Maputo — Mozambique's former rebel movement Renamo has indeed reactivated its main base in the southern province of Inhambane, located at Nhamunde, in the locality of Pembe, in Homoine district, according to a report in Monday's issue of the independent newsheet “Mediafax”.
Renamo reoccupied this old base last Tuesday. “They've reactivated it and built new huts with local material”, one Pembe resident told the paper.
The “Mediafax” sources put the Renamo unit at between 70 and 100 men, some of them carrying AK-47 assault rifles. So far they had not harmed anyone, and had used their own money to buy food and cigarettes from informal traders.
The Renamo members, the paper reported are not from Homoine, or from anywhere else in Inhambane. They do not speak the local languages. Residents told “Mediafax” that, apart from the official language, Portuguese, they had only heard them speak Ndau and Sena. These are the main languages spoken in the central province of Sofala, which seems to confirm that this group had been sent southwards from the Renamo bases in Sofala.
Members of the group said they had come to undertake unspecified “political work”. This appears to refer to Renamo plans to sabotage the voter registration due to begin later this month, which is a necessary step ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 15 October.
Although so far there are no reports of this Renamo group killing or harming anyone, the very presence of armed men has set off a panic reaction, with residents abandoning Pembe and the adjacent locality of Fanha-Fanha, and heading for Homoine town.
When a crew from the independent television station STV visited Pembe on Saturday they found it almost totally deserted. The police station, which should be open 24 hours a day, had been abandoned, and there were neither staff nor patients in the Pembe health post.
Neither the Homoine district administrator, nor any police spokesperson, was willing to speak to “Mediafax” about the matter. Police spokesperson Delcir Mariquele simply said “When we have information on the matter, we will call the press”.
“Mediafax” reports, however, that units of the riot police are converging on Homoine from other parts of Inhambane, indicating that the defence and security forces may be preparing to dislodge the Renamo group from Nhamunde.