Maputo — The attacks by armed islamists in early October in Mocimboa da Praia and Palma districts, in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, “should not distract us from the efforts we have been undertaking to achieve a definitive peace”, declared Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosario on Wednesday.
Speaking at the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, in response to questions from deputies about the attacks, Rosario made it clear that the government regarded them as a diversion from the main matter in hand, which remained concluding the negotiations with the rebel movement Renamo.
He was confident that the two working groups set up between the government and Renamo, on decentralisation and on military questions, would shortly attain a consensus that could be submitted to the Assembly.
“The results of this dialogue will allow consolidation of the irreversible process of decentralisation which we began in 1997 with the creation of the municipalities”, he added.
Consensus in the working groups, said the Prime Minister, “does not in itself guarantee a definitive peace. Consensus should be complemented with reconciliation, mutual respect, tolerance, and a culture of peace among families, communities and the entire Mozambican people”.
“We urge all Mozambicans to prioritise dialogue in their daily lives”, he said, “since this is the only path to overcome our differences and to be united in the construction of a prosperous and inclusive nation”.
As for the Mocimboa da Praia attacks, although they had constituted a threat to socio-economic stability, intervention by the defence and security forces had restored order “and life has returned to normal”.
“We are all called upon to promote respect for the country's internal legal order”, said Rosario. “Only with a stable society, resting on a definitive peace can we guarantee the sustainable development of our country, and consequently improve the welfare of the Mozambican people”.
Giving more details on the Mocimboa da Praia events, Justice Minister Isaque Chande said the raiders had struck in the early morning of 5 October in three groups which had attacked three police units. Police vehicles bringing reinforcements to Mocimboa town had also come under fire.
Chande said that two policemen died and five were injured, two of them seriously. 14 of the attacking groups also lost their lives. He put the number of subsequent arrests at 75, including seven women.
Neither Rosario, nor Chande, nor any of the deputies who took part in the debate so much as mentioned the word islamist. There seemed a deliberate attempt to ignore the role played by religious fundamentalism in the disturbances.
Yet the residents of Mocimboa de Praia had no doubt that the attackers were following a religious agenda. They told reporters that they wanted to impose sharia law, ban the sale of alcohol, remove Christian crosses and secular monuments, and take children out of state schools.
Chande also said that rioting in the town of Mandimba, in the northern province of Niassa, on 2 October, had led to four deaths among the rioters, and seven others were injured. A crowd had attacked the district police command, in the belief that the police were somehow involved in the murder the previous day of a man who made his living out of informal currency trading.
The crowd damaged the home of the Mandimba district police commander and destroyed two vehicles, one of them a police car and one owned by a private individual. Four people were arrested.
“Society cannot tolerate demonstrations that are not in accordance with the legal order”, said Chande.