Foreign military observers leaving Mozambique

The foreign military observers, who were in Mozambique to monitor last September’s agreement on a cessation of hostilities between the government and the rebel movement Renamo, will return to their countries of origin as from Thursday.

Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco, head of the government delegation in the long running dialogue with Renamo, announced the imminent departure of the observers on Monday, at a farewell ceremony boycotted by the head of the Renamo delegation to the dialogue, Saimone Macuiana.

The foreign officers were part of a monitoring mission known by the acronym EMOCHM. Initially nine countries agreed to send observers – Botswana (which supplied a brigadier to command the mission), South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Cape Verde, Italy, Portugal, Britain and the United States. Since the two American officers never arrived, in reality only eight countries participated.

In addition to the foreigners, EMOCHM consisted of 70 Mozambican officers, 35 appointed by the government and 35 by Renamo.

EMOCHM was supposed to verify the disarming and demobilization of the Renamo militia (referred to as Renamo’s “residual forces”), and the incorporation of its members into the armed forces (FADM), the police or back into civilian life.

But when Renamo refused to deliver lists of the members it wished to incorporate into the army and police, the mission became impossible. EMOCHM had a mandate of 135 days, and during this mandate not a single Renamo gunman was disarmed.

Renamo’s refusal to cooperate meant that there was nothing for EMOCHM to observe. Nonetheless, Renamo demanded an extension of 120 days to the EMOCHM mandate – the government reluctantly granted a 60 day extension.

The second phase of EMOCHM was exactly the same as the first. Since Renamo refused to hand over it s lists, there was nothing for the observers to do. By this time only the African countries were left – the British, Portuguese and Italian authorities withdraw their officers at the end of the first stage.

Pacheco had announced the end of the foreign military presence a week earlier. The government bore the entire cost of EMOCHM, and Pacheco said it could not carry on paying for people who were doing nothing.

It is not only the foreigners who are leaving. Pacheco announced that the 70 Mozambican observers will also go home, to await new instructions. Those instructions would be forthcoming, he said, “when, in the political dialogue, we achieve the political will to establish a lasting peace in Mozambique”.

“EMOCHM did not comply with its mission for reasons beyond its control”, he said. “The government remains committed to guaranteeing the cessation of hostilities”.

But to comply with the September agreement, Pacheco insisted, Renamo had to deliver the lists of those fighters it wanted to incorporate into the FADM and the police.

“Once again the government urges Renamo to provide the list of members of its residual forces for purposes of logistics and of preparing their incorporation in light of the agreement on cessation of hostilities”, he added.

Pacheco also went over the heads of the Renamo leadership and addressed the Renamo militiamen themselves. “If they so wish, we are willing to recruit them into the police, or the FADM, or back into economic activities”, he said.

The EMOCHM commander, Botswanan Brigadier Tserego Tseretse handed over to the government the keys to EMOCHM vehicles and to the houses where the foreign observers had stayed. He said that, when he had taken command of the observers “I thought I would return here to announce the end of a successful mission, but that’s not the case”.

During the mission, he added, Mozambican society was asking “when will the Renamo residual forces be integrated, thus guaranteeing lasting peace in the country?”

“I learnt that the dialogue will continue and this is gratifying”, Tseretse said. “I think the parties will find solutions to overcome the difficulty – evidently, with all the adjacent challenges, I am referring to the integration of the Renamo forces”.

Speaking before the ceremony, Macuiana protested that the decision to dissolve EMOCHM had been taken unilaterally, and claimed that Renamo had only known about it through the press. This claim is entirely untrue – in recent sessions of the dialogue, attended by Macuiana, Pacheco had warned repeatedly of the impending end of EMOCHM, and last week had declared flatly that the mission was over.

Macuiana now demanded “a written document from the government indicating the abolition of EMOCHM. If somebody gives us a document, we will know how to respond. We hope they will bring a document”.

Macuiana then left the room, and the entire Renamo delegation boycotted the EMOCHM farewell ceremony.

The Mozambican mediators in the dialogue accepted the logic of shutting down a mission that was doing nothing. Speaking in the name of all the mediators, moslem cleric Sheik Abibo Saide said “the government decided to declare an end to EMOCHM in order to avoid idleness. We as the national observers are willing to continue working with the two sides, the government and Renamo, in order to achieve positive results”.

EMOCHM, he added, “had no raw material for its work. That raw material should have been produced at the dialogue table but, unfortunately, that did not happen”.

Saide said the mediators still believe that consensus is possible, despite the deadlock that has characterized most of the dialogue sessions. He believed that friendship and cordiality had been created during the dialogue, and this could form a basis on which to build trust.

Post published in: Africa News

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