Maputo – Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi, speaking in his capacity as President of the ruling Frelimo Party, has called on the country’s main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, to demobilise its militia before the general elections scheduled for 15 October.
Speaking at the opening session of a three-day meeting of the Frelimo Central Committee last Friday, Nyusi deplored that so far the demobilisation of what are tactfully referred to as the “residual forces” of Renamo has been “very slow”.
“I hope that the people continue to know that Frelimo is ready to do everything, but we are waiting for concrete actions from Renamo,” he stressed.
Renamo, Nyusi said, should indicate how many men it has under arms, and indicate the bases where they should gather with their weaponry. He pointed out that he had agreed this with the late Renamo leader, Afonso Dhlakama, who died of diabetes exactly a year previously on 3 May 2018.
The decentralisation agreed between the government and Renamo and the demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration of the “residual forces”, he stressed, were inseparable parts of the same package “and they should move forward in the same direction”.
The decentralisation legislation has now been approved unanimously by the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, and will thus be in place in time for the October elections. This will allow the direct election of provincial governors, something that Renamo has been demanding for many years.
But to date not a single Renamo militiaman has been disarmed or demobilised. The government has, under a memorandum of understanding signed by Nyusi and Dhlakama’s successor, Ossufo Momade last August, appointed 14 Renamo officers to high ranking positions in the Mozambican armed forces (FADM) and a further 10 to the general command of the police. But there has been no reciprocal move from Renamo. As Nyusi revealed, Renamo has not even told the government how many armed men it has.
Nyusi stressed that the Renamo fighters should be integrated into the country’s social and economic life, so that they can prosper, and that “Mozambicans have the right to go to the elections in an environment of peace”.
Dhlakama announced a truce in December 2016, and that truce has held: since late 2016, there have been no clashes between government forces and Renamo gunmen, and no further Renamo ambushes on the roads. But a second, unconnected conflict has broken out in several districts in the northern province of Cabo Delgado where a shadowy insurgent force, apparently motivated by Islamic fundamentalism, has been attacking the police and raiding villages since October 2017, sometimes beheading its victims.
These attacks “are an assault on public security and order”, said Nyusi, “and an affront to the legally constituted state institutions. These macabre acts of armed violence negatively affect the life of the population, and darken the prospects for economic and social development.”
He appealed to the Cabo Delgado public “to remain vigilant, and denounce the movements of these criminals to the relevant authorities”, and he urged the courts “to work with the necessary speed to clarify the true identity and objectives of these criminals”.
Nyusi was angered that some captured insurgents had been acquitted by the Cabo Delgado courts, but had then immediately gone back to the bush to continue terrorist activities.
“This demotivates those who, facing all manner of risks, are struggling to protect the people and their property”, he said.
In the largest trial of captured insurgents, 60 people were sentenced to prison terms, but 113 were acquitted. Such a large number of acquittals suggests that the police and prosecution bungled the evidence needed to secure convictions.
Nyusi called on the Central Committee members for a frank and open discussion of the themes on the agenda “even when there are different points of view”.
He urged a debate “without excessive emotion, in a spirit of comradeship”. But at the end of the meeting, all members of the Central Committee “should leave here hand in hand, firm, united and determined to face and defeat our common adversaries, who are the parties of the opposition”.
“Our adversaries seek to destroy our cohesion and our discipline”, he added, “and to attain their objective, which is to remove Frelimo from power”.
He believed that, if Frelimo members concentrated on “we and not I”, and acted together, they could overcome all obstacles.
Victory in the October general elections, Nyusi stressed, “depends fundamentally on our organisation, our work, our unity and our cohesion”.
This was an oblique plea for the Central Committee to take a calm and unemotional approach to the dispute that has set one of its members, Samora Machel Junior, son of the country’s first President, Samora Machel, against the party leadership, including Nyusi himself.
Machel attempted to run for Mayor of Maputo in last year’s municipal elections at the head of an independent, civil society list. This list was disqualified by the National Elections Commission (CNE). Since Machel had broken ranks with Frelimo and its official candidate, Eneas Comiche, there were calls for his expulsion for the party. In the subsequent disciplinary hearings, Machel struck back with a claim that it was Nyusi who had really violated the Frelimo statutes, and he even called for Nyusi’s suspension from the party.
Clearly, the Frelimo leadership does not want this dispute to dominate proceedings in the run-up to the elections.