhlakama is due to meet with Guebuza on Friday morning, and the two men will append their signatures to the 2 August declaration on a cessation of hostilities.

At Renamo’s insistence, the Assembly of the Republic will meet in an extraordinary sitting, possibly next Monday, in order to ratify the agreement and transform it into a law. Frelimo regarded this as entirely superfluous, but in the end gave way to Renamo’s demand.

Post published in: Africa News

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