Maputo — Parliamentary deputies of Mozambique's ruling Frelimo Party on Thursday demanded that the main opposition force, the former rebel movement Renamo, must disarm and demobilise its illegal militia - and before the general elections scheduled for 15 October.
An agreement in principle on demobilising the Renamo militia and on giving its members jobs in the armed forces or police, or returning them to civilian life, was reached between President Filipe Nyusi and the late Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, and reaffirmed in a memorandum of understanding signed last year by Nyusi and Dhlakama's successor, Ossufo Momade.
So far Nyusi has appointed 14 Renamo officers to senior positions in the armed forces (FADM), and has received 10 names of Renamo officers to join the police General Command. But Renamo has given nothing in return - not a single Renamo militiaman has been demobilised or disarmed.
During a two day question and answer question between the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, and the government, Frelimo deputies repeatedly raised the issue of Renamo demobilisation.
Ana Rita Sithole urged Renamo to collaborate "by delivering the list of guerrillas who are still in the bush. It is unfair to deprive them of better opportunities to build their lives and to serve the Mozambican state".
Demobilisation would allow the holding of free elections, she stressed. "We urge you to cooperate. Disarm those fellow citizens and allow them to be reintegrated into society and to register as voters"
Renamo dismissed such appeals. Senior Renamo deputy Jose Manteigas simply demanded more concessions from the government - he wanted Renamo appointees given jobs in the intelligence service (SISE), and in the military and police academies.
"The guns are where they should be", he said.
Manteigas, echoed by other Renamo speakers said it was more important to get rid of the terrorist gangs operating in the northern province of Cabo Delgado than to demobilize the Renamo militia. For Frelimo deputy Jacinto Capito, this was evidence that "Renamo wants to keep its guns, to intimidate the population. Renamo does not want peace".
The spokesperson for the Frelimo parliamentary group, Edmundo Galiza-Matos Junior, warned that "Renamo wants to keep its men in the bush". He claimed that Renamo is the only party in the world that maintains an illegal armed force at the same time as it has a presence in parliament.
The problem of terrorism in parts of Cabo Delgado "must not distract us from the guns in Renamo's possession", Galiza-Matos said. "Renamo wants to use the guns to take power".
Frelimo deputies also attacked the record of Paulo Vahanle, the Renamo mayor of Nampula, the largest city Renamo has ever governed. Carlos Sebastiao thought it disgraceful that Vahanle had given Ossufo Momade's son a job in Nampula Council.
Galiza-Matos pointed to the heaps of rubbish in Nampula streets, and the craters that had opened in Nampula roads, plus the mismanagement of the city's accounts. "Governing is not as easy as Renamo thinks", he said. "How can a party that can't manage a city hope to govern an entire country?"
Manteigas accused Frelimo of fraud in the current voter registration. But Frelimo deputies retorted that Manteigas's own registration was fraudulent. Voters are supposed to register at the registration post nearest to their home. Manteigas is a native of Zambezia province and currently lives in Maputo - a case can be made or him registering in either Zambezia or Maputo. But instead he has registered in the municipality of Massinga, in the southern province of Inhambane.
"Renamo's tactic is to take people to places where they don't live for them to register", accused Capito. But he was confident that, in the end, many of them would vote for Frelimo anyway.