29 October 2012

Mozambique: Renamo Claims ?Secret Contact? With Govt

Maputo — Mozambique’s main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, claims that it is in “secret contacts” with the government, but declines to give any details as to the nature of these supposed contacts.

On 16 October, Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama moved from his house in the northern city of Nampula to a hut in the bush in the central district of Gorongosa. He demanded that President Armando Guebuza come personally to Gorongosa to discuss a string of demands raised by Renamo.

On 17 October, Dhlakama gave the government a deadline of three days to send a delegation to negotiate with him. No delegation went to Gorongosa.

Last Tuesday, the head of the Renamo Defence Department, Ossufo Momade, extended the deadline and demanded that Guebuza go to Gorongosa within a month. But the government seems to have decided to ignore Dhlakama, apart from sending riot police units to Gorongosa to keep an eye on the situation.

Clearly Renamo expected that government members would go scurrying to Gorongosa. They have not done so, and Renamo can only fall back on vague talk about secret negotiations.

Interviewed in Monday’s issue of the independent newsheet “Mediafax”, the Renamo national spokesperson, Fernando Mazanga, said “Yes, there are contacts, and I can’t tell you anything about them now. Perhaps next week”.

Renamo General Secretary, Manuel Bissopo, was equally tight lipped.

Contacted on Sunday afternoon, Bissopo claimed he was unable to say anything since he was about to leave for Gorongosa himself. He said he might be able to discuss the matter when he returned to Maputo on Wednesday.

In reality, there are no signs either of negotiations or of preparations to storm Dhlakama’s Gorongosa base. Mamud claimed on Friday that such preparations were in hand, and threatened a vigorous response.

Mamud even made the absurd allegation that the government is recruiting mercenaries from Zimbabwe and South Africa for an attack on Dhlakama’s base. Nobody else has seen any sign of such recruitment.

It seems much more likely that the government is happy to let Dhlakama stay in the bush as long as he likes, provided he and his men do not disturb the lives of Gorongosa peasant farmers.

It may be doubted how long a man who has spent the past two decades in comfortable houses in Maputo and Nampula will be able to tolerate the Spartan conditions of a Gorongosa camp, that has no electricity, and none of the other amenities of city life.

Dhlakama has not issued any coherent list of demands, and much of what he and Mamud told reporters cannot possibly be granted by any government. Thus Mamud wanted negotiations on a “transitional government” – which is a request for the current government to commit suicide.

Dhlakama also wanted political recruitment to the armed forces and the police, and even suggested that a new riot police should be formed, 50 per cent from the ruling Frelimo Party and 50 per cent from Renamo.

As for Dhlakama’s complaints about Mozambique’s electoral laws, Frelimo, Renamo and the second opposition force, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) have been discussing amendments in the parliamentary commission on public administration since early 2010.

The new electoral laws will be passed in parliament, and not in Gorongosa.

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