26 April 2014

Mozambique: There Is a Limit to Government Concessions, Warns Chissano

Lisbon — Former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano was warned that there is a limit to how many concessions the government can make to the former rebel movement Renamo.

Speaking to AIM and other reporters in Lisbon, Chissano said a moment could come when the government would have to tell Renamo that it could not concede to any more demands - but he was sure it would not be the government which initiated any armed conflict.

“The government's line is that it will not resort to armed force”, he said. “It is not the government that will resort to weapons to do anything. But it will say ‘that's enough!', and that it will accept no further demands which are completely absurd”.

“I think that is what will happen”, he continued, “because you cannot imagine that the government will give away everything just because of threats. There are limits”.

Under pressure from Renamo's armed attacks in the central province of Sofala, the government has capitulated to almost all of Renamo's demands for sweeping changes in the electoral legislation. As a result the electoral bodies are being swamped with literally thousands of people appointed by the three parliamentary parties - Renamo, the ruling Frelimo Party, and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM).

Renamo is now demanding a share-out of senior positions in the armed forces (FADM) and the police. So far the government has refused to accept what it describes as “an aberration'.

“Renamo's tactic is to use its guns to force concessions from the government”, said Chissano. But the time would come when the government could give no more “and then there could be confrontation”.

But he did not believe this would degenerate into a full scale war. Renamo and its leader, Afonso Dhlakama, “are able to cause some disturbances among the civilian population”, Chissano added, “but I doubt that they have any force capable of waging a war”.

“If there is any escalation of violence, it will always come from Renamo”, he said. “We know that Renamo's policy has always been to massacre the civilian population. They want to create discontent among the public so that the public puts pressure on the government to make concessions. But some concessions can be damaging to the public”.

As for Renamo's threats that it may boycott the general elections scheduled for 15 October, he said that would cause “serious problems” for Dhlakama's party. It would mean that Renamo “loses the opportunity to be inside parliament, and loses the opportunity to negotiate other positions. They will lose the opportunity to be political leaders. But the elections will be held”.

He recalled that last year Renamo boycotted the 20 November municipal elections, and this tactic only damaged Renamo's interests. Renamo lost all its seats in the municipal electons, and was supplanted by the MDM as the main opposition party at local level.

Chissano thought that Renamo contains intelligent people, and it was no accident that the first thing the Renamo team discussed in its dialogue with the government was the electoral laws. Having won their electoral demands, it would make little sense to throw those gains away now because of other “petty demands”.

“They have already seen that they didn't win anything by not participating in the municipal elections”, he said, and so the thoughtful members of Renamo, certainly wanted to take part in the general elections.

But Renamo also wanted to make gains in other areas “through military pressure”, Chissano noted.

“In all areas, political and economic, they want to win things in ways that are not normal”.

As for the choice of former defence minister Filipe Nyusi as Frelimo's candidate for the presidential election, Chissano said “he is the best choice because that choice was made by the suitable body which is the Frelimo Central Committee. He competed with several other candidates who are also of good caliber”.

Chissano claimed that the discussions within Frelimo preceding the election of Nyusi were “very open.

Anyone who knows Frelimo from the inside knows that the discussions are always heated, but someone who doesn't know Frelimo might think that there's been a break, that the party was divided into three or four pieces. But we have always emerged united”.

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