25 May 2017

Mozambique: Dhlakama Complains of 'Slowness' in Negotiations

Photo: A. Cascais/Deutsche Welle
Alfonso Dhlakama (file photo).

Maputo — Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the Mozambican rebel movement Renamo, on Wednesday complained at the slow pace of negotiations for a definitive peace between his militia and the Mozambican defence and security forces, but urged his followers to be patient.

In another of his telephone press conferences, this time between his bush headquarters in the central district of Gorongosa, and a room full of journalists and Renamo supporters in the southern city of Matola, Dhlakama said “it's going slowly, and that's not what I expected”.

Dhlakama declared a truce in late December, and at the beginning of May he extended the truce for an indefinite period. Since the truce took effect, on 27 December, there have been no further Renamo ambushes on the country's roads, and no clashes between Renamo gunman and government forces.

In phone calls between Dhlakama and President Filipe Nyusi, it was agreed to set up two working groups, one on decentralization and one on military matters. The two groups have been working under a shroud of secrecy, and journalists have not been informed of their meetings, or whether they are making any progress.

Dhlakama told the Matola gathering that he had expected the group on decentralization to complete its work in time to submit proposals to the first sitting this year of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic. But the sitting ended on 11 May with no sign of any proposals for the amendments of the constitution and new legislation that will be needed to meet Dhlakama's concerns over decentralization.

Initially Dhlakama had demanded that Renamo be granted the right to rule the six northern and central provinces where he claimed that Renamo had won the 2014 general elections. Indeed, he threatened repeatedly that if no agreement was forthcoming, he would simply appoint new governors for these provinces and take control of them.

Those threats proved empty, and Dhlakama has now scaled back his demands to changing the system whereby provincial governors are appointed. Currently the President of the Republic appoints the governors, but Dhlakama wants them to be elected. This would require an amendment to the constitution.

Dhlakama did not seem very disappointed by the delay. “I understand, It's normal”, he said. “Renamo is demanding that the laws be changed, but on the other side there is naturally resistance”.

Renamo also wants a new law passed on provincial finances, which would ensure that most of the tax revenue collected in a particular province would be spent in that province. “The other part of the taxes would go to the central government, which would redistribute them to the poorest provinces”, he said.

Dhlakama also claimed that, despite promises by Nyusi, government forces are still occupying positions in rural Gorongosa. “We agreed that, first they would leave certain positions and then, bit by bit, they would leave the other positions by the end of June. But so far nothing has happened”.

But again he said he “understood” the government's position, and was confident that by 30 June there would be no government forces near the Gorongosa mountain range (and hence near the Renamo base where Dhlakama is currently living).

Dhlakama told his audience that he is continuing to speak regularly by phone with Nyusi, and that their latest contact was at 08.30 that very morning. He stressed that he did not want to attack or “do away with” the ruling Frelimo Party.

“My friends, we shall forget what Frelimo has done”, he said. “For me, the war ended in 1992. What has happened in recent years are provocations by the Frelimo government. But we have to be patient. The country is ours and we have to do everything to push Frelimo to accept democracy”.

But he also boasted that he was essential to the survival of the country. “In Mozambique, there had to exist a man called Dhlakama”, he claimed. “Without Dhlakama, Mozambique would have finished”.

Mozambique

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