29 August 2014

Mozambique: Dhlakama Refuses to Take Part in Start of Campaign

Photo: Guy Oliver/IRIN
Election posters

Maputo — The leader of Mozambique's former rebel movement Renamo, Afonso Dhlakama, has confirmed that he will not take part in the launch of his party's election campaign on Sunday, even though he is the Renamo presidential candidate.

Dhlakama's spokesperson, Antonio Muchanga, told a Maputo press conference on Friday that the campaign will be launched by the Renamo general secretary, Manuel Bissopo, in the city of Quelimane, capital of the central province of Zambezia.

Dhlakama will remain in a Renamo base somewhere in Gorongosa district, where he has been living since late October 2013.

Muchanga said Dhlakama will not leave Gorongosa and start campaigning until the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, passes a law to ratify the cessation of hostilities signed between the government and Renamo last Sunday night.

“President Dhlakama will not be physically present in any of the rallies that are held”, said Muchanga, “but he will be able to communicate with Mozambicans through the normal channels” (i.e. by telephone - Dhlakama has been able to speak with reporters and even addressed a press conference by mobile phone).

“He will only be personally available when security conditions have been created - when the Assembly of the Republic approves The documents resulting from the negotiations and transforms them into a law, and the government activates the mechanisms to place international military observers on Mozambican soil”.

Renamo's demand for parliamentary ratification of the ceasefire was completely unexpected, and delayed the closing session of the parliamentary sitting on Monday by several hours. The Renamo group refused to enter the parliamentary chamber unless the agenda for the day was changed to include its bill ratifying the cessation of hostilities.

This infuriated the parliamentary group of the ruling Frelimo Party since at no time in the dialogue between government and Renamo delegations had it been suggested that the agreements reached needed to be rubber-stamped by the Assembly.

The Sunday declaration had been signed by the heads of the two delegations, Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco and Renamo parliamentarian Saimone Macuiana, who had written authorisation to sign on behalf of President Armando Guebuza and Dhlakama. Frelimo could not see that any further conformation was required.

But, as has become habitual, Frelimo backed down, and the parliamentary chairperson, Veronica Macamo announced that the Renamo bill would be placed before an extraordinary sitting of the Assembly, the dates for which have not yet been set.

She said she had ordered copies of the bill sent to the relevant parliamentary working commissions for them to provide written opinions (the normal procedure for any legislation, and another reason why it was quite impossible to discuss the bill on Monday).

Muchanga complained that no date for the extraordinary session had been set - although the decision to hold one was only taken four days ago.

“Renamo calls on the Assembly to legitimize the document, because peace is more important than the elections”, said Muchanga.

Nothing in the Sunday document depends on parliamentary approval. The ceasefire is holding, and there have been no reports of any further clashes.

The government also does not need the Assembly's authorisation to invite the foreign military observers. As agreed many months ago, the countries invited to send observers are Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, Cape Verde, Portugal, Italy, Britain and the United States.

While Dhlakama remains in Gorongosa, his two rivals are preparing to launch their campaigns. Both of them - former defence minister Filipe Nyusi for the ruling Frelimo Party, and the leader of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), Daviz Simango - plan to hold their initial rallies on Sunday in the northern city of Nampula.

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