Maputo — The dialogue between the Mozambican government and the former rebel movement Renamo went into reverse on Wednesday, when the Renamo delegation suddenly revived its demand for foreign mediation.
The government believed this question had long been sorted out. For months, when the talks had been discussing changes to the electoral legislation, Renamo had refused to budge an inch without Mozambican and foreign observers and mediators sitting at the dialogue table.
The government believed that Renamo had eventually dropped the demand for a foreign presence and had accepted five Mozambican observers instead.
These observers are Anglican bishop Dinis Sengulane, the Vice-Chancellor of the Polytechnic University, Lourenco do Rosario, the former Vice-Chancellor of the Eduardo Mondlane University, Filipe Couto, muslim cleric Saide Abibo, and Methodist pastor Anastacio Chembele.
These five had been present at the key meetings in February when the government accepted Renamo’s demands for entirely politicized electoral bodies, with representatives of the parliamentary political parties (the ruling Frelimo Party, Renamo, and the Mozambique Democratic Movement, MDM) dominating the election commissions and the executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), at all levels.
With the electoral legislation dealt with, the dialogue moved on to the second point on the agenda – defence and security issues. At the third meeting on this topic, Renamo played the same game – instead of discussing anything substantive, it insisted on foreign mediation.
The head of the government delegation, Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco, told reporters that the dialogue with Renamo was an internal matter between Mozambicans for which no foreign mediation was required. The government had no wish to “internationalise” the discussions.
The government has made it abundantly clear that the issue under discussion now should be the immediate and unconditional disarming of Renamo. So far Renamo has not disarmed a single one of its gunmen, despite extracting all the key concessions it wanted from the government on the electoral laws.
Instead, Renamo attacks have continued in the central province of Sofala. On Wednesday morning, this led Frelimo deputies in the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, to protest that Renamo is not keeping its word.
The Frelimo parliamentary group clearly believed that there had been an unwritten deal – Renamo would receive the electoral legislation it wanted, and the country would return to peace. The first of these has happened, but the second has not.
The head of the Frelimo group, Margarida Talapa, said ”It was thought that with the approval of the electoral laws, we would hear no more news of deaths. We deceived ourselves!”
Instead, Renamo “celebrated the approval of the laws with more deaths”, she accused. “What a strange way of celebrating victories”.
Also on Wednesday, Antonio Muchanga, the spokesperson for Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, claimed that units of the riot police (FIR) and of the armed forces (FADM) had bombarded the Gorongosa mountain range (where Dhlakama is believed to be hiding) with heavy artillery.
Asked to comment on this accusation, Pacheco pointed out that on Monday Renamo had attacked the Frontier Guard at Mussicadzi II, 60 kilometres from Gorongosa town, killing four members of the police unit. What was really happening now, he said, was that the defence and security forces were in pursuit of the group that had launched the Monday attack.
Meanwhile, according to a report in the independent daily “O Pais”, there was an exchange of fire on Tuesday between the FADM and Renamo in the Sofala town of Inhaminga. The shoot-out led to the closure of shops and public services in the town.
The paper reported that the government forces are trying to knock out a Renamo military base at Dimba, about 30 kilometres from Inhaminga.