Maputo — Delegations from the Mozambican government and from the country’s main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, concluded a third round of talks on Monday, achieving the same results as the previous two rounds – precisely nothing.
When Renamo general secretary Manuel Bissopo left the meeting, he told reporters that the dialogue was over, and there would be no further meetings. He claimed that the government had not accepted the legitimacy of Renamo’s concerns, and resorted to the traditional Renamo threat of mobilizing some form of insurrection.
Renamo, he said, “would unleash a chain of actions with the people” in order to prevent “a small group, which calls itself owner of the country, led by (President ) Armando Guebuza and his family, from continuing to exclude Mozambicans and to exert party control over the state and its institutions”.
The head of the government delegation, Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco, dismissed the Renamo threats and said the government remained open to a dialogue, if Renamo wanted one.
But the questions presented by Renamo at these meetings had no legal basis, he insisted. Pacheco denied the frequent Renamo claim that membership of Frelimo was a pre-requisite for employment in the Mozambican state. Jobs in the state apparatus were put out to tender, recruitment was public, and candidates submitted their applications and CVs.
This echoed the statements made by Prime Minister Alberto Vaquina, speaking last week in the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.
Responding to opposition complaints that only Frelimo supporters are given jobs in the state, Vaquina replied that recruitment to state bodies is done through public advertising, in accordance with legal norms, and candidates are only expected to produce documents proving their identity, nationality, age, criminal record and relevant academic qualifications.
Candidates are not asked to produce any document about their political or religious beliefs, he said, and anyone who is asked questions about their political affiliations when applying for a state job “should immediately denounce the fact”.
Pacheco pointed out that it was not the government, but Renamo that was seeking undue political influence in state institutions, when it demanded the integration of Renamo members into the defence and security forces.
Renamo has complained that the original plan in the 1992 peace agreement for a 30,000 strong army, half from the former government army, the FAM/FPLM and half from Renamo, was never implemented. What Renamo tends to forget is that all 30,000 were supposed to be volunteers, and the vast majority of the troops on both sides just wanted to go home. Both armies collapsed in a welter of mutinies in 1994, and the new Mozambique Defence Force, the FADM. was formed of less than 12,000 people, rather more than a third of them from Renamo, and with more officers than privates.
Subsequently the army has been built on a basis of conscription, not political quotas.
As for the police, in the late 1990s the government offered to train members of the Renamo security force, known as its “Presidential Guard” as policemen. Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama turned the offer down.
Pacheco said the defence and security forces exist to serve all Mozambicans, and recruitment has nothing to do with the recruits’ political sympathies.
Renamo had also protested against the riot police (FIR), describing it as an instrument of repression, and demanding representation within it. Pacheco replied that the FIR is an operational unit of the police force, which intervenes in the event any threat to public order and tranquility.
As for the supposed exclusion of Renamo members from access to business opportunities, Pacheco said this was also untrue, since any Mozambican can invest in the country under the terms of the Investment Law.
A further Renamo demand had been for an opposition majority on the National Elections Commission (CNE), and its executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE).
This was discussed at the meeting held on 10 December, when Pacheco pointed out that the composition of the CNE was not a matter for the government at all, but was under discussion in the Assembly. The government would simply comply with whatever electoral legislation is passed by the Assembly.
That legislation was being passed, against Renamo opposition, at the every moment that Pacheco and Bissopo were holding their third meeting.
Renamo had complained about alleged government violations of the peace agreement, but Pacheco insisted that the government had complied with all its obligations under the agreement. It was Renamo that was in breach of the accord, through maintaining its own armed force, which should have been integrated into the police.
In the central province of Sofala, Renamo delegate Albano Jose summoned journalists to announce that Renamo has a “Plan B”, reports Tuesday’s issue of the independent daily “O Pais”.
That plan was to divide the country in two at the Save river, the conventional boundary between southern and central Mozambique.
“If the talks under way continue to be a cheap spectacle promoted by the government delegation, which has resorted to time-wasting manoeuvres so as not to give any concrete response to our demands, then we shall be forced to divide the country along the Save River, in order to force Frelimo to yield to the concerns of the population”, said Jose.
He boasted that, if Renamo were to take over the centre and north of the country, “then in record time all the population south of the Save will move to the north, where our governance will be participatory and exemplary”.
This is an old Renamo threat, first made by Renamo parliamentarian Manuel Pereira about a decade ago. Renamo was not able to implement the threat then, and there is no reason to believe that it can do so now.