10 June 2014

Mozambique: Deadlock Continues in Government-Renamo Dialogue

Photo: J. Jackson/VOA
Renamo rebels being re-trained for combat at a remote bush camp near Gorongosa mountains (file photo).

Maputo — Deadlock in the dialogue between the Mozambican government and the former rebel movement Renamo continued on Monday as the two delegations met for yet another session at Maputo's Joaquim Chissano Conference Centre.

No agreement has proved possible on the terms of reference for international observers who should supervise a cessation of hostilities, because Renamo demands "parity" between itself and the ruling Frelimo Party in the armed forces (FADM) and the police.

The government rejects this demand on the ground that the FADM and the police are state bodies without any party political affiliation.

This round of talks followed a week of renewed Renamo attacks against convoys of vehicles on the main north-south highway between the small town of Muxungue, in the central province of Sofala, and the Save river. A military source cited by the independent television station STV spoke of ten dead in these ambushes.

The head of the government delegation to the Monday talks, Transport Minister Gabriel Muthisse, said the attacks showed that Renamo was not serious about the dialogue - for the government had made a string of concessions to Renamo, particularly over the electoral legislation, yet Renamo still seemed no nearer to laying down its guns.

"The government accommodated a series of demands from Renamo, some of them unrealistic", said Muthisse, "The government accepted a massive presence of the political parties inside the electoral bodies. The government accepted the partial politicisation of an organ of the civil service, on the assumption that these were fundamental and decisive factors for maintaining peace in our country". (The organ Muthisse meant was the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat, STAE, the electoral branch of the public administration).

Furthermore, when Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama expressed a desire to register as a voter, the government established the conditions allowing him to do so in Gorongosa district, near the Renamo base where he is currently living. All this, Muthisse said, "demonstrates the government's commitment to peace",

He demanded that Renamo explain the reasons for its return to violence. "Why has it returned to practices of terrorism, killing people, and destroying assets that are useful for the development of the state? This is a clear demonstration that Renamo does not keep its word".

As for the inclusion of Renamo gunmen in the defence and security forces, Muthisse made it clear that this could only happen after Renamo has demilitarized.

"Renamo has to understand that this integration is dependent on its demilitarisation", he said. "It must understand that it cannot demand the withdrawal of the defence and security forces from any part of the country for as long as it does not demilitarize".

The Renamo delegation, headed by parliamentarian Saimone Macuiana, did not attend the press conference at the end of the talks. Instead, later in the afternoon, Renamo rang up selected journalists (not including AIM), to explain its position.

The Mozambican observers at the talks tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade the delegations to sign a commitment to an end to hostilities, and suggested once again that a face-to-face meeting between Dhlakama and President Armando Guebuza might calm things down and reduce the level of distrust.

But Dhlakama has made it clear in his recent public statements, given by phone, that he is no longer particularly interested in meeting Guebuza.

When he spoke by mobile phone on Friday to a gathering in Maputo of 20 religious bodies, who were imploring him to call off the attacks, he called them "cowards", and said that if Renamo's demands were not met, it would divide the country in two.

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