Maputo — The Mozambican Defence Ministry on Tuesday confirmed the presence of groups of gunmen of the former rebel movement Renamo in Homoine district, in the southern province of Inhambane.
This contradicts the public position taken on Monday by the spokesperson of the Inhambane provincial police command, Delcir Marquel, who claimed there was no Renamo presence in Homoine, just groups of cattle thieves.
At a Maputo press conference, the National Director of Defence Policy in the Defence Ministry, Col Cristovao Chume said not only had Renamo gunmen entered Homoine, but some of them have been arrested.
“Renamo has moved men into Inhambane, particularly into Homoine, and has put psychological pressure on people living there”, said Chume.
This had led to frightened people abandoning their homes and their property, because of the traumas of the past “notably the massacres carried out by Renamo during the war of destabilisation”.
Homoine was the scene of the worst single atrocity during the war when, on 18 July 1987, Renamo attacked the district capital, Homoine town, and slaughtered 424 people.
Chume could not confirm whether there had been any clashes so far between government forces and Renamo, “but the defence and security forces are on the ground in Homoine, in order to take measures that will restore life in the district to normal”.
He declined to say how many Renamo members have been detained in Homoine. The Renamo detainees, both in Homoine, and in the central district of Gorongosa, Chume said, had confirmed that the orders Renamo receives are still coming from the movement's leader, Afonso Dhlakama.
Chume said that, even before the armed forces (FADM) had seized the main Renamo bases in Sofala province, at Satunjira and Maringue, in late October, Renamo “had been training its former guerrillas and has recently been recruiting young people to implement a strategy of dividing the country”.
Dhlakama's plan, he alleged, was to divide the country at the Save river, which separates Inhambane and Sofala, and is the conventional boundary between southern and central Mozambique.
Renamo attacks in Sofala have concentrated on the stretch of the main north-south highway between the Save and the small town of Muxungue. Chume noted that recently this has included not only ambushes against convoys, but the digging of trenches across the road, which is of crucial importance for the Mozambican economy.
Dhlakama, accused Chume, “wants to continue terror in order to avoid the political dialogue proposed by President Armando Guebuza. This is intended to put pressure on the government and on the population so that the government will accept Renamo's demands and so that there will be no dialogue”.
Chume's statements vindicate the reporters from the Homoine Community Radio, and from the television station STV, who have been covering Homoine events in detail since Saturday. Their reports were confirmed by Chume in all essentials.