Maputo — If Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Mozambique’s main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, really has matters that he wishes to discuss with President Armando Guebuza “then the intelligent thing would be to ask for an audience with the president, go to the President’s office and discuss”, advises Guebuza’s predecessor, Joaquim Chissano.
Interviewed by the independent daily “O Pais”, after a meeting in Maputo on Monday with the former Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, Chissano pointed out that when he was head of state, Dhlakama had asked for audiences and had been granted them.
But far from asking for an audience, Dhlakama, on 17 October, gave Guebuza an ultimatum – he demanded that Guebuza come to his new headquarters in the bush in the central district of Gorongosa.
“What authority does the Renamo leader have to summon a head of state to meet with him?” asked Chissano. “He’s not a god – not yet, at any rate”.
Renamo has also refused to meet with the commission set up by the ruling Frelimo Party to discuss whatever is troubling Dhlakama – instead it has demanded to meet with what it calls “serious people from the government”.
Chissano described this decision as senseless. “If a party wants to find solutions to the country’s problems, it’s a good thing for it to hold discussions with other parties and, in the first place, with the ruling party”, he said. “I am not against a discussion with the President of the Republic on matters in which the government could also be interested. But it is important for political parties to discuss”.
Chissano warned that the government could not be expected “to neglect the rest of society, since democracy is not about one party, much less an opposition political party, that wants to impose its will and say this is the will of the people”.
“There are appropriate forums for discussing matters of state”, he added, “but there is nothing to prevent Renamo from approaching the President of the Republic, and explaining its problems. But when Renamo invites the President to a place which is only known to Renamo itself, it is acting unreasonably”.
Chissano said it was completely unheard of for a political party “to demand that the government go and meet it in a district. I don’t know any country in the world where a political party goes to a corner of the country and then calls on the government, and particularly the President of the Republic, to go there. Either they recognise that he is the Head of State or they don’t”.
As for the armed force that Dhlakama still maintains, 20 years after the war of destabilisation ended, Chissano said that the Renamo leader “doesn’t know what he’s doing”.
“He has often said that he is a man of peace, and if it depends on him, there will be no war. So on this point we can be calm”, the former President said. “But despite this, it is not good to threaten war, even if he (Dhlakama) washes his hands of the responsibility for an eventual war”.
Everyone was responsible for keeping the peace, Chissano insisted. “There is nobody who can absolve himself of this responsibility”.