Renamo – The Next Battle


Harare – With the continued hostilities in Mozambique, where the rebel Renamo forces have taken up arms against the government, uncertainty hangs across the Southern African region.

Last week, the government of Mozambique called rebel leader Afonso Dhlakama for talks to end what looks like a throwback to the civil war, which ended in 1992, having claimed the lives of around one million people.

This came as SADC regional leaders “strongly condemned the recent acts of violence being perpetrated by the Renamo in the Republic of Mozambique”, as the military skirmishes unfold in Mozambique. They “urged Renamo to stop acts of violence forthwith”.

President Armando Guebuza's spokesperson, Edson Macuacua, was quoted as saying the former believed dialogue was the only way to resolve the country's problems, and that there was “no alternative for peace, without peace means”.

But Renamo reportedly rejected the “cynical” invitation with spokesperson Fernando Mazanga branding it “a political propaganda campaign without minimal respect for ethics”.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Mozambicans marched in the capital Maputo and two other cities to protest against the nascent strife and demanded peace and an end to the kidnappings by Renamo.

They also criticised government for not doing enough to protect citizens and failure to prevent kidnappings. Neighbouring Zimbabwe has been fretting over the developments in its eastern neighbour, which are a threat to peace and economic interests.

In the 1980s, Zimbabwe deployed militarily in Mozambique to confront Renamo. There are also worries of a rise in secession and rebel movements in the mould of Barotseland in Zambia and the disturbances in Lesotho at the turn of the century.

Barotseland secessionists claim the Zambian Western Province bordering Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe and instability there could thus affect the entire region.

 The Next Battle

At the time that SADC warned rebels in Maputo, the regional grouping apparently had bigger fish to fry in the DRC where they made a breakthrough with the news of the surrender of the M23 rebels. Talks are now ongoing to secure the peace, amid some disagreements by the two parties – the DRC government and the M23 rebels.

With DRC no longer as hot, will SADC now shift the frontier to Renamo? On November 4, the region appeared stern enough. Yet the rebels have been inexorable.

For his part, President Guebuza has ruled out foreign intervention – at least for now. Panganai Kahuni, a defence and security expert, believes it is time for action.

“SADC has a principle that an attack on one (member) is an attack on all,” says Kahuni. “They should use that and send a clear message that the region will not brook any acts of destabilisation.”

He is of the belief that the neutralisation of Dhlakama will see an end to the potential destabilisation of the region.

Zimbabwe looks keen to intervene to protect its economic interests in its eastern neighbour, which provides the country’s closest link to a port on the Indian Ocean. That route is key for trade with Southeast Asia and India.

But the question of intervention remains a tricky proposition for the region. Is the region capacitated enough and what are the political minutiae?

DRC may yet provide an immediate motivation for SADC, as a force ably led by Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa helped secure peace, giving credence to the decision by the region to intervene militarily in that particular case.

The Institute of Security Studies in South Africa has identified some minefields when it comes to deploying against Renamo.

It states, for example, that in Lesotho in the mid 1990s, there were “dilemmas and challenges of peace-building and of safeguarding democracy faced by regional supranational institutions”. It notes the need to maintain sovereignty on one hand and globalisation and regionalisation on the other.

Yet, says the ISS, “exogenous factors play a predominant role in determining the economic and political survival options of small states both at the global and sub-regional levels”.

It explains: “The SADC intervention in Lesotho was a case of trial and error in the operationalisation of peacemaking, peace enforcement and peacekeeping strategies in the SADC region, given the mismanagement of the transition from the Front-Line States (FLS) process to the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.

“There is still a lack of clarity about when SADC states are acting in concert and when one or two SADC member states act unilaterally, or claim to be acting on behalf of SADC.

“The legal basis of and justification for responsibilities for the maintenance of peace and security in Southern Africa and SADC’s particular role in this regard are either vague or non-existent given the current state of affairs around the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.”

More Complex

Zimbabwean columnist Allen Hungwe highlighted that Harare cannot approach Renamo as it did in the 1980s.

“Between then and now a lot of structural and multilateral arrangements have come into being, making Zimbabwe’s intentions for intervention a bit more complex,” he wrote recently.

“Since the late 1980s, Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) emerged from Southern Africa Development Co-ordinating Community (SADCC), through the 1992 Windhoek Treaty.

“The treaty formalised SADC into a regional community focused on regional integration. In supporting this treaty SADC countries also signed the SADC Mutual Defence Pact (MDP), which among a host of other things calls on collective action against any threats to sitting and democratically elected governments in the region.

“This MDP is instructive about the need for collective action when it comes to intervention in member states.  It attempts to discourage unilateralism when it comes to military intervention.

“The MDP also attempts to ensure that any military involvement in a member state is in line with the African Union Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), and the United Nations Charter.” He notes contradictions in the global and regional peace and security apparatus, which constrict swift action whenever conflicts emerge in different parts of the world.

“Despite this macro contradiction, what is however clear is that even under SADC mechanisms, the MDP commits countries like Zimbabwe to seek regional consensus and authority to intervene in situations like Mozambique.

“So procedurally, SADC is supposed to call for a meeting of the Heads of State and Government, which is the highest decision making platform, termed the Summit, which can then deliberate and authorise intervention in Mozambique.

“Even if Zimbabwe were to intervene on their own, once SADC approves, that intervention takes the nomenclature of being a SADC intervention and not a Zimbabwean intervention.”

Political Solutions

South African scholars Deane-Peter Baker and Sadiki Maeresera note that territorial disputes, armed ethnic conflicts, civil wars and externally instigated armed rebellions are some of the main threats to sub-regional peace and security.

“These threats require a rapid response from a well-trained military entity that can be deployed to intervene in a conflict zone while a political solution to a crisis is being sought,” they say.

The military interventions in the DRC and Lesotho illustrate past divisions among SADC member states on when and how it is prudent to take rapid military action as a group. There are bigger problems.

“The absence of common national interests and common values among member states inhibits the development of trust, institutional cohesion, common policies and unified responses to crises,” they observe.

“Member states are generally reluctant to surrender sovereignty to a security regime that encompasses binding rules, and resist ceding decision-making power on security issues to regional organisations.”

According to the scholars, history has shown that member states of regional organisations have often encountered serious differences of opinion on policy matters, and in crisis situations that has led to independent or divergent courses of action.

“SADC once witnessed a division between militarist and pacifist camps. The DRC conflict revealed dramatically the strategic importance of that foreign policy rift, and gave rise to the notion of ‘two SADCs’.”

They explain that the initial decisions to intervene in the DRC and Lesotho in 1998 revealed significant and divisive policy positions among member states.

“It is reasonable, therefore, to ask whether in future SADC member states will be able to achieve sufficient consensus to enable the rapid deployment of the standby brigade to any conflict situation, particularly one involving a SADC member country, and even more so when that country does not invite the intervention.” All these issues present a poser in light of the crisis in Mozambique.

November 2013
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