MAPUTO – FORMER Mozambican rebel leader Afonso Dhlakama has moved out of Government and set up camp in the bush again, 20 years after the end of the civil war, a senior Mozambican official has said. Dhlakama claims the Mozambican Government has failed to meet some of his demands.
Minister Counsellor in charge of affairs at the Mozambican embassy in Harare Isac Massamby said Dhlakama called a battalion of former rebels back to their old military base close to Gorongosa Game Park last week.
“It is true that he went to Gorongosa with a group of former supporters. However, the Government has opened all channels to dialogue and this is very critical.
“There are so many channels at his disposal for discussions and one of them is Parliament where he has 29 members,” said Mr Massamby.
However, reports say Dhlakama told his former foes in the ruling Frelimo party to engage him for talks in the bush.
Dhlakama claimed he did not want war, but did not rule out clashes if his followers were attacked.
Mozambique’s independent weekly newspaper, Savanna, last Friday quoted Dhlakama as saying: “I will not leave here unless all my demands are met.” Dhlakama reportedly left for Gorongosa with 800 men.
However, Minister Massamby said the problem with Dhlakama was that he had always been vacillating ever since he joined Government two decades ago. He once moved his operating station from Maputo to Nampula and now has moved to his former military base in Gorongosa.
Renamo’s demands include greater inclusion of its former fighters in the country’s armed forces and revisions to election laws. The rebels also want power to veto election results after accusing Frelimo of fraud in previous polls.
Minister Massamby said the Government of Mozambique allowed Dhlakama to use some of his former soldiers as bodyguards and this gave them access to guns.
This resulted in some of the men leaving with arms of war to join Dhlakama. “Renamo soldiers were supposed to be disbanded, but Government allowed him to use some of the people as his bodyguards. Our security has already established that these people might not be armed because just a few security people left with their guns. When the war ended, most of the guns were mopped up by United Nations peacekeepers,” he said.
He said Mozambicans were tired of war and were unlikely to join Dhlakama.
Minister Massamby said it was not yet clear whether Dhlakama was funding himself or receiving funding from outside Mozambique.
Before Dhlakama joined the Government, he was funded by the Ian Smith regime in the then Rhodesia to destabilise Mozambique that was playing host to Zimbabwe’s freedom fighters. After the demise of the Smith regime, Renamo continued receiving funding from Apartheid South Africa to fight President Samora Machel’s Government.
Minister Massamby said although there were some diamond explorations in some parts of Mozambique, it was too early to suggest that Dhlakama intended to use them to fund his activities. Zimbabwe deployed troops to Mozambique to assist the Government fight Renamo forces that were engaged in acts of banditry and sabotage.
When it joined the Government in 1992, Renamo held back a small reserve of armed men and maintained at least two military bases, including the one at Gorongosa. The government has tended to turn a blind eye on the manipulative tendencies used by Renamo to attract attention.
Mozambique is bent on forgetting the 16year Cold Warera conflict that killed over a million people. The timing of Mr Dhlakama’s latest move looks set to test the government. Mozambique is poised to benefit from large capital inflows from the discovery of significant natural gas and coal discoveries.
Mozambique’s economy is already growing at more than 7.5 percent — one of the fastest in the world and the country is set to start cashing in on a mineral resource rush in the next five to 10 years. Mr Dhlakama has lashed out at President Armando Guebuza calling him “robberinchief of public funds”, according to a Savanna newspaper report.
The deeper issue is Mr Dhlakama’s failure to capitalise on popular discontent against Frelimo after the end of the civil war, or to build viable political machinery that could oppose the ruling party. “He runs the party out of his own pocket and tries to control it as best as he can by mobile phone,” said a Mozambican who could not be named.
Seen in this light, Renamo has given Frelimo the political space it needs to effect control over state institutions.
Renamo now has 29 out of 250 parliamentary seats, even its position as official opposition looks doubtful as Mozambique heads for municipal polls next year and presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014.
Its biggest challenge is a relative newcomer on the political scene, the Democratic Movement for Mozambique (MDM) that has eight seats in Parliament.
The MDM first contested elections in 2009 and represents a break with the civilwar era past. Led by the charismatic Mr Daviz Simango, the party has had several recent successes in byelections. Said Minister Massamby: “The MDM is becoming very popular and most of its members came from Renamo. Renamo is losing political space and they have to touch somewhere. They are disturbing and embarrassing people. We know the people are not going to follow them.”