Maputo — The head of the parliamentary group of Mozambique's ruling Frelimo Party, Margarida Talapa, stressed on Friday that definitive peace must involve the demilitarisation and disarmament of the main opposition party, the rebel movement Renamo, and "the economic and social reintegration" of members of the Renamo militia.
The negotiations between the government and Renamo since December 2016 have concerned decentralisation, and the demobilisation of what are politely referred to as Renamo's "residual forces".
But while Renamo has succeeded in its demand to change the constitution so that in future provincial governors and district administrators will be elected, it has yet to make a single concession on military issues. To date, not a single Renamo gunman has been disarmed.
Speaking at the formal close of a sitting of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, Talapa said demilitarisation of Renamo is necessary so that Mozambicans "can, without fear, and in a climate of peace and tranquillity, continue to produce wealth; so that children can continue to attend school; so that investments can be attracted and can generate more jobs".
Much of the negotiation had been handled personally by President Filipe Nyusi and by Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, who died on 3 May. Talapa said she hoped that the new Renamo leadership "will rise to the commitment and efforts of President Nyusi, seeking a speedy conclusion of the dialogue around military issues".
She urged Renamo leaders "to adopt a serene patriotism and to place the national interests above any others so that Mozambicans may soon enjoy definitive peace".
The speech by Talapa's opposite number in Renamo was completely different in tone. She made no mention of disarming the Renamo militia, and instead stressed the need to include the militia members in the Mozambican defence and security forces.
Nowadays Renamo omits the fact that there are already Renamo figures holding high rank in the Mozambican Armed Forces (FADM). Ever since the FADM was set up in 1994, the second most important figure in the military hierarchy, the Deputy Chief of Staff, has been from Renamo.
The FADM was set up as a merger between the old government army, the FAM/FPLM, and the Renamo forces. The 1992 peace agreement stated that the FADM would consist of 30,000 men, 15,000 from each of the formerly warring sides. But these fighters all had to be volunteers - and there were nowhere near 30,000 volunteers. The vast majority of fighters, in both the government and Renamo armies, just wanted to go home, and mutinied when attempts were made to pressgang them into the FADM - which is why the FADM was set up with less than 12,000 men, about two thirds from the FAM/FPLM and one third from Renamo.
But Renamo did not demobilise its entire forces. It held back a few hundred, on the grounds that these were bodyguards for the Renamo leaders. These men are the core of the current Renamo militia.
Much of Soares' speech was taken up with fulsome praise of Dhlakama (who was her uncle), including the claim that Dhlakama had won all the presidential elections ever held in Mozambique (a claim that none of the election observation missions who watched Mozambican elections has ever supported).
Such was the praise heaped on Dhlakama, that Talapa made the mild retort "Frelimo does not have Presidents for life" (Dhlakama ran Renamo from 1979 until his death, and in that period Frelimo has had four Presidents - Samora Machel, Joaquim Chissano, Armando Guebuza and Filipe Nyusi).
Soares dismissed the entire history of independent Mozambique as "40 years of bad governance", which she blamed for the country's financial and economic crises. She made no mention of the war that Renamo had waged against the government for 16 of those years.
She claimed that the State "is totally controlled by Frelimo" and that the space "for those who think outside the Frelimo box is ever more reduced".
Soares claimed that Frelimo had committed fraud in the voter registration exercise that ended last week, by mobilising people who live outside of the municipalities to register to vote in the municipal elections scheduled for 10 October.
This is a recurrent Renamo claim, and very few cases of such illicit voter registration have come to light. Furthermore, Renamo was entitled to monitors at each and every registration post, precisely in order to prevent fraud.
But Soares was optimistic that now all would change with the constitutional amendments on decentralisation passed on Thursday. "Everything is possible with the decentralisation of the public administration", she claimed.
Talapa too was enthusiastic about decentralisation, but claimed that Frelimo was the true pioneer of decentralised government, first with the People's Assemblies set up under the one party state in 1977, and later with the establishment of municipalities as from 1998.
Lutero Simango, head of the parliamentary group of the second opposition party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), criticised the dialogue between Nyusi and Dhlakama, because it had excluded other forces.
"A promising future and social stability lie in a multiparty system and not a two party system", he said. He warned that the imposition of a two party system "will lead our State into dictatorship and to a silence of complicity that will destroy the pillars of the rule of law".
Amending the Constitution was not enough to ensure effective peace "without solving the causes of post-electoral conflicts".
The National Elections Commission (CNE), Simango said, should become "independent and professional, with administrative and financial autonomy", while its executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE) "must cease to be controlled by the central government".
This is very different from the position taken by the MDM the last time the electoral laws were revised, in February 2014. Then the MDM, Renamo and Frelimo all voted for completely politicised electoral bodies, dominated by appointees of the political parties.