Maputo — Delegations from the Mozambican government and the former rebel movement Renamo on Friday reached a compromise agreement on how long foreign observers should stay in the country to monitor a cessation of hostilities.
But those hostilities show no sign of stopping, with the first report of an ambush by Renamo gunmen in the western province of Tete.
At earlier rounds of the government-Renamo dialogue, Renamo had wanted the foreign observers to stay in the country for at least six months, while the government said that 90 days should be long enough to monitor the disarming of Renamo and the start of reintegrating the Renamo gunmen into civilian life.
On Friday the two sides split the difference and agreed that the observers would remain for 135 days. But, if necessary, this period would be extended.
The government and Renamo decided that, ten days after the discussion of the terms of reference for the observers is over, they could be in Mozambique.
But that discussion is far from over, since Renamo wants the observers to follow implementation of other decisions that may be taken in the dialogue on defence and security matters, while as far as the government is concerned, their sole task is to monitor the dismantling of Renamo's illegal armed force,
The observer team will be led by Botswana, and will consist of 70 national and 23 international observers. In addition to Botswana, the foreign observers will come from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Cape Verde, Kenya, Italy, Portugal, Britain and the United States.
The head of the Renamo delegation, Saimone Macuiana, told reporters he was optimistic that within ten days, the question of the cessation of hostilities would be solved.
“We think that's a period in which we can solve the problem”, he said, “but no agreement has been reached about the function and tasks of the observers. In our understanding, the observers, in addition to supervising and observing the ceasefire, also have the task of verifying and accompanying the decisions we may take on the dialogue agenda point concerning the defence and security forces”.
For Macuiana, if the two sides had ended the discussion on the function of the observers, “today we would regard as closed the points on the terms of reference, and next week we would move on to discussing guarantees for the ceasefire, that is, guarantees for the cessation of military attacks”.
Macuiana made it clear that Renamo has no intention of immediately starting to disarm. “Now we are solving the question concerning the ceasefire, and not disarmament”, he said. “We are dealing with a prior question to do with a ceasefire, and this does not annul point two on the agenda, which is on defence and security”.
The government, however, does not use the term ceasefire, and regards the cessation of hostilities and the disarmament of Renamo as sequential steps in the same process.
The head of the government delegation, Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco, regretted that Renamo is still refusing to discuss disarmament.
“The challenge now is that our colleagues are resisting demilitarization and the social reinsertion of their men”, he said. “Renamo seems to want, and we also want, a cessation of hostilities, But we also want disarmament and the reintegration of Renamo's men. Mozambicans want a lasting peace, and this means that no party can have its own militarized forces”.
But also on Friday news reached Maputo that a police vehicle in Tete province had come under fire from Renamo gunmen on Wednesday. The vehicle was patrolling Chibaene and Chiandame villages in Tsangano district.
In the clash, one of the Renamo attackers was shot dead and two policemen were injured.
They are now undergoing medical treatment in Tete provincial hospital.
This is the first confirmed report of clashes in Tete, but the Tsangano district administrator, Ana Beressone, said that, since the end of March, Renamo gunmen have been terrorizing residents of the Moniqujeira area (where the two villages are located), looting their property.
“From reports from the local people, we are aware of the presence of a group of armed Renamo men who every now and then attack villages, burning houses and destroying barns”, said Beressone.
In order to restore order, a police unit had been sent to the area, she added, and on its return from patrolling, it had fallen into the Renamo ambush.