Mozambique: No Advance Towards Guebuza-Dhlakama Meeting

Maputo — Despite the visit by Anglican Bishop Dinis Sengulane on Tuesday to Satunjira, the bush headquarters of Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Mozambique's main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, there has been no advance at all towards a possible face-to-face meeting between Dhlakama and President Armando Guebuza.

Dhlakama once again insisted that he will only travel to Maputo to meet Guebuza, if the government withdraws all the police and military units in the vicinity of Satunjira. The government has repeatedly rejected this demand, saying that it does not take instructions from Dhlakama as to where the defence and security forces should be stationed.

“I want the meeting, it's urgent. But I will only go if all the members of the FADM (armed forces) and FIR (riot police) who are surrounding my base are withdrawn. I can even meet with President Guebuza today in any part of the country or the world”, Dhlakama told reporters after his talks with Sengulane.

According to Dhlakama, Sengulane had brought no new proposals. He simply asked Dhlakama to come to Maputo to meet Guebuza. And Dhlakama simply reiterated his well-known security demands.

“If they don't withdraw these soldiers, I shall never leave here for a meeting with Guebuza”, he told the independent television station STV. “The soldiers surrounding my base didn't come to have a party with me. They want to eliminate me physically. And to prevent this from happening I shall not leave this base”.

Ever since Dhlakama moved to Satunjira, in October 2012, Renamo has been predicting an imminent government attack on the base, and an attempt to assassinate Dhlakama. 11 months have passed and nothing of the sort has happened. The argument that he needs to stay in Satunjira to avoid assassination makes little sense - if he really thought the FADM or FIR were about to storm Satunjira, then his safest option would be to go to Maputo.

Dhlakama said that, if he does meet Guebuza, he would only put two points on the table - the electoral legislation and the defence and security forces.

Renamo still insists on “parity” in the National Elections Commission (CNE) between members appointed by Renamo and by the ruling Frelimo Party. This is essentially the same position that was defeated when the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, voted on the electoral laws in December.

As for defence issues, Dhlakama claims that the Renamo members recruited into the FADM when it was formed in 1994 are being marginalized or forced into early retirement.

On one issue, Dhlakama seemed to soften slightly - he no longer threatened to make it impossible to hold the municipal elections scheduled for 20 November, but claimed “the people” would reject them.

“We did not participate in the voter registration, and we are not present in the electoral bodies”, he said. “Let's forget about these elections. If Frelimo wants to create more problems in the country, it can go ahead with the elections. I don't have the strength to tell the government not to hold the elections, nor the strength to fight President Guebuza. He can order the elections to be held, but he will have the reaction of the people”.

But Frelimo is not alone in the municipal elections. The other significant opposition party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), is also standing in all 53 municipalities and clearly intends to replace Renamo as the main opposition force.

More than a dozen other parties and citizens' groups have registered for the elections and have submitted the nomination papers of their candidates. The elections seem certain to go ahead, as planned, on 20 November, and the main result of the Renamo boycott is that Renamo's name will not be on the ballot paper.

Bishop Sengulane made no comments to reporters after his meeting with Dhlakama.

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