Articles

Published on 11 March 2014
Written by Martin Taylor

No cease fire between Renamo and Frelimo in Mozambique

Acceptance of Renamo demands for changes in the electoral law have not brought a cease fire. There have been no recent Renamo attacks on civilian targets, on the main north-south N1 road near Muxungue, or in Inhambane. But both the army and Renamo continue patrols and attacks on military targets in the Gorongosa area.

 

On Sunday 2 March Renamo attacked a military base killing four soldiers. Government response has included shelling Renamo bases on the Gorognosa mountains with Soviet era B11 field guns (with a range of 450 metres) on Wednesday 5 March, according to Renamo (Savana 7 March). There was shooting between the two sides near Inhaminga which O Pais (6 March) reports was linked to an army attack on the nearby Renamo base at Dimba.

 

In negotiations last week, Renamo stressed it still wants a cease fire, but wants to impose conditions. It has returned to demanding international mediation and monitoring of the cease fire. And it wants release of Renamo members detained without trial, including Renamo head of information Jeronimo Malagueta who was arrested in June 2013 after announcing at a press conference that Renamo would start attacking the north-south road, north of the Save River. Others they want released include Renamo guerrillas detained in Nampula province last year.

 

In parliament Thursday 6 March Frelimo MPs said they felt cheated, and that there had been an informal agreement in the negotiations that if parliament agreed to Renamo election proposals, then there would be a cease fire. Eneas Comiche, former mayor of Maputo, said "we agreed to changes in the electoral law in the spirit of dialogue and in order to stop the attacks. It was in vain - Renamo murdered four more Mozambicans this week" (a reference to the Renamo attack Sunday). (AIM 6 March) Prime Minister Alberto Vaquina told parliament that the fighting near Gorongosa has now displaced 6,727 people.

 

COMMENT: The military settlement is less straight-forward that it seems. Both sides now look back to the 1992 Rome peace accord. Government says that accord involved a cease fire and disarmament, and says there cannot be another cease fire and demands that Renamo simply disarm. The spokesman for Renamo at the negotiations, Saimone Macuiana, speaking after the session on Wednesday 5 March, said "we want a durable cease fire" and that "we cannot allow a situation identical to what happened after the Rome talks." Unusually, the Renamo statement was published on the front page of Noticias (6 March).

 

The Rome accord called for a genuinely integrated army. Renamo claims, with some justification, that its soldiers and officers were marginalised and retired early, and never became a proper part of a joint Mozambican military. Fearing this, Renamo never fully demobilised and 20 years later still has military bases. This was tacitly accepted by the government and the international community. But the now aging senior Renamo military figures feel they have not gained a fair share of the growing wealth of Mozambique. Two decades ago no one imagined the potential wealth from gas and coal, or million dollar houses in Maputo, and Renamo argues that the Frelimo elite has been unwilling to share that wealth with them. President Armando Guebuza was clearly unwilling to make any concessions to Renamo. So the military leadership pushed Renamo president Afonso Dhlakama back to military action last year.

 

Dhlakama and the military leadership want both status and money. It appears that Dhlakama really believes that if an election were "free and fair", he would win. And the military leadership wants the status of senior posts in the Mozambican army. Money would go a long way to solve the problem, but status is also important.

 

Two decades ago, Frelimo sensibly looked at the rest of Africa and opted for a small and aging army that could not stage a coup. It also wanted to ensure loyalty, so it marginalised and removed Renamo figures from the army. The new presidential candidate Filipe Nyusi is Defence Minister but also loyal to the Frelimo leadership. There has been substantial spending on weapons and training recently, but also carefully divided - boats for coastal patrol to the security services, SISE, airplanes for a newly rebuilt air force, and newly trained and equipped special army units to attack Renamo. Still a careful balance to try to prevent coups.

 

Frelimo's problem, then, is how to give senior Renamo military figures genuine status within the military, without compromising the loyalty of the military.

 

A core problem is that serious discussions have been delayed for so long, with both Guebuza and Dhlakama being extremely rigid. If Guebuza had been willing to buy off Renamo several years ago, money might have been enough. The almost total concession on elections could have been offered two or three years ago, and suggests at least some panic on the Frelimo side.

 

Are there alternative ways forward? Could mediators help with lateral thinking? For example, might it be possible to follow the Chissano model? Could an Afonso Dhlakama Foundation for Peace and Democracy be created, perhaps with $50 million from capital gains taxes on gas share sales. In exchange Dhlakama would employ all his own people, giving him the status of a major chief with money at his disposal. The military leaders could be foundation department heads, and so on.

 

There must be many alternative solutions possible. But Frelimo's need to maintain a loyal military also needs to be recognise