What will prosecutors do about Renamo attacks?

Maputo (AIM) – Parliamentary deputies of Mozambique’s ruling Frelimo Party, on the second day of a debate on the annual report on the state of justice given by Attorney-General Beatriz Buchili, demanded to know what she would do about the crimes committed by the illegal militia of the rebel movement Renamo.

Source: What will prosecutors do about Renamo attacks? – The Zimbabwean 24.6.2016

Agostinho Vuma, a Frelimo deputy who is also a senior figure in the Confederation of Mozambican Business Associations (CTA), said these crimes have now reached “alarming proportions, resulting in the death of innocent citizens and the destruction of important social and economic infrastructures”.

From October 2015 to the present there had been 107 Renamo attacks, Vuma said, in which 40 people had died and 79 had been seriously injured. Giving a breakdown of the attacks, he said they had mostly been in the central provinces (56 in Sofala, 21 in Manica, 11 in Tete and eight in Zambezia). There had also been six attacks in Inhambane and two in Gaza, in the south of the country, and three in the northern province of Nampula.

The Renamo attacks had severely affected transport operators. In the past a journey from the south of Mozambique to the north could take about 24 hours. Since there are now stretches of road where movement is only possible in armed convoys, the time has tripled to 72 hours, representing a significant increase in costs.

Because passengers are now afraid to travel, the average number of people in a long distance bus had fallen from between 40 and 50, to just five to ten.

Smallholder farmers, fearing for their safety, had abandoned areas affected by the Renamo attacks, Vuma said, which was affecting the supply of fresh vegetables in parts of central and northern Mozambique.

Tourism had also been badly hit, with a decline in guests, and several hotels and lodges  – Vuma mentioned four in Inhambane and two in Cabo Delgado – forced to close.

Furthermore, the two Renamo attacks against trains had led the Brazilian mining company Vale to stop using the Sena railway line from its mine in Moatize to the port of Beira. Vuma said this threatens the export of ten million tonnes of coal this year.

He asked what the Public Prosecutor’s Office was doing to tackle these crimes. Could Buchili explain to the Assembly “why there is so much tolerance for this type of crime? Is it normal for a political party to own military equipment? Is there anywhere else in the world where the existence of armed political parties is accepted and legal?”

Buchili admitted that the Mozambican Constitution does not allow armed political parties, and outlaws the use of force for political purposes. But she did not explain how prosecutors would deal with Renamo attacks.

She declared that “criminal responsibility is individual”, and promised that her office would pursue all those who commit crimes, regardless of their motive or of their political affiliation.

Frelimo deputies were not satisfied with such answers. Valeria Mitelele accused Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama of being “the confessed moral author of these crimes”.

In any other part of the world, the Renamo gunmen “would be called terrorists”, she said. “Have any cases been opened against these terrorists?”

Pedro Cossa said that Renamo attacks are happening “day after day”. President Filipe Nyusi was attempting to end the conflict through dialogue – but what, Cossa asked, was the Attorney-General’s Office doing to fulfil its role as guardian of legality?

It would be possible for prosecutors to open cases for each and every Renamo attack, even if there are no named suspects. The cases would be against “persons unknown”. This is what has been done in several high profile murder cases – such as the assassination of constitutional lawyer Gilles Cistac in March 2015, where nobody has yet been arrested.

Buchili did not give a straight answer to these questions, but merely insisted that peace is a requirement for the rule of law. As for the demand to outlaw Renamo, made by some Renamo deputies on Wednesday, Buchili replied “We are seeking appropriate mechanisms for maintaining peace”.