Maputo — Gunmen of the former rebel movement Renamo attacked a Mozambican military and police convoy in the central district of Gorongosa on Thursday, according to the head of public relations in the Sofala provincial police command, Daniel Macuacua, cited in Saturday's issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”.
Macuacua said the government forces had suffered no losses, but heavy damage was done to the military vehicles.
Renamo attacked the convoy at about 12.30, in the area of Mucoza, on the road from Gorongosa town to the Casa Banana administrative post. The convoy was on a mission to carry supplies of food to the military positions in the area.
“We condemn these provocative acts by Renamo against the defence and security forces, which have been showing maximum restraint, in order to avoid disturbances of public order and of the security of citizens and their property”, Macuacua said,
The attack occurred just a day after Renamo spokesperson Antonio Muchanga threatened that Renamo would end its unilateral truce in Sofala, if the government were to set up “new military positions” in the province. He claimed that the government was moving more troops and equipment into Gorongosa, and that plans are afoot to assassinate Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, who is currently living in a base somewhere in the Gorongosa mountain range. Allegedly, the government forces are heading for Nhadue, the area in Casa Banana where Dhlakama registered as a voter on 8 May.
Asked to comment on Muchanga's allegations, Macuacua declared “it's not true that this is happening. We would like to reassure the population that the claim we are drawing up strategies to eliminate the Renamo leader is false. Renamo has been provoking the defence and security forces, but our forces have not responded, and this shows that our intention is not to engage in a confrontation with Renamo, but to guarantee public order and calm”.
In Maputo, Interior Minister Alberto Mondlane on Friday assured reporters that the government is willing to guarantee all security conditions so that Dhlakama can leave the Gorongosa bush and undertake his political work, prior to the general elections scheduled for 15 October, in which he hopes to be a presidential candidate.
In telephone contacts with reporters over the past week, Dhlakama said he wanted to leave Gorongosa, but he could only do so with security guarantees, since he feared falling into an ambush.
Mondlane offered those guarantees - he said that all Dhlakama has to do is tell the government when he wants to leave Gorongosa and where he wants to go. He stressed that there is nothing to stop Dhlakama from travelling to Maputo any time he likes.
He pointed out that this would not be the first time Dhlakama had contacted the government. He had been in contact when he wanted to register as a voter, and all the security conditions had been created to allow a voter registration brigade to meet with Dhlakama and to register him.
But the government would not accept dictates from Renamo as to where it should station its forces. “As for the movements of the armed forces”, the Minister added, “I can only say that our country is a state where the mission of the defence and security forces is to guarantee our territorial integrity and the security of people and their property”.
The government forces would continue to do their job of protecting citizens, Mondlane said. He regretted that Renamo was still attacking both the civilian population and the security forces. This meant that the government's forces had added responsibilities to ensure the safety of the civilian population.
Asked about the eventual fate of the Renamo gunmen, Mondlane said this was a matter that must be decided in the dialogue under way between the government and Renamo.
“The question of these armed men is part of the agenda for the dialogue”, he said. “It is a matter that has to be decided at the Joaquim Chissano Conference Centre (where the dialogue sessions are normally held). But this does not prevent Dhlakama from leaving his current location and going somewhere where discussions can continue”.