Maputo — In the unlikely event of the Mozambican government ever accepting the demand from the former rebel movement Renamo for Mozambican and international mediators and observers at the dialogue between the government and Renamo, it would need a much larger table.
For the latest Renamo letter on the subject, addressed to President Armando Guebuza, and dated 5 December, proposes a total of 14 mediators and observers.
The letter, a copy of which is in AIM's possession, wants the dialogue (which Renamo insists on calling “negotiations”) to be mediated by Mozambican constitutional lawyer Gilles Cistac, Italian bishop Matteo Zuppi, former South African President Thabo Mbeki, and an unnamed representative of the European Union.
This line-up - one Mozambican and three foreign mediators - is, not coincidentally, the same as the composition of the mediating team in the peace talks held in Rome from 1990 to 1992. (The Mozambican mediator in those days was the bishop of Beira, Jaime Goncalves, and the three foreigners were all Italians - Mario Raffaelli representing the Italian government, and Andrea Riccardi and Matteo Zuppi of the Catholic Sant'Egidio Community. Zuppi has subsequently been promoted to the post of Auxiliary Bishop of Rome).
As for observers, Renamo is proposing four Mozambicans - Anglican bishop Dinis Sengulane, prominent academic and Vice-Chancellor of the Polytechnic University, Lourenco do Rosario, the former Vice-Chancellor of Maputo's Eduardo Mondlane University, Filipe Couto, and Alice Mabota, Chairperson of the Mozambican Human Rights League (LDH).
Six foreign observers are proposed, but all are countries rather than individuals. They are: the United States, China, Portugal, Cape Verde, Kenya and Botswana.
Ever since September, the government has repeatedly made it clear that it is not prepared to internationalise its discussions with Renamo and so will not agree to invite any foreign observers, much less mediators. The Renamo proposal is thus a non-starter, and Renamo must have known that when it submitted it.
The letter, signed by Augusto Mateus, political advisor to Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, does not state whether Renamo has contacted all its proposed mediators and observers.
The letter lists the tasks Renamo wants mediators and observers to undertake. The mediators, it says, should “propose the methodology of the talks”, “mediate, moderate the discussions, accompany and coordinate the talks”, and “draw up a synthesis of each session of talks, indicating the points agreed and those where there is disagreement”.
The observers, Mateus adds, would “accompany the talks, and may give their opinions on them, if they deem fit”. They would also report back to the countries they represent.
They are instructed “to maintain the strictest impartiality in their duties”, “refrain from making personal or premature comments about their observations” and must not “interfere in the negotiations”.
Since none of the proposed mediators and observers will attend talks without an invitation from the government, and the government has made it very clear that no representatives of foreign governments will be invited, all these provisions are just a waste of breath.
The list presented by Mateus on 5 December is quite different from the proposal made by the head of the Renamo delegation to the dialogue, parliamentary deputy Saimone Macuiana, just a week earlier.
In a letter dated 29 November, Macuiana said nothing about mediators. He called for Mozambican observers (without advancing any names), and observers from SADC (Southern African Development Community), the African Union, the European Union, the US and the United Nations.
Three days later, Macuiana had changed his mind, and sent a letter, dated 2 December, demanding “national and international mediators”, but without naming any individuals or countries.
In fact, the government had already made one concession to Renamo. In November it accepted that there could be Mozambican (but not foreign) observers at the talk. In particular, the government was willing to welcome Bishop Sengulane and Lourenco do Rosario to the dialogue table. These two men had already acted as go-betweens, ferrying messages between Dhlakama and President Armando Guebuza earlier in the year.
But they could not just show up at the dialogue sessions - government letters repeatedly called on Renamo to attend meetings at which the terms of reference for the Mozambican observers would be discussed. Just as repeatedly Renamo refused to attend.
Since mid-October Macuiana's delegation has boycotted the talks. An all too predictable pattern has set in: the secretariat of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet) sends a letter to Renamo, saying that the government delegation will be ready to continue the dialogue the following Monday at Maputo's Joaquim Chissano Conference Centre. The government delegation, headed by Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco, shows up at the Conference Centre on time, and waits, but there is no sign of its Renamo counterpart.
Macuiana then gives a press conference saying that Renamo will not attend further talks without mediators and observers.
The government points out that the talks began in response to a Renamo request, and it was Renamo which proposed the points on the agenda, in a letter from Mateus dated 15 April. That letter said nothing at all about mediators or observers.
Earlier this month, Pacheco declared “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.
But he insisted that it would not be the government that breaks off the dialogue, despite Renamo's repeated absence from the meetings.
The government, Pacheco said, was always willing to hold the dialogue “until such time as Renamo has expressed in writing that it has abandoned the dialogue”.