Mozambique: 'Military Junta' Claims Responsibility for Attacks

Renamo Military Junta leader Major General Mariano Nhongo (left) Members of the Renamo Military Junta at a conference in Gorongosa Mountain (top right) and João Machava, spokesman for the Renamo Military Junta (bottom right).

Maputo — The self-styled "Renamo Military Junta" has claimed responsibility for the spate of armed attacks in the central provinces of Manica and Sofala in recent weeks.

Speaking by phone with the Beira office of the daily paper "Noticias", the leader of the Junta, Mariano Nhongo (who has awarded himself the rank of general), boasted that he had given the command for the attacks.

He said that his main target was the police - although in fact civilian vehicles have also come under fire. In the last week of October, there were four attacks in Sofala and five people were killed, including two policemen.

Nhongo said that, during the general and provincial elections of 15 October, the police had intervened at the polling stations, "where there were shots and people died". He added that several people had been detained, and some remained incarcerated, which had facilitated ballot box stuffing.

He promised that the Junta's forces will attack any police vehicle in retaliation for the police intervention in the elections. "With the armed forces (FADM), we don't have any problems, because they didn't participate in the elections", he said.

Nhongo has radically changed his position on the elections. Before polling day, he was calling for the elections to be postponed, so that his name could be added to the ballot paper, and he threatened to make it impossible for the elections to be held.

Asked why the recent attacks had targeted civilians, as well as the police, Nhongo said "I prefer not to talk about this".

The "Military Junta" is a breakaway from the main opposition party, Renamo, led by Ossufo Momade, whom Nhongo regards as "a traitor".

When "Noticias" asked about his current relations with Momade, Nhongo replied, "I don't want to talk with him, I don't even want to know anything about him, because he has completely ruined our party".

But Nhongo was willing to talk with President Filipe Nyusi. "As from Friday, I shall be completely available to talk with President Nyusi, because I shall be in an area where the network signal allows a good telephone connection".

But Nyusi has already made it clear that he regards Ossufo Momade as the true leader of Renamo. Momade has a good claim to legitimacy, in that he won a contested election at a Renamo congress in January.

It was Momade who, in front of a large number of international witnesses, signed the peace agreement with Nyusi on 6 August, and Nyusi is unlikely to agree to negotiate a second agreement just because there is a split inside Renamo.

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