7 July 2014

Mozambique: Renamo Spokesman Detained Upon Exiting State Council Meeting

Photo: DW
Afonso Dhlakama

The spokesman for the Office of the President of Renamo, António Muchanga, was detained in the early afternoon of Monday July 7th, outside the Presidency of the Republic of Mozambique, moments after leaving the State Council meeting, a body of which he is a member.

"The environment (at the meeting) was never good, because we're in a situation of conflict. We (Renamo) are discomforted because our leader is not able to be in Maputo to comply with his obligations as other politicians are doing. There's a commitment that works in the sense that peace can be a reality. We hope that this time the commitment is real, because last year there was a promise and yet we have not seen anything," Muchanga said to reporters outside the State Council meeting, where he was soon after arrested and escorted to the Maputo city police command.

Gilberto Chirindza, the Renamo press officer, confirmed the arrest but he said that the party still does not know the motives for the arrest. António Muchanga emphasized, minutes before his arrest, that "Renamo always held that commitment (for peace). Our President (Dhlakama) is over 60 years old and is not comfortable living where he lives. The President of the Republic (Guebuza), as always, promised to work (to fulfill the commitment)".

However, according to newspaper CanalMoz, the Renamo spokesman was in the same car as Manuel Lole, a fellow Renamo member of the State Council of State, who says that all of a sudden they were surrounded by police officers who "smuggled (Muchanga) out from the inside (of the car) and took him away."

Muchanga has been repeatedly accused by the government of inciting violence and abusing the press for effect, most recently when he announced the end of the ceasefire in central Mozambique, which prompted the resurgence of armed clashes and attacks on civilian vehicles traveling on the main national highway (EN1). The violence has been particularly rampant along the stretch between Muxúngué and the Save River.

Although the Mozambican government claims that the leader of the country's main opposition party is free to come out from his unknown place of refuge, there are thousands of government soldiers in the region where Dhlakama is believed to be hiding. This military presence has left the Renamo leader with serious concerns about his what confirms the fears of Renamo leader about his physical safety and the safety of his faithful followers.

It is worth remembering that another senior member of Renamo, Brigadier Jerónimo Malagueta, Director of the Information Department, was detained for about nine months after announcing at a press conference that Renamo militants would prevent the movement of people and goods along the EN1 and along train lines of Sena and Marromeu as a way of protecting their leader. Their goal was to block movement of Defense and Security Forces (FADM) and their equipment from reaching Sathundjira, where Afonso Dhlakama was residing until government forces overtook the Renamo base during a surprise assault.

As expected, Alfonso Dhlakama was not present at the State Council which took place on Monday morning July 7. The meeting's main topic of debate was the political impasse and war between Frelimo and Renamo, which since its onset in June 2013, has caused hundreds of civilian casualties and, albeit unknown, a significant number of casualties from both military forces.

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