14 November 2012

Mozambique: Dhlakama Threatens to Destroy the Country

Photo: African Elections Project
File Photo: Former rebel leader Afonso Dhlakama.

Maputo — Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Mozambique's largest opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, has threatened to "destroy the country", if the government does not surrender to his demands.

In an interview with the French news agency, AFP, Dhlakama declared "I am training my men up and, if we need to, we will leave here and destroy Mozambique".

"Here" is the central district of Gorongosa near Casa Banana, a guerrilla base that served as Renamo's military headquarters during the early 1980s. Dhlakama moved from his house in the northern city of Nampula to the Gorongosa bush a month ago, issuing demands that President Armando Guebuza come to Gorongosa to visit him.

But neither Guebuza, nor any other government figure, has gone to Gorongosa, and it is only by making the occasional bloodthirsty threat that Dhlakama can stay in the public eye.

He has several hundred demobilised Renamo fighters with him. This is not much of an army – these men were demobilised in 1994, and so many of them would be considered too old to be recruited into a modern army. There may be some Renamo arms caches stashed away in Gorongosa that Dhlakama can use, but he has no source of new weapons.

In the AFP interview, Dhlakama made his usual combination of threats with claims that he wants a peaceful solution. He said "If it is necessary, we can go backwards. We prefer a poor country than to have people eating from our pot." (The "people" in question are presumably the leadership of the ruling Frelimo Party, and perhaps foreign investors as well).

He claimed that Renamo was tired of what he termed the government's "robbery" of Mozambique's resources. "We want to say to Guebuza, 'You are eating well. We want to eat well too'", he declared.

The interview is incoherent. At one point, Dhlakama suddenly declared he no longer wants even to talk with Guebuza. "I am not a child to be tricked", he said. "He (Guebuza) wants to come again to pretend, so the world can say, 'They met. The problem is solved.'"

Dhlakama even suggested breaking the country in two. "The situation cannot go on like this", he told the AFP correspondent. "We are thinking of asking for the country to be divided. Frelimo will have the south and we will have the centre and north."

Dhlakama's followers will soon learn that they cannot live on their leader's bluster.

Dhlakama has to feed several hundred people every day – and his wartime tactic of simply stealing food from peasant farmers is no longer an option.

In the first few days of his Gorongosa retreat, Dhlakama claimed that the government was preparing to storm his new base, and was preparing to send in hitmen to assassinate him. But the government has avoided doing anything so spectacular. Instead, it has sent police units to keep an eye on Dhlakama, but is otherwise simply ignoring him.

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