22 August 2016

Mozambique: Mediators Cause Confusion as War Escalates

Photo: Verdade
Mozambican police (file photo).

Attempts by mediators to push the talks forward created confusion and discord and seem to have left government and Renamo more entrenched in their positions. Meanwhile the war escalated, with Renamo attacks on towns and visits by President Nyusi to war affected areas.

Government denies agreed statement promises Renamo governors soon

”With respect to [the first point on the agenda], “Governance of Renamo in the six provinces,” legal mechanisms must be found for interim appointments of provincial governors coming from the Renamo Party as soon as possible,” states a paragraph in a one page statement drafted by the mediators and signed Wednesday 17 August by negotiators on both sides. (In Portuguese: “Sobre o ‘Governacao da Renamo nas seis Provincias’, devem ser encontrados mecanismos legais para nomeacao provisoria dos governadores provinciais oriundos do Partido Renamo o mais cedo possivel.”)

This was immediately reported in the electronic media as a concession by government that some Renamo governors would be named, and that it would happen soon. Jacinto Veloso, head of the government negotiating team, rushed out a statement that afternoon denying that interpretation, and saying it must be seen in the context of the whole joint statement. (O Pais 18 Aug has both statements; the joint statement is also on http://macua.blogs.com/.a/6a00d83451e35069e201b7c8881fc5970b-pi)

Veloso argues that the phrase “as soon as possible” was “perhaps an error” because it must take into account that legislation must be approved by parliament, and that nothing is agreed until the whole package is agreed by President Filipe Nyusi and Renamo head Afonso Dhlakama when they meet sometime in the future. And there is nothing to say that Renamo governors have been agreed: “It could be zero provinces, it could be two, it could be five, or even more” - this has to be negotiated in the national interest. In a press conference Veloso added that there was no chance that Renamo governors could be named before 2019 election - it would be "unacceptable to the government and out of the question."

He also argued that this paragraph, the penultimate in the statement, must be seen in the context of the main agreement, which was simply to pass the issue of Renamo’s demand for six governors to a subcommittee of the negotiators which, with the presence of mediators, would draft legislation to be presented to parliament. Thus the issues is moved forward without so far resolving any of the substantive issues, such as how governors are to be selected or elected.

The statement says “the matter should be discussed in the framework of national unity and the administrative decentralization process, giving greater decision-making powers to local state organs, including financial resources and decentralized election/appointment of Provincial Governors.” The statement says that the subcommittee will prepare a legislative packet consisting of constitutional amendments and changes to six laws on provincial administration and finance, and take a new look at a 1994 law on elected district councils which was passed by parliament but then decided to be unconstitutional and never revised or resubmitted.

Finally the statement says that the package must be ready to go to parliament by the end of November. Veloso said he said in the negotiating session that this was “unrealistic”, but Renamo and the mediators wanted it left it.

The subcommittee met for six hours on Thursday (18 Aug) and the entire joint commission met for four hours in the late afternoon discussing a truce or ceasefire, and a way for the mediators to meet Dhlakama. Mediators on Friday (19 Aug) met separately with the two sides. The next meeting is Monday 22 August.

Comment:The Wednesday statement is confusing, but does involve small concessions on both sides. Government does appear to have accepted faster decentralization and at least some Renamo governors, while Renamo has accepted the phrase “national unity”, which will be interpreted as a unitary, centralised state and not federalism.

Veloso’s reply is much longer than the original statement and points to the sharp divisions within Frelimo. In retrospect, an unusual statement made by President Nyusi now looks aimed at the Frelimo hardline; speaking in Inhassoro, Inhambane on 11 August, he said that the people in the negotiating team "are serious, competent, experience and adults. They cannot be treated as errand boys [meninos de recados]." (O Pais 12 Aug) Did Veloso come under pressure from Frelimo hardliners who see him simply as an errand boy and feel he made more concessions than he was permitted, as suggested by Savana (19 Aug), or did he feel the need to argue that the paper represented no concessions?

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