Maputo — The demobilization and disarming of the militia of Mozambique's main opposition party, Renamo, and the reintegration of its members, either into the defence and security forces or into civilian society, resumed last week after a lengthy hiatus.
The demobilisation began immediately after President Filipe Nyusi and Renamo leader Ossufo Momade signed a peace agreement on 6 August 2019. Just ten Renamo fighters were demobilized and the process ground to an immediate halt. The delay was blamed on donors failing to disburse the money needed for the demobilization.
But the demobilisation resumed on Thursday in the locality of Savane, in Dondo district in the central province of Sofala. The resumption was witnessed by Nyusi, Momade, and the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary General for Mozambique, Mirko Manzoni, who coordinates the international contact group, which is supposed to facilitate the dialogue between the government and Renamo.
Over a two day period (Wednesday and Thursday), 38 former Renamo guerrillas were demobilized. Renamo claimed it has 5,200 men under arms to be demobilized - a figure which is certainly a gross exaggeration.
Nyusi said the demobilization, disarming and reintegration (known by the acronym DDR) is a complex process, but expressed his pride in the fact that it is being led by Mozambicans. He thanked Momade for his presence, saying that "above all the distrust, he has been firm in seeing us continue to the final result".
Nyusi stressed that the DDR is open to all those who were once part of Renamo. They should apply for demobilization now, he said, because once the DDR has been closed, it will be very complicated to re-open it.
This was clearly an invitation to the Renamo dissidents in the self-styled "Renamo Military Junta" to hand in their weapons and join the demobilization.
Nyusi said the government is open to Renamo's concerns, and if Renamo thinks anything is going wrong, then it should be simple to bring the parties together to discuss it. It was healthy, he added, for former enemies to sit together and discuss the future of Mozambicans.
"Yesterday (Wednesday) we successfully began the demobilization of 20 fighters, and I am happy to hear that they have arrived with their families", added Nyusi. He urged Mozambican society to welcome with open arms the former guerrillas.
The major "reintegration" or "reinsertion" of the former Renamo fighters will be made by the Mozambican people, he declared, "and so they should be well received in their families, and in their villages, localities, administrative posts or towns".
Nyusi called for unity among Mozambicans, particularly at the moment when the country is under attack from terrorists in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. He warned that anybody who identified with the Cabo Delgado terrorists will deserve the same treatment reserved for all those who want to divide the country.
For his part, Ossufo Momade praised the efforts of President Nyusi and of the Contact group to ensure a successful outcome to the peace process.
The present ceremony represents an unequivocal commitment to maintain peace, stability, harmony and national reconciliations, values for which our late President, Afonso Dhlakama, always fought", said Momade.
Despite Nyusi's conciliatory words, the leader of the Renamo Military Junta, Mariano Nhongo immediately called the resumption of DDR "null and void".
Speaking by phone to journalists in Beira, Nhongo said he had not been notified about the Thursday ceremony.
This is hardly surprising since Nhongo has explicitly rejected last August's peace agreement, and has sent his men to stage a series of murderous ambushes against vehicles on the main roads in the central provinces of Manica and Sofala.
He has dismissed Momade as "a traitor", and has claimed that he is now the true leader of Renamo - even though Momade won an election at a Renamo Congress in January 2019 to become the party leader.
Nhongo said the current demobilisation is worthless, and demanded that the peace agreement be renegotiated.
"What they are doing is nothing", he said. "Even the guerrillas who are handing over their weapons will later join us".
He once again demanded that Momade be removed from the leadership of Renamo, accusing him of diverting the negotiations with the government away from the ideals supposedly championed by Dhlakama.
On Friday, Mirko Manzoni said he was willing to meet with Nhongo. "We are available for discussions if the goal is peace", he told reporters.
Nhongo's claims could be discussed, he said, "but it is important to see whether they are possible and pertinent".
"I'm not afraid", said Manzoni. "There's no problem in the world that cannot be solved with dialogue".