Mediators suggest truce following agreement on principles of decentralisation

Maputo (AIM) – The international team mediating the talks taking place in the Joint Commission set up between the Mozambican government and the Renamo rebels has proposed that a truce be declared – but only after the two sides have agreed a series of proposals on decentralization and submitted them to the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.

Source: Mediators suggest truce following agreement on principles of decentralisation – The Zimbabwean 08.11.2016

The mediators’ proposals were given to the government and Renamo in late October when the fourth round of talks ended. No doubt these proposals will be the first matter to be discussed when talks resume, probably on Thursday. The proposals were published in full in the latest issue of the independent weekly “Savana”.

Some of the 14 points in the mediators’ proposals are uncontroversial. No-one is likely to disagree with the declaration that Mozambique “is a unitary state, which respects the principles of the deconcentration of power, territorial decentralization of the public administration, and autonomy of the municipalities”.

Provincial autonomy, the mediators say, “does not affect the unity of the State”. The relation between the various levels of state administration “will be defined by law”.

The key to the proposal is how to govern the provinces. Renamo wants the right to govern the six provinces where it claims that it won the 2014 general elections. The mediators do not mention this Renamo claim, but make some more general proposals about provincial governance.

The provincial government, the document says, “is headed by the Provincial Governor, chosen locally”. The use of the word “chosen” sidesteps the issue of whether the governors should be appointed or elected.

Under the current Constitution, adopted unanimously (including by the Renamo parliamentary group) in 2004, the President of the Republic appoints and dismisses the governors. Renamo is demanding the right to appoint governors in the six provinces it claims. The second opposition party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), insists that the governors should be elected.

The mediators’ proposal seeks to expand somewhat the powers of the elected provincial assemblies. Thus appointments of district administrators by the governor would have to be approved by the assembly. As happens already, the Assembly would approve the programme and budget of the provincial government, and would then monitor compliance.

Quite new is the proposal that each provincial programme “should include a project for reconciliation between the public, and political, economic and social entities, involving civil society institutions”. The provincial programmes should also “include measures for a credible fight against corruption”.

A Provincial Assembly can be dissolved, the mediators propose, if it rejects the Provincial Government’s programme twice, and the President of the Republic must then call fresh elections for the Assembly. This mirrors a clause in the constitution under which parliament can be dissolved if it rejects the central government’s programme.

Each province, the document continues, should be granted “a certain degree of financial autonomy to be exercised within the framework of the Constitution and the law, respecting the principles of budgetary stability, stability of financial relations, solidarity between the provinces, coordination, transparency and control”.

The central state “will be represented at the various territorial levels, but without interfering in the attributes and powers of the elected bodies”. In municipalities elected mayors, notably from the MDM, have repeatedly complained about interference from unelected district administrators.

Parliament, the document adds, must “clearly establish the powers of the elected bodies and the representatives of the central State bodies”.

These principles are supposed to guide amendments to the Constitution, and once they are deposited in the Assembly of the Republic, a truce will be declared “to make it possible to discuss and solve the matter of Renamo provisional governance in the provinces in a more favourable environment”.

Only after agreement is reached on this, and all other matters on the agenda of the joint Commission, will the truce become definitive, to be followed by the long awaited meeting between President Filipe Nyusi and Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, which will conclude the negotiations.

The mediators’ document does not mention how many provinces will come under Renamo control. Renamo wants six, but its claim that it won them in the 2014 elections is untrue. Dhlakama himself topped the presidential poll in five provinces (Manica, Sofala, Tete, Zambezia and Nampula), but Renamo only won the parliamentary elections in Sofala and Zambezia. Renamo also secured a majority in the Sofala, Zambezia and Tete provincial assemblies. In the sixth province claimed by Renamo, Niassa, the ruling Frelimo Party won in all three elections – presidential, parliamentary and provincial.

Ending the Renamo insurgency is thus dependent on the government and Renamo delegations accepting the mediators’ proposals, and there is no guarantee of when or if this will happen.