Verdade (Maputo)

18 August 2014

Mozambique: Citizens Granted Amnesty for Crimes Committed During Recent Violence in Mozambique

Mozambican parliament has debated and approved the Amnesty Law that grants and guarantees pardon to all citizens who committed crimes against people, property or against state security during the violence that erupted on June 21, 2013 and continued until recently.

Yet, in this new law, which opens with the "acquittal" of those who killed, both while enforcing their opposition volition or not, there is no mention of compensation for victims of the political-military conflict.

After the law was approved, the Assembly was described as an exchange of hugs and handshakes between members of the Standing Committee of the Assembly and members present from both Frelimo and Renamo in a clear commemoration of peace.

Arnaldo Chalaua, the spokesperson for Renamo, said that possible compensation for victims of the hostilities or their relatives could not take place after amnesty was granted, since the law signifies clemency. Similarly, a member of Frelimo said that the matter had not yet been analysed.

The law, consisting of three articles, was proposed by Mozambican President, Armando Guebuza, and was approved in the early hours of Tuesday, August 12th. It protects those who committed crimes against the State, military crimes and other charges, over the period from March 2012 until the day of the law's passing, from any criminal proceedings.

Article 2 of the law establishes that "the State ensures protection against any criminal procedure regarding acts and facts covered by the amnesty." However, Paragraph 3 of Article 1 also guarantees amnesty to persons who have committed crimes covered in the Law outside this pre-stated period. It states, "Amnesty is also applied to similar cases that occurred in Dondo District at the Administrative Post of Savane in 2002, in Cheringoma District in 2004, and Marínguè District in 2011". This article represents Renamo's success to include cases in the Law not originally planned.

This Law is part of the materialization of the agreements reached between ruling party Frelimo and main opposition party Renamo. It establishes guarantee that there will be no judicial accountability of those involved in the armed clashes, which, it is hoped, will enable mutual understanding and determine the end of military hostilities.

Endless hours of "negotiations" without consensus

Talks were scheduled to start at 10 AM, Tuesday, August 12, but only began around 9:30 PM after having been cancelled twice before at 10:30 AM and 2 PM. The delay was solely due to a lack of consensus between Frelimo and Renamo members over the period to be included in the Amnesty Law.

Before the plenary Parliament debate began Renamo showed objection in relation to the timeframe prescribed by Law. They protested the proposal of the period covering June 2012 up until the date of the amnesty's approval.

Led by Maria Angelina Enoque, the opposition group felt that proposed period was not comprehensive, supposedly, because it protected a portion of people involved in the military conflict, but ignored others.

"Renamo believes in establishing that date (June 2012), the law ignores a group of people who should be included. The political-military tension did not begin in 2012. Before this, there were key events and detentions. We understand that this Law has to be stretched and not only this time period that is determined", defended the Renamo spokesman, Arnaldo Chalaua.

This divergence of ideas led to a long and profound debate involving Frelimo and Renamo representatives, who sought to reach a consensus on the matter in order to approve the document in Parliament with extreme urgency. At one point the head of Frelimo's bench had to consult President Guebuza, the proponent of the Law, on the proposals put forward by Renamo. They even went so far as to propose that the period in question covered crimes committed back in 1994.

The truth is that this matter, which divided parliamentarians, had not been the objective of debate during the dialogues between the parties, which took place at the Joaquim Chissano International Conference. Renamo parliament members were taken by surprise that this period was included in the President's proposal.

After a long period of debate between parliamentary party leaders and the Standing Commission, consensus on the point raised by Renamo was achieved.

At that time, around 7 PM, Frelimo summoned the press to report that the parties had reached a consensus and that the Law would still be debated that night.

Next, the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, Human Rights and Legality (First Committee), who had previously produced its opinion in relation to the proposed Amnesty Law saying that it did not contain any vice of illegality or unconstitutionality, had to examine the new text. This began around 8PM.

According to the proposal presented, the Law in reference has no budgetary impact. That is, from its approval and application there will not be any additional burden for the State's budget.

MDM complains that they were excluded

Although in agreement with the amnesty passed, representatives from the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM), did not fail to demonstrate their indignation at having been excluded throughout the long periods of the Law's "negotiation".

"We spent all day as mere spectators," said the spokesman for the MDM parliamentary bench, José Manuel de Sousa. A minority in the Assembly, MDM presented a discourse of consolation and solidarity with the families who have been directly affected by the armed conflict.

"We are with you and we believe that the damage caused to you will one day be compensated for. We advocate for a nation united and of reconciliation and with awareness that peacekeeping requires effort, courage and, above all, tolerance and respect for differences," de Sousa asserted.

MDM reminded their political peers about the need to respect the exercise of political freedom in the country. De Sousa added, "Taking into consideration that we are in a multi-party country, no one has the right to prevent the realization of political activity to a legally constituted party."

Key figures receive amnesty

The Amnesty Law covers all citizens that, in the context of hostilities, committed military crimes. Among those amnestied are António Muchanga and Jerónimo Malagueta, both senior members of Renamo.

Muchanga was arrested on July 7th on official presidential grounds while leaving a State Council meeting at which he was stripped of his immunity and detained on charges of incitement of violence. At the time of his arrest, he was officially acting out the functions of Renamo spokesperson and party leader, Afonso Dhlakama.

In turn, Jeronimo Malagueta, though already free, is also one of the beneficiaries of the Amnesty Law. He had been arrested July 21st, 2013, two days after he announced at a press conference that the armed men of Renamo would prevent the movement of people and goods on National Highway 1 (EN1) and trains on Marromeu lines as a way not to allow movement of government Defence and Security Forces (FADM) and their equipment towards Sathunjira, where Dhlakama was residing before the October 2013 attack. Malagueta was released in March this year, after paying a bond.

In addition to these figures, many others will benefit from the amnesty, including 21 Renamo members arrested in October 2013 and accused of promoting disobedience in the locality of Napome, District of Nampula-Rapale in Nampula Province.

Guebuza - Dhlakama meeting

Post Amnesty law adoption, President Armando Guebuza and the Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama are expected to meet for the approval of consensus reached by Parliament. However, there is still no knowledge, from either Frelimo or Renamo delegations, regarding how and when the final document will be signed. Similarly, there is no clear plan for an end to military hostilities in the country.

On the one hand, Frelimo insists that the signing of the document should be done in Maputo by President Guebuza and Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama.

Dhlakama has authorized his delegation in Maputo, led by Saimone Macuiane, to sign the final document in his absence and announce an end to the political and military crisis.

For Renamo, the law's approval is crucial to verify the ceasefire and allow the free movement of citizens. "It is our understanding that there are difficulties on the part of the Government to declare a ceasefire, by mandate of the President of the Republic, there are possible ways that must be acted out in order to ensure the end of military hostilities as soon as possible," Macuiane said.

During last Wednesday's (13th) dialogues, Macuaine stressed that the most important thing right now is the end of the crisis and not the place where the agreement will be signed. In turn, the head of the government (Frelimo) delegation, José Pacheco, said that "Renamo calls for military comfort" in order for their leader leave his hideout. However, the question that this raises is as follows: how will Mr. Afonso Dhlakama be brought to Maputo to sign the documents, side-by-side, with President Guebuza?

"The duties and responsibilities of the Head of State, acting as Commander in Chief, is to emanate orders to the Defense and Security Forces, hence the fact that we have produced an instrument (Amnesty Law) that will be signed by both parties." added José Pacheco.

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