Maputo — Sergio Pantie, the head of the parliamentary group of Mozambique's ruling Frelimo Party, on Thursday declared that the demand by the main opposition party, Renamo, for a Commission of Inquiry into human rights violations in the northern provinces of Cabo Delgado and Niassa and the central provinces of Manica and Sofala, was "inopportune, demagogic and unnecessary".
Speaking at the opening session of the final sitting this year of the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, Pantie said the Assembly's governing board, its Standing Commission, had thrown out the Renamo proposal.
Instead, it had mandated the Assembly's own Commission on Constitutional, Legal and Human Rights Affairs to visit the four provinces, accompany the social, political and military situation there, and investigate the alleged abuses of human rights.
But this is not good enough for Renamo, whose parliamentary deputies are boycotting the Commission's visit.
Pantie pointed out that, in terms of the Assembly's own standing orders, one of the tasks of the Commission is to analyse the implementation within the country of the human rights conventions to which Mozambique is a signatory.
The Commission, which consists of deputies from Frelimo, Renamo and the second opposition n party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), is empowered to summon members of the government and representatives of state bodies to answer questions.
It is also entitled to visit any state bodies, including military ones, and any public or private companies. It has access to confidential documents, although the Commission members are obliged to keep the information they contain secret.
Pantie said the Commission has all the powers it needs to investigate the activities of the islamist terrorists in the northern province of Cabo Delgado and of the self-styled "Renamo Military Junta" in Manica and Sofala. Setting up a separate Commission of Inquiry would be an unnecessary expense, he added, "because the Assembly of the Republic is sufficiently well organised into commissions".
"In its usual spirit of bad faith, with an attitude of wanting to play with the suffering of our people who are being massacred, Renamo insists on the creation of a Commission of Inquiry which would do exactly the same work as the Assembly's Commission on Constitutional Legal and Human Rights Matters", Pantie accused.
He was not surprised that Renamo was refusing to take part in the Commission's work, since "Mozambicans have become used to Renamo's demagogic and time-wasting tactics and its boycotts".
Pantie declared "our people always resisted invasion of our territory and fought against retrograde forces. We are convinced that, imbued with the same spirit of struggle, the people will defeat the terror installed in some districts of Cabo Delgado, and the attacks carried out by the Renamo Military Junta".
"Peace is the fundamental condition for our development", he stressed. "Frelimo is committed to following the path of peace to the end. We argue that it should be a national imperative to promote the culture of peace through dialogue, tolerance and reconciliation".
The speech by the head of the Renamo parliamentary group, Viana Magalhaes, was notable for its failure to mention the two wars under way in Mozambique - against jihadists in Cabo Delgado, and against the Renamo Military Junta in the centre of the country. Instead he denounced Frelimo as "the communists of yesterday, who have become the capitalists of today", and claimed "theft is their culture".
He made the traditional Renamo claim that every election held in Mozambique has been fraudulent, and denounced the current provincial decentralisation measures, even though Renamo had voted for them.
The head of the MDM parliamentary group, Lutero Simango, called for dialogue with the Renamo Military Junta in order to end the conflict in the central provinces. He wanted "a constructive window of dialogue" so that all members of the Military Junta could be involved in the current demobilisation of the Renamo militia.
"Normalising life in the central region will revive part of the national economy and renew the hope of people who are fed up with wars, and with living like nomads", he added.
He viewed the terrorism in Cabo Delgado in a completely different light, and agreed that it constitutes a form of aggression, and "a visible invasion of our national territory".
"The government of the day has the responsibility to guarantee the protection of the population, and to promote actions to defend national sovereignty", said Simango. But it also had the responsibility to inform the people, through parliament, of the real situation in Cabo Delgado.
Government silence about the military situation, he warned, "feeds speculation and rumours, and disqualifies the efforts of the defence and security forces".
"Sharing information and obtaining the authorisation of the Assembly to resort to the region and to the world in general to strengthen our defensive capacity is a national imperative", Simango insisted.