20 December 2013

Mozambique: Frelimo Urges Renamo to Return to Dialogue

Maputo — Margarida Talapa, head of the parliamentary group of Mozambique's ruling Frelimo Party, on Friday challenged the main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, “to return to the dialogue with the government”.

Speaking at the closing session of the final sitting this year of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, Talapa urged Renamo to resume the dialogue “in an open, frank and honest way, so that its fruits result in the consolidation of peace and democracy”.

Although it was Renamo which requested the dialogue, it has been boycotting meetings since October, and says it will not return to the dialogue until “international mediators” are sitting at the table.

“We call on Renamo to take a responsible position, and stop making senseless demands”, said Talapa. “Mozambicans expect from Renamo a more dignified position, since it says it defends democracy”

“Show us this in acts, and not just words”, she urged the Renamo benches.

Talapa also demanded an end to the attacks by Renamo gunmen against civilian and military targets, and for the Renamo gangs “to be immediately and unconditionally disarmed and reintegrated into society”.

“Any party which resorts to armed force to alter the political order is operating outside the constitution and the law”, she warned.

Renamo's excuse for taking up arms again was that it does not approve of the electoral legislation passed by the Assembly in December 2012. Talapa said that the Frelimo parliamentary group is quite willing to discuss whatever amendments to the electoral laws Renamo wishes to propose.

“Renamo should bring to this Assembly the materials it believes should be reviewed and we, as ever, will be open to debate them”, she added.

Renamo, however, has insisted on signing a “political agreement” on the electoral laws with the government, which would then be presented as a fait accompli to the Assembly. Talapa categorically rejected this approach. “It seems to us unreasonable to violate the Constitution which states that these matters are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Assembly and not of the government”, she said.

“Don't be afraid, my dear colleagues”, she told the Renamo deputies. “It's here that ideas are discussed and consensus is formed”.

Renamo boycotted the 20 November municipal elections, and has threatened to boycott the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 15 October 2014. “We believe that nobody in their right minds will exclude themselves from this democratic exercise”, said Talapa. “Those who want to be a political party, rather than a simple pressure group, fight for power through the ballot box, and not with guns in their hands”.

She noted that on Thursday, when delivering his annual state of the nation address, President Armando Guebuza had reaffirmed his willingness to meet at any time with Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama. She believed that Dhlakama would eventually emerge from his hiding place and come to Maputo to meet Guebuza

She urged the Renamo parliamentarians “don't pass disinformation to your leader. You are well off here in Maputo”.

Talapa also had harsh words for “anti-democratic and riotous attitudes adopted by sympathizers of some political parties and some of their leaders, which have been expressed in scenes of vandalism”.

She mentioned no party in particular, but her remarks were clearly directed at the second opposition party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM). Frelimo has accused the MDM of responsibility for clashes which took place during the municipal elections, a charge the MDM strongly denies.

“It was sad to see young people, under the effect of alcohol, and obeying the irresponsible commands of leaders of a certain opposition committing unworthy acts, alongside tribalist and divisive speeches which clash with the principles of a plural and inclusive society”, she added.

“Democracy should not be confused with anarchy”, declared Talapa. “Nobody can, in the name of democracy, endanger the constitutional rights, freedoms and guarantees of other citizens”.

Talapa struck a more ominous note when she claimed that “the forces contrary to the freedom and sovereignty of the Mozambican people are investing in new and sophisticated forms of subversion and political and social destabilisation”.

She alleged that “rumour, disinformation, information and communication technologies and some of the media are used to launch attacks against the prestige and honour of the state and its leaders, in a clear violation of the press law and the limits of the freedom of expression, meaning that in practice the crime of the abuse of press freedom is being repeatedly committed”.

A week ago, the editors of two papers, the independent daily newsheet “Mediafax”, and the weekly “Canal de Mocambique”, were summoned before Maputo prosecutors after they had published an open letter to Guebuza from prominent academic Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco, which was said to insult the President (Castel-Branco - who did not receive a summons - denied any intention to insult Guebuza).

Strangely enough the editor of the Sunday paper “Domingo” has not been summoned for questioning even though his paper has repeatedly publishing pseudonymous articles insulting, in a racist and defamatory manner, prominent figures in the Mozambican liberation struggle such as Marcelino dos Santos, Jorge Rebelo and Sergio Vieira, who were all ministers in the governments of the country's first President, Samora Machel.

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