Mozambique: Government Rejects "Parity" in Armed Forces and Police

Photo: Guy Oliver/IRIN
Election posters in the Sofala province town of Gorongosa.

Maputo — The Mozambican government on Monday categorically rejected demands by the former rebel movement for “parity” in the composition of the armed forces (FADM) and the police.

Renamo had been demanding the right to appoint senior members of the defence forces, including the chief of staff of the FADM.

It suggested that in every military unit, wherever there was a commander who had served in the old government army, the FAM/FPLM (disbanded in 1994), the deputy commander should be from Renamo, and wherever the commander was from Renamo, his deputy should be a former FAM/FPLM officer.

Last week, the deputy head of the government delegation to the long-running dialogue with Renamo, Transport Minister Gabriel Muthisse, said the government could discuss the matter, but only after finishing the debate on the terms of reference for the foreign observers who should monitor a cessation of the current hostilities between the defence and security forces and Renamo armed units.

But at Monday's round in the dialogue, the head of the delegation, Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco, said there could be no discussion at all on this new Renamo demand.

“Discussing parity in the defence and security forces is out of the question”, he said. “There is no parity in the defence and security forces. Rather, there is a normal process of recruiting citizens into the armed forces, and no reference to political party affiliation is made during this recruitment”.

Speaking to reporters at the end of the 54th session of the dialogue Pacheco thought it was now clear that Renamo does not want to disarm its gunmen. He said it made no sense for Renamo to make disarming its men conditional on “parity” in the armed forces.

“Renamo itself calls for the separation of the public administration from political parties, and so it contradicts itself when it calls for parity in the army and the police”, he said. “We hope that one day Renamo will become a party that respects Mozambican laws. Renamo cannot have weapons, because weapons are a state monopoly”.

“Any conditions that Renamo lays down concerning parity are unacceptable”, he added.

“We are not here to violate the constitution. We are here to guarantee the peace and progress of Mozambique, which involves the cessation of hostilities, the handing over of Renamo's weapons, and the integration of Renamo's men into economic and social life”.

Under the Constitution, Pacheco pointed out, the most senior officers in the FADM and the police are appointed by the President of the Republic. Article 161 of the Constitution states that it is the responsibility of the President to appoint the Chief and Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the FADM, the General and Deputy General Commander of the police, the heads of the army, navy and air force, and other top FADM officers. Renamo voted in favour of the Constitution in the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, in 2004.

Pacheco said it made no sense for Renamo to try to take these powers away from the President during a discussion that was supposed to be about the terms of reference for foreign observers.

On the issue of the observers, there was once again no consensus, since the government wants the observers to monitor not only the cessation of hostilities, but also the demobilization of Renamo, while Renamo is refusing to demobilise its armed units.

“The point that has still not been agreed concerns the international observers”, said Pacheco. “The government has put on the table an inclusive approach to the mission of the observers - which is to observe and monitor the cessation of hostilities, the integration of Renamo's men in to the FADM and the police, total demobilisation of Renamo and the handing over of its weapons”.

For his part, the head of the Renamo delegation, Saimone Macuiana, insisted on the Renamo demands for a radical change in the composition of the armed forces.

Only then would Renamo hand over its weapons.

“Once the structure of the army and the police has been harmonised down to grass roots level, there will be no problem for Renamo in handing over its weapons to a credible and non-party institution”, he said. “When this condition is accepted, Renamo will not need any firearms at all, not even hunting guns”.

“The interests of the Mozambican people should prevail over the interests of organisations”, he added. “We mean that, if we are Mozambicans who love peace and democracy, we can achieve positive solution. We must all work for peace”

Those who support Renamo's position, endlessly cite the military clauses of the 1992 peace agreement, as if they were still in force. And it is certainly true that the peace accord envisaged parity in the establishment of the new, unified armed forces, the FADM. The FADM was to consist of 30,000 men, half of them from the FAM/FPLM and half for Renamo.

But the agreement also stipulated that they were all to be volunteers. Nowhere near 30,000 volunteers could be found. The bulk of the fighters on both sides just wanted to go home. When demobilization was delayed, and when attempts were made to pressgang soldiers into the FADM, in mid-1994 a wave of mutinies swept through the assembly points where the troops had gathered.

The body in charge of implementing the peace agreement, the UN-chaired Supervisory and Control Commission, with the agreement of both the government and Renamo, decided simply to recruit as many volunteers as possible. The question of parity between the FAM/FPLM and Renamo in the armed forces was dropped. That was why the FPLM was formed with just 11,579 troops, two thirds from the FAM/FPLM and one third from Renamo. 78,660 troops from the two sides were demobilised.

In the two decades since then, the FADM has grown on the basis of normal military recruitment - mostly conscripts, but a good sprinkling of volunteers. Returning to a party political basis for recruitment, even if only for officers, seems wildly impractical, as well as wrong in principle.

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