Mozambique: Police Commander Orders Manhunt Against Military Junta

A map of the province of Nampula in Mozambique.

Maputo — The General Commander of the Mozambican police force. Bernadino Rafael, on Wednesday ordered a manhunt against all followers of the dissident "Renamo Military Junta" who refuse to surrender and join the current demobilization of the Renamo militia.

Speaking in Beira, at the end of a working visit to the central province of Sofala, Rafael, cited by the independent television station STV, said the police must pursue "relentlessly and professionally" all members of the junta who refuse to demobilise, and bring them to court.

The Junta broke away from Renamo in 2019, denounced Renamo leader Ossufo Momade as "a traitor", and declared that the head of the junta, Mariano Nhongo, was now the true leader of Renamo.

Nhongo did not accept the peace agreement that Momade signed with President Filipe Nyusi in August 2019, and continued a low level insurgency, ambushing vehicles on the main roads in Manica and Sofala provinces.

In late October 2020, Nyusi offered a seven day truce to the Junta and instructed the defence and security forces not to pursue Junta units during this period. But Nhongo spurned the offer, and the attacks continued. In mid-December, Nyusi warned that Nhongo's behaviour meant "There is nothing we can do but launch vigorous operations against this enemy".

The Junta seems to be running out of steam. It has not launched any attacks since January, and dozens of Junta followers are reported to have surrendered to take advantage of the demobilization package on offer. They include high profile junta leaders such as Andre Matsangaissa Junior, the nephew of the first commander of Renamo, Andre Matade Matsangaissa.

Part of the agreement between Nyusi and Momade was for the "demobilization, disarming and reintegration" (DDR) of what are delicately referred to as Renamo's "residual forces". Both the government and Renamo have declared repeatedly that Nhongo's followers are welcome to join the DDR.

At Beira ceremony, Rafael told the Sofala police "Continue looking for those people who have still not surrendered. Find their hideouts and detain all of them so that they can answer to the courts. Do this with the professionalism, zeal and responsibility that has always characterized you as a defence and security force".

He pointed out that all Junta members who have already surrendered are now enrolled in the DDR, and are being returned to civilian life.

Rafael also urged the police to work in close collaboration with the community in order to ensure public order and security.

Referring to the curfew imposed by the government as a measure to halt the spread of the Covid-19 respiratory disease, and which runs from 22.00 to 04.00 every night, he said "The presence of the police on the public highway should be a moment of joy for the public, and there should be no fear. So when we go onto the streets at 22.00, our purpose is not to threaten the public".

"Our presence on the public highway should be a synonym for better security", he added. "We left the community for our training, and we are returning to the same community with the purpose of guaranteeing its protection. This is our main task".

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