Maputo — Mozambican Defence Minister Atanasio M'tumuke on Thursday accused the country's main opposition party, Renamo, of carrying out the recent spate of ambushes against buses and trucks on the main roads running through the central provinces of Manica and Sofala.
Speaking to reporters in Maputo on Thursday, M'tumuke said he could see no difference between the dissidents of the self-styled "Renamo Military Junta" and Renamo as a whole. He went so far as to claim that the ambushes on the road were a violation of the peace agreement signed on 6 August by President Filipe Nyusi and Renamo leader Ossufo Momade.
The failure to distinguish between the two Renamo factions flies in the face of reality. The "Military Junta" has called Momade a "traitor", has threatened to kill him, and does not recognise the August peace agreement.
There is little doubt that the ambushes in Manica and Sofala are the work of the Military Junta, although its leader, Mariano Nhongo (who has proclaimed himself the true President of Renamo), has denied all responsibility.
M'tumuke, cited by the independent television station STV, claimed that the government's forces are on the ground to maintain order and guarantee security. He promised that Mozambicans will be able to celebrate the approaching Christmas and New Year holidays in safety.
"The population will celebrate the festive season", very well, said M'tumuke, claiming that he had reports that people displaced from their villages by insurgents in the far north are now returning home.
The official Renamo spokesperson, Jose Manteigas, responded quickly to M'tumuke, and claimed that the ruling Frelimo Party was behind the creation of the Military Junta. Frelimo, he said, had then encouraged journalists to visit the Junta's bases in Sofala, and to cover Junta statements, including threats against the life of Ossufo Momade.
Manteigas accused the government of harassing, kidnapping and murdering Renamo members. It was therefore the government that was violating the August peace agreement.
"If the defence and security forces are incapable of stopping the attacks in the centre of the country, and in Cabo Delgado province, they shouldn't blame Renamo or use Renamo as a scapegoat", said Manteigas.
Manteigas said he could not understand M'tumuke's accusation, since the Minister knew that the real "residual forces" of Renamo have assembled at a base in Gorongosa district, where they are waiting to be demobilised, and then either integrated into the government's defence forces, or sent back into civilian life.