Mozambique: Leader of 'Renamo Military Junta' Still Wants Talks

Maputo — The leader of the self-styled "Renamo Military Junta", Mariano Nhongo, has broken a silence that lasted for months to proclaim that he is open to a dialogue to reach peace with the Mozambican government.

Interviewed on Thursday by the German agency DW Africa, Nhongo made it clear that he only wants to talk with the government and not with the mainstream of Renamo. Nor does he want the United Nations to be involved in any discussions.

But the government has made it repeatedly clear that it regards Nhongo's group as a faction within Renamo, and it has already, in August 2019, negotiated a peace agreement with the Renamo leadership, signed by President Filipe Nyusi and Renamo leader Ossufo Momade. It is not prepared to sign a separate deal with people who broke away from Renamo.

Momade was elected president of Renamo at a Renamo congress in January 2019. But Nhongo rejected the decisions of that congress, denounced Momade as "a traitor", and proclaimed himself the true leader of Renamo.

The Military Junta ran a low level insurgency in the central provinces of Manica and Sofala in late 2019 and throughout 2020, mainly aimed at ambushing vehicles on the main roads. But no attacks have been reported since January 2021, and there has been a steady trickle of deserters from the Junta, turning themselves over to the government so that they can accept the benefits of the demobilisation package on offer.

Nhongo complained that the Junta sent a document to the government in 2019, but has not received an answer. "We expected that the government would give us a good reply", he said, claiming that "the people will understand and will accept me negotiating with the government. If the government wants to deceive me, the people will immediately find out and will not allow me to negotiate".

He added that, if the government set up a negotiating team he would not allow Andre Matsangaissa Junior to be a member of it. Matsangaissa, a nephew of the first Renamo commander, Andre Matade Matsangaissa, is one of the Junta figures who publicly abandoned Nhongo.

"The Government can set up a commission to negotiate with the Military Junta's commission, but not including the traitor", said Nhongo. "We've had enough of his betrayals".

Nhongo claimed he was not worried by desertions from the Junta's ranks. He said he has enough men to carry out new attacks, but claimed he would rather enter into dialogue with the government.

"The military Junta still exists, and it will always exist", Nhongo boasted. "It will never finish, and it's waiting a reply from the government. If the government is interested in negotiating, the Military Junta is ready".

Nhongo did not explain why he wants no further contact with the United Nations representative, Mirko Manzoni (who is the personal envoy to Mozambique of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres). Manzoni told reporters months ago that it has been difficult to contact Nhongo to talk about the current demobilisation of the Renamo militia.

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