10 December 2013

Mozambique: Renamo Boycotts Dialogue

Photo: Aly Ramji / Mediapix
President Armando Emilio Guebuza of Mozambique (file photo).

In what has now become a weekly ritual, a Mozambican government delegation, headed by Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco, on 9 December went to Maputo's Joaquim Chissano Conference Centre for another round of dialogue with the country's largest opposition party Renamo - but the Renamo delegation refused to attend.

Renamo has been demanding the presence at the dialogue table of national and foreign mediators and observers, and threatened that it would not take part in any more meetings unless these observers were present.

In mid-November, the government said that, while it was prepared to admit Mozambican observers, it had no intention of extending that invitation to foreign organisations.

Renamo has simply dug in its heels and is refusing to attend any further sessions of the dialogue, unless observers and mediators, both national and foreign, are present.

Yet it was Renamo which asked for the dialogue in the first place, and supplied the agenda items. Its original request said nothing at all about observers and mediators.

Twenty four rounds of dialogue were held between May and September, but achieved nothing at all since Renamo refused to move beyond the first point on the agenda, which was the electoral legislation.

The current electoral laws were passed in December 2012, with the parliamentary groups of the ruling Frelimo Party and the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) voting in favour and Renamo voting against.

Renamo has tried to use dialogue with the government to reverse that decision, but Pacheco's delegation has insisted that, under the constitutionally enshrined separation of powers, the government cannot dictate to parliament. It suggested that Renamo take its amendments to the electoral laws back to parliament - which Renamo refused to do without a prior "political agreement" with the government.

Since October the dialogue has simply ground to a halt, with Renamo refusing to attend meetings without "observers and mediators".

The head of the Renamo delegation, Saimone Macuiana, told reporters on 9 December that Renamo is waiting for a reply to a letter it sent to President Guebuza on 6 December, which once again demanded the presence of mediators.

He said that, once Guebuza had replied, Renamo would be willing to meet with the government delegation. For his part, Pacheco said Renamo should stop sending the government letters, and talk face-to-face instead. The government response to the Renamo letter, he insisted, would come in a meeting at the conference centre.

"Renamo is trying to turn the dialogue into an exchange of correspondence", he said. "So it is refusing to come to the Conference Centre to discuss the content of its own proposals. Dialogue is about talking, not writing. And that is the spirit we are going to maintain".

Renamo, he continued, should sit down with the government to discuss exactly how third parties could take part in the dialogue. . The government has already indicated that it will accept the presence of Mozambican observers, but Pacheco wanted clarity as to the tasks of these observers.

However, the government remains opposed to bringing in foreign organisations. "Domestic matters should be treated at domestic level by Mozambicans", Pacheco insisted. Mozambicans had enough dignity and self-esteem to solve their own problems, he added.

"The government believes there is room for the participation of Mozambican observers", Pacheco said. "But today Renamo is presenting a different scenario".

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