Maputo — Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the former rebel movement Renamo, on Friday told reporters that he wants to leave his bush hideout in the central Mozambican district of Gorongosa and prepare for the general elections scheduled for 15 October.
Dhlakama has been living somewhere in the Gorongosa mountain range ever since the Mozambican armed forces (FADM) occupied the main Renamo military base at Satunjira on 21 October last year. The only time he has been seen in public was when he registered as a voter with a Gorongosa registration brigade on 8 May.
Speaking to a Maputo press conference via a mobile phone, Dhlakama claimed that he was unable to leave his current location because he is supposedly surrounded by units of the Mozambican defence and security forces.
“I want to leave Gorongosa”, he said, “I want to be with my family, with you, in the city, with my friends and everybody else, but the government is still sending troops here to surround me to prevent me from organising my life. I also want to wage a pre-campaign. (The other two declared candidates, Filipe Nyusi, of the ruling Frelimo Party, and Daviz Simango of the Mozambique Democratic Movement, MDM, are travelling around the country on what are referred to as “pre-campaigns” - since the official campaign period does not start until 1 September).
Dhlakama insisted that he needs security guarantees before he can start campaigning.
“The other candidates are already on the campaign trail”, he said. “Although I have not yet been formally adopted as a candidate, I'm the leader of Renamo and I need to undertake party work”.
Asked how he would react if he did not obtain “security guarantees”, Dhlakama said he would be patient “to avoid the worst”.
He added that four days ago the Mozambican observers to the political dialogue between Renamo and the government had asked him to maintain the ceasefire which Renamo declared on 7 May.
“I agreed”, Dhlakama said. “It pains me, as the head of a family, to order attacks, even in my own defence, but the government is continuing. I asked the mediators to request the same (a cessation of hostilities) from the President of the Republic (Armando Guebuza) but up until now he's in Inhambane on his open presidency, while the people suffer”.
“I want you to write this”, he told the reporters, “and say that president Dhlakama is waiting to hear the answers from Guebuza so that we can end all this confusion”.
As for the demand for parity in the defence and security forces, an issue raised by Renamo in the dialogue sessions and rejected by the government, Dhlakama said his party is merely demanding compliance with the 1992 general peace agreement which stated that the FADM should be formed 50 per cent from the old government army, the FAM/FPLM, and 50 per cent from Renamo.
“Today they don't want the unification of the Defence and Security Forces. But they want Renamo to hand over its weapons. How can Dhlakama hand over the weapons of his security force to another party?”, he asked. “We don't want each party to have its own armed forces”.
He even claimed that “Renamo has no armed forces, it has its own security authorised by the peace accord. It is the government of Frelimo that has its own forces”.
“If they don't want parity, let them say so, so that I can build my own army”, he added. “We shall see who is provoking who. I don't know if this is going to be very pretty”.
“I can't continue in the bush”, Dhlakama said. “If I don't come out, it's not because I'm afraid of Frelimo. If I try to leave, Frelimo will attack and that's where my fear lies. If Frelimo tries to open fire, I shall respond with force and destroy everything, and that's why I'm here seemingly fearful”.
In point of fact, the peace agreement does not authorise Dhlakama to maintain his own militia more than 20 years after the agreement was signed. The relevant clause in the agreement states “Renamo shall be responsible for the immediate personal security of its top leaders. The Mozambican government shall grant police status to the Renamo members charged with guaranteeing such security”.
But this arrangement was limited in time. It was one of a series of “specific guarantees for the period between the ceasefire and the elections”. It therefore ceased to have any effect after the first multi-party elections held in October 1994.
As for “parity” in the armed forces, the peace agreement envisaged that the FADM would consist of 30,000 troops, 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.
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 quite impossible.