Maputo — Maputo, 11 Feb (AIM) - When units of the Mozambican Armed Forces (FADM) attack positions held by gunmen of the former rebel movement Renamo, it is because they are acting in legitimate defence, responding to earlier Renamo actions, declared Transport Minister Gabriel Muthisse on Monday.
Muthisse was speaking at the end of a session of the dialogue between the government and Renamo, reacting to claims by the head of the Renamo delegation, Saimone Macuiana, that the FADM had used heavy weapons to attack Renamo positions in the Gorongosa mountain range, in the central province of Sofala, on Sunday and on Monday morning.
Macuiana did not say whether Renamo had suffered any casualties. He stressed that dialogue should continue and urged President Armando Guebuza to intervene and “restore normality”.
He said that Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama “asks the support of the national and international community to do everything possible to enjoy peace. I would like the President of the Republic to observe this appeal, since in the last two weeks everything was indicating that our work would go ahead without any problems”.
Muthisse retorted that in reality it was Renamo that has been attacking military convoys which are trying to guarantee the security of people and goods transiting through Gorongosa. The FADM took action, he stressed, to defend the population.
“We have urged Renamo to stop the attacks”, he said. The government had hoped that Renamo would take into account the atmosphere of the dialogue under way in Maputo and would show good faith. “If this was to happen, there would be no attacks”, he stressed.
Muthisse pointed out that, at every session in the government-Renamo dialogue, the government's team of military experts has been on hand to discuss the disarming of Renamo. Military issues should be discussed at the dialogue table, and not through attacks on FADM or police positions, he added.
Renamo has, however, yet to bring into the discussions the military team appointed by Dhlakama in October.
Muthisse warned that, as long as the Renamo gunmen continued their attacks, the defence and security forces would respond.
Muthisse's version of events is supported by the reports from Gorongosa of the independent television station STV, and its sister publication, the daily paper “O Pais”.
According to STV, the latest flare-up began with a Renamo attack on Friday against an FADM position at Piro, some 25 kilometres from Gorongosa town. Three soldiers were injured in this attack, and one of them died during the weekend.
On Sunday, there was a Renamo attack on an FADM unit at Mucodza, an area that used to house a Renamo base. It was in response to these attacks, that the FADM did indeed use heavy weaponry against presumed Renamo positions in the Gorongosa mountains. But small guerrilla units enjoy plenty of cover in the densely wooded Gorongosa slopes.
Dhlakama is believed to be somewhere in the Gorongosa bush, and his spokesperson, Antonio Muchanga, declared that the FADM counter-attack was intended to assassinate Dhlakama.
“O Pais” argues that the purpose of the Renamo attacks is cut the supply routes to the FADM units currently occupying the former Renamo bases at Mucodza, Satunjira and Vanduzi.