Maputo — The interim coordinator of Mozambique's main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, Ossufo Momade, on Tuesday opened a Renamo congress, at the party's bush headquarters, in the central district of Gorongosa, with a call for "unity and forgiveness".
These qualities, he claimed, were basic pre-requisites for consolidating democracy and achieving an effective peace.
Momade was speaking to around 1,000 people (700 delegates and 300 guests) in a giant tent erected in the Gorongosa bush.
He claimed it is Renamo's wish to see Mozambique enjoy an affective peace, and so he invited the public to take part in actions which could help overcome all obstacles that are holding back the dialogue between Renamo and the government.
"We are meeting in this Congress to harmonise some ideas that will guide the functioning of the party for the next five years", said Momade. "This shows that we are committed to peace which could be achieved if we are united and work for effective peace".
He declared that for Renamo "there are no enemies". Mozambicans, he insisted, should treat each other as brothers. They should put aside hated and intrigues, and promote "unity, forgiveness and reconciliation for the construction of a better country".
"Peace should be a reality in Mozambique", he said. "Peace is returning in our society because our late leader, Afonso Dhlakama, taught us to forgive all our opponents. If we do this, we shall be valuing the teachings left by our leader. In this congress, we should cement the spirit of humanism, which always characterised us, in order to strengthen democracy".
During the three day Congress, the delegates will analyse the previous general and municipal elections, and draw up perspectives for the presidential, parliamentary and provincial elections scheduled for October. They will also revise the Renamo statutes, and elect a new leader to succeed Dhlakama, who died of diabetes in May last year.
Three candidates for Renamo President are already known - they are Momade, the party's general secretary, Manuel Bissopo, and Dhlakama's younger brother, Elias Dhlakama, who is a retired brigadier in the Mozambican armed forces (FADM).
But there are reports circulating in Gorongosa that two other candidates may put themselves forward. They are Herminio Morais, Renamo's unsuccessful candidate for mayor of Maputo in last October's municipal elections, and a prominet Renamo member of the national parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, Juliano Picardo.
Momade warned against allowing the election of the new party president to damage Renamo's internal unity. "The Congress is a forum to debate constructive ideas", he said. "It is not a stage for accusations and hatreds among us".
"We are all Renamo, we are all members of the same party", he declared. "Our mission and our challenge is to continue being the alternative for governing well our county. We should not promote intrigues among us, for that would mean betraying the memory of Afonso Dhlakama".
After the election of the new leader, he continued, "the disputes over the leadership are finished", Momade said, and the members should close ranks to support the new leadership. Nobody in the party "should be discriminated against or persecuted because they supported a different candidate".
One guest at the Congress is Raul Domingos, once the number two in the party, and who was widely regarded as the man most likely to succeed Dhlakama. It was Domingos who headed the Renamo team that negotiated the 1992 peace agreement with the government, and who became the first head of the Renamo parliamentary group.
Seeing him as a potential rival, Dhlakama had him expelled from Renamo in 2000. Domingos founded a new party, the Party for Peace, Democracy and Development (PDD), but it never became a significant player on the Mozambican political stage. Its best result was in the 2004 presidential elections, when Domingos took 2.7 per cent of the vote.
Interviewed by the independent television station STV, Domingos said that when Dhlakama died, he had been negotiating his return to Renamo. He was open to rejoining Renamo, but he clearly expected something in return.