Moza Police, Renamo clash
Maputo — The Mozambican rebel movement Renamo this week claimed that one of its military bases was attacked by government forces in the western province of Tete – but the police say it was Renamo who opened fire without provocation.
Renamo spokesperson Antonio Muchanga called a press conference on June 16 to announce the alleged attack, which he said occurred on Sunday June 14 at Mucumbedzi, in the Zobwe administrative post, near the border with Malawi.
He claimed some of those involved had been killed or injured in the operation, but gave no details.
Muchanga said that two truckloads of soldiers and a Land Cruiser with a mounted machine gun attacked what he called a “Renamo barracks” in Mucumbedzi. He alleged that in the clash the Land Cruiser was destroyed.
Muchanga claimed that this incident was causing “agitation” among Renamo’s military wing. “The patience of the Renamo commanders is running out”, he said.
He added that Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama has asked the government to restrain its forces in the interests of peace.
Muchanga said there had also been an attack by government forces on Thursday in Funhalouro district, in the southern province of Inhambane, “but there were no clashes because the Renamo guerrillas managed to evade the attackers”.
But the Mozambican police have a completely different account of what happened in Tete. According to the spokesperson for the general command of the police, Pedro Cossa, speaking to reporters on Tuesday, at his weekly press briefing, it was Renamo who attacked the police, not the other way round.
He said the police unit concerned had been carrying supplies to a police post in the Tete interior. On its return it came under fire, and two of the policemen were hit.
“Armed men, who are as yet unidentified, fired against our colleagues”, said Cossa, “Two of them were injured, one of whom lost his life on the way to hospital”.
“Our men were driving along the public highway and they were attacked by armed men as they were moving”, he declared.
Cossa agreed with Muchanga that the attack took place on Sunday – but he put it in a different part of the province. He said the police came under fire at Xibabhehi, in Tsangano district. This is near Zobue, so there can be little doubt that the two accounts are referring to the same incident.
On June 12 Dhlakama threatened that there would only be peace and stability in the country, if Renamo’s proposal for “provincial municipalities” is accepted.
Speaking in Beira, at the end of a meeting of the Renamo National Commission, Dhlakama seemed to retreat from the threats of a return to war made the previous day by the meeting’s spokesperson, parliamentary deputy Jose Manteigas.
Manteigas had boasted that Renamo has men “in combat positions” throughout the country ready to respond to any attempt by the government to prevent Renamo from imposing its “provincial municipalities”.
Dhlakama, however, struck out in a different direction, giving the government and the ruling Frelimo Party a deadline of three days to begin negotiations on what he called “decentralisation of the state”, covering all 11 provinces.
“We shall extend the municipalities to the 11 provinces, to avoid any misunderstanding that we want to divide the country”, he said.
Some reporters covering the Beira meeting seemed to regard this as a significant change – which merely proves that they did not compare Dhlakama’s words with the original Renamo bill. For the concept of “provincial municipalities” was always intended to cover the entire country.
But Dhlakama insisted that it first be implemented in the six central and northern provinces where he claims that Renamo is the majority party (Manica, Sofala, Tete, Zambezia, Nampula and Niassa), and only later, perhaps as from the next general elections, scheduled for 2019, extended to the rest of the country. This has not changed. – AIM