Maputo — 250 former guerrillas of Mozambique's main opposition party, Renamo, signed up for their demobilisation on Thursday, but none of them have yet handed over any weapons.
This pre-demobilisation exercise happened in the Muxungue administrative post in the central province of Sofala. They had come from the Renamo base at Mangomonhe - believed to be the base from which Renamo had launched sporadic attacks in the Muxungue area against vehicles using the main north-south highway (EN1) in 2013-2014, and again in a resumption of violence in 2015/2016, after Renamo had lost the 2014 general elections.
According to a report on the ceremony in Friday's issue of the independent daily "O Pais", the men to be demobilised were first informed about the preventive measures needed to protect themselves against the Covid-19 respiratory disease. They then washed their hands and were screened for symptoms of Covid-19 (such as a high temperature).
They were taken to a waiting room where they received instructions on the following steps from members of the Commission on Military Affairs set up by the government and Renamo.
The first stage is registration, including the issue of identity cards. Sansao Sigauque of the Commission said "we have a team here from the Civil Identification Directorate who will issue the cards. We also have a team from the registry and notary offices to attend to those who have lost all their identification, who will issue personal certificates".
Since these are men who have been in the bush for many years, it is more than likely that they have no documents, certainly none that are up-to-date. Sigauque said that each of the former guerrillas will be given an individual tax number (known as a NUIT), and will be registered with a bank.
"This phase will culminate with the opening of bank accounts through which they will benefit from the allowances to which they are entitled", said Sigauque. Nobody has yet explained fully how much demobilisation pay the former guerrillas will receive.
Dealing with all this paperwork should take a week, after which the guerrillas will return to their base and await the second phase, when they will hand over their weapons, and pass into civilian life with their documents all ready.
They will be given "social reintegration packages" (such as a set of agricultural inputs), depending on what each of them has chosen for their future lives. They will then be accompanied to their zones of origin, or to anywhere else in the country where they wish to settle.
Three of the men being demobilised had been supporters of the dissident faction calling itself the "Renamo Military Junta". They joined their former companions in the Mangomonhe base and went with them to Muxungue for the demobilisation ceremony. Renamo refused to allow them any contact with the press, claiming that this censorship was for their own safety.
Renamo General Secretary Andre Magibire told reporters that 11 deserters from the Military Junta had made their way to the Mangomonhe base. Although only three went to Muxungue on Thursday, "the others will arrive in the coming days".
"We think this is a good signal", said Majibire. "In a spirit of national reconciliation, we think that everybody should benefit from this process, so that we all work together for this country in peace. Renamo will never abandon its guerrillas".
Speaking for the government, General Eugenio Mussa guaranteed that, in the demobilisation and disarming of the Renamo militia, and the reintegration of its members into society, there will be no discrimination.
"We want all the Renamo fighters to accept this process, which belongs to them, since they are leaving a military life for a civilian one", he said. "If they do not put this reality in their minds, they will find it difficult to live a civilian life".
But Mussa was optimistic that the men in Muxungue "will be pioneers in reintegration. They are going home. They are Mozambicans and this country belongs to all Mozambicans".
"Don't be afraid", he urged them. "The provincial governments, the localities and the neighbourhoods where you will settle are ready to receive you".
The demobilisation began last August, when President Nyusi signed a peace agreement with Renamo leader Ossufo Momade. At that time, just ten Renamo fighters were demobilised, and demobilisation then ground to a halt, supposedly for lack of money.
The demobilisation resumed last month, in Savane (also in Sofala province), where 38 Renamo fighters went back into civilian life.
Renamo claims that it has 5,200 guerrillas to be demobilised, but this figure is likely to be greatly inflated.