Following a significant rise in political tensions in Mozambique since October 2012, government forces overran the base of the Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo) leader Afonso Dhlakama during the week of 21 October this year. Although Dhlakama reportedly escaped unscathed, Renamo then declared an end to the peace deal with government that had halted the 16-year civil war. Subsequent reports indicated an upsurge in Renamo banditry, with general uncertainties on the future stability of Mozambique. The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) organised a seminar to unpack the political and security situation in Mozambique. Gwinyayi A. Dzinesa, senior researcher at the Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis Division at ISS Pretoria, chaired the seminar. The speaker was Paulo M. A. Wache, lecturer at Instituto Superior de Relações Internacionais and head of the department of foreign policy at Centro de Estudos Estratégicos e Internacionais, Maputo, Mozambique.
Renamo’s warmongering needs to be understood in the context of the rebel group-turned-main opposition party allegations that the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo), the ruling party in Mozambique since independence in 1975, has been practising an exclusive political and economic governance strategy. Renamo has put across three kinds of redress procedures for its grievances. First, Renamo demands greater representation in state institutions particularly the national security forces, which it regards are dominated by Frelimo cadres. Second, Renamo clamours for electoral reform including the composition of the National Election Commission (NEC), which it alleges manipulated past electoral processes in favour of Frelimo. Renamo also claims that Frelimo failed to create a conducive atmosphere for holding free and fair local government elections scheduled for 20 November 2013. Third, Renamo accuses the Frelimo ruling elite of illicit enrichment and squandering of the country’s growing wealth and wants a share of the country’s vast coal and gas deposits.
Since the beginning of the year several rounds of negotiations between representatives of the government and Renamo failed to yield an agreement. Renamo decided to refrain from participating in the municipal polls before its demands are observed. The Mozambican government insists that Renamo should demilitarise and is advocating for peaceful dialogue to resolve the violent tensions.
After more than 40 years of war before the 1992 peace accord, Mozambicans are generally against the threat of renewed armed conflict. Civil society activists and the media are urging the Frelimo government and Renamo to engage in sincere dialogue. They have also organized demonstrations in several of the country’s cities against increasing war and kidnapping caused by the conflict. The Electoral Observatory, a coalition of religious and civil society groups, which is by far the most representative body involved in observing Mozambican elections, assumed the role of unofficial mediator between the government and Renamo.
Although Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states including Angola, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe quickly expressed public concern over the political and security situation in Mozambique, the regional body took time to make its own pronouncement. SADC’s prolonged silence until after its 4 November Joint Summit with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region may be attributed to several factors including the restricted structure and operational capacity of its regional early warning centre system. Earlier, the United Nations and the African Union had expressed public concern over Renamo’s pulling out of the 1992 Rome agreement, calling for a peaceful resolution of the dispute.
Renamo’s capacity to wage full-scale war, 20 years after the end of the civil war, may have greatly diminished due to its depleted ex-fighter base and lack of a logistical capability. Without sincere dialogue, which remains the best means for defusing tensions, Renamo could continue to execute guerrilla tactics in the central Sofala province.
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