Maputo — Delegations from the Mozambican government and the former rebel movement Renamo met in Maputo on Monday for yet another fruitless round in a dialogue that has been under way since April 2013.
There is still no sign of agreement between the two sides on the terms of reference for the international observers who will monitor a cessation of hostilities.
Initially the government resisted internationalizing the conflict, accepting only Mozambican observers. Renamo insisted on bringing in foreigners (whom it called mediators), and the government agreed, but has argued that they must monitor not merely an end to the shooting, but also the disarming and demobilization of Renamo forces.
The government has warned that it makes no sense to bring military specialists, some of them from Europe and America, to Mozambique just to observe a simple truce.
But Renamo has no intention of disarming its gunmen. It continues to make demobilization dependent on a share-out of senior positions in the military and police. Effectively Renamo is demanding control over half the armed forces and police.
The government, however, points out that the principle of “parity” in the defence and security forces on the bases of party political allegiance is not acceptable, since the country contains Mozambicans who are members of parties other than Frelimo and Renamo, or members of no party at all.
The deputy head of the government delegation, Gabriel Muthisse, told reporters that the question of the “reorganization” of the armed forces should not be discussed at the same time as the terms of reference of the foreign observers, but should be included in the next point on the agenda for the dialogue.
“We suggested that between now and the next session, Renamo should verify whether it wants to carry on talking about this point of the reorganisation of the defence and security forces”, said Muthisse, “since, as far as we can see, it falls under point two (which deals specifically with defence and security matters). The government doesn't want to pretend that this point doesn't exist, but it does want to discuss the matter”.
He put an optimistic gloss on the talks, saying that at the Monday meeting Renamo had finally explained what it meant by “reorganising” the army and police..
“This is very important”, said Muthisse. “Now we know what the other side is talking about. Renamo must explain its proposals, which it has not been doing. When Renamo says it wants to hand over its guns to a credible entity, what does it mean?”
In the absence of explanations, the government was obliged to read between the lines of the Renamo proposals.
As for the questions of “balance and inclusion” raised by Renamo, Muthisse said “we will only be in agreement if this refers to or is based on the legislation on the defence and security forces, which was approved by parliament in the presence of Renamo”.
As for the alleged marginalization in the armed forces (FADM) of officers who had originally come from Renamo, Muthisse said that, since 1999, officers have been transferred out of active duty and onto the reserve list. This affected officers from the former government army, the FAM/FPLM, more than it did Renamo, since there were many more officers from the former than the latter. 92 per cent of FADM officers placed from the reserve list came came from the FAM/FPLM and only eight per cent from Renamo.
When the FADM was set up, in 1994, it had far too many officers. Under the peace agreement between the government and Renamo, the FADM was to be formed exclusively of volunteers. But only 11,579 volunteers could be found, about two thirds from the FAM/FPLM and one third from Renamo. And officers outnumbered privates.
Renamo complains that FADM officers who came from Renamo are now relegated to the role of “advisers”. Muthisse said that, in reality, 50 per cent of these advisers were former FAM/FPLM officers, and the other 50 per cent came from Renamo.
“We said we have all the lists, and from our point of view this is not a matter to be discussed under the terms of reference”, he said.
But Muthisse undermined his own case when he refused to give exact figures for the number of officers who have passed to the reserve list. He claimed this was a security issue and so could not be revealed.
Muthisse said it was “out of the question” for the government to withdraw its forces from their current positions, since they are there to guarantee freedom of movement of citizens and their goods.
Renamo has insisted on the withdrawal of troops from rural Gorongosa, claiming that they are encircling the base on the slopes of the Gorongosa mountain range where its leader, Afonso Dhlakama, is currently living. Muthisse denied that the FADM and the police pose any threat to Dhlakama, and pointed out that wherever he went in the country, Dhlakama would find a military and police presence.
For his part, the head of the Renamo delegation, parliamentarian Saimone Macuiana, once again claimed that the defence and security forces should be “reunified”, and that the guns currently in Renamo hands should be handed to “a credible state body” - without specifying what this body might be.
He threw up a further obstacle claiming that there is a proliferation of weapons “in the hands of security companies linked to the ruling party”, and “all this must be corrected before there is any agreement”.
The security companies are set up under Mozambican legislation, and are private bodies authorised by the Ministry of the Interior. They have provided employment for many demobilised soldiers (from both the FAM/FPLM and Renamo). Frelimo does not own any security companies, but there is nothing to stop Frelimo members owning shares in, or sitting on the boards, of these companies.
This discussion was taking place at the very moment that Renamo announced a resumption of military attacks in the central province of Sofala, with renewed ambushes against both civilian and military vehicles.