No truce over christmas, says Dhlakama

Maputo (AIM) – Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the Mozambican rebel movement Renamo, has refused to order a truce over the Christmas period.

Source: No truce over christmas, says Dhlakama – The Zimbabwean 23.12.2016

In an interview published in Thursday’s issue of the independent daily “O Pais”, he was asked whether the attacks would cease over the Christmas and New Year period. “It is not easy to state that there will be no attacks”, he replied. “I would like this not to happen. But this does not just depend on one of the parties. I cannot guarantee that nobody will come to attack us and that we will not be obliged to attack in response”.

Dhlakama claimed that recent Renamo attacks against trains on the Sena line, between the Moatize coal basin and the port of Maputo, were justified as a response to alleged government attacks on Renamo military bases.

“All Renamo’s military actions are reactions”, he claimed. “Because if we don’t respond, Frelimo will continue to send its battalions to attack us. The only way to stop them is by responding”.

“We only respond so that the others retreat”, he claimed. “Otherwise they will finish us off” He added that “every day” Renamo members “are kidnapped and murdered in all the provinces. So we have to respond”.

There have indeed been assassinations of both Frelimo and Renamo members, mostly in the central provinces. But if there are such murders “every day in all the provinces”, the Renamo propaganda office in Maputo has kept surprisingly quiet about it.

Renamo resumed its war in February, with attacks against vehicles on main roads in the centre of the country. The claim that all the many dozens of attacks since then are response to government attacks on Renamo’s illicit military bases cannot be verified.

Dhlakama blamed the government delegation for the failure to agree a truce in the Joint Commission between Renamo and the government. He claimed the latest round of talks had broken down because the government wanted to exclude he international mediators from a proposed new working group that would draw up principles to govern new legislation on decentralization.

“In the middle of negotiations, with things being well cooked up between Frelimo, Renamo and the mediators, there appeared the proposal to exclude the mediators”, he claimed. “It was strange to say that a group has to be created within the joint commission, in which only Mozambicans would be present and the mediators would be excluded”.

But the government says it has not excluded the mediators. President Filipe Nyusi, in his state of the nation address on Monday, said the idea was to set up “an inclusive and specialized working group”, which could be accompanied by specialists in the area of constitutional law and decentralization “who would not necessarily be the current mediators”. Renamo interprets this as slamming the door in the face of the mediators.

The talks had stopped, Dhlakama claimed, “because the government wanted them to stop”, and it was therefore the government’s fault that there was no cessation of hostilities. Renamo has thus seized on the proposal for a working group that may or may not include the mediators as an excuse to carry on its insurrection.

It is hard to know exactly what has been happening in the Joint Commission because none of the three sides – the government, Renamo and the mediators – will talk to the press after meetings. This vow of silence makes it easy for Dhlakama to say whatever he likes about the talks.

As for Nyusi’s repeated offer to meet with Dhlakama, the Renamo leader changed his position somewhat and suggested that such a meeting might indeed take place. In an earlier interview, with the weekly paper “Savana”, he had categorically refused to meet with Nyusi until everything on the agenda of the Joint Commission had been agreed.

But now, he said that if Nyusi “spoke from the bottom of his heart, then we can meet to talk”, just as he had met with previous presidents. “I don’t see any problem”, he said.