Maputo — A further 11 members of the militia of Mozambique's former rebel movement Renamo have abandoned their bases in the bush, and on Friday were presented to the media.
All were young and so could not have been Renamo fighters during the war of destabilization that ended in 1992. This suggests that Renamo has indeed been illegally recruiting young Mozambicans into its militia. 10 of these defectors were from the central province of Sofala, while one came from the western province of Tete.
According to the spokesperson for the Ministry of Veterans' Affairs, Horacio Massangaie, the 11 are aged between 31 and 37. He said that most of them can be incorporated into the armed forces (FADM) or the police, or can perhaps be found useful economic activities.
The defectors said they left Renamo because of the poor conditions at the Renamo bases. They complained of inadequate food, and sometimes no food at all. They were also mistreated by their superior officers.
Zinho Mariano, for example, told the reporter “I took the decision to leave Renamo for the State because of the bad living conditions. Life was very difficult. We were living very badly and eating very badly. We were treated badly. Now we have hope”.
Also on Friday, 32 other former Renamo fighters, who abandoned the rebel movement earlier, were officially recognised as veterans. Massangaie said they had opted not to join the FADM or the police, but to return to civilian life. They have now received a card which identifies them as veterans.
With this card, they can enjoy access to the rights envisaged in the legislation on veterans, including medical care, pensions, a social reinsertion bonus, training for their children, and the possibility of loans from the Peace and National Reconciliation Fund.
According to Massangaie, some of them have presented projects, and their requests for financing from the Fund have been accepted. Loans for veterans can reach a maximum of 50,000 meticais (about 1,065 US dollars, at current exchange rates).
“The Peace and Reconciliation Fund faces a great challenge”, said Massangaie. “This year the target is to finance over a thousand projects. In 2015, the loans financed by the fund amounted to 104 million meticais”.
He added that the Fund wants to embark on joint projects with veterans, where the costs of a project are shared by a veteran and by the fund itself. Funding for such joint projects “could reach six or seven million meticais, depending on the viability of the projects which the Fund and the veteran have drawn up and presented together”.