Mozambique to withdraw troops from Gorongosa by end of June

Maputo – Mozambican government forces will withdraw from 28 positions in the central district of Gorongosa by the end of June, according to Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the Renamo rebels in an interview published in Friday’s issue of the independent weekly “Savana”.

President Filipe Nyusi had announced the start of this withdrawal last week. Dhlakama claimed this was a quid pro quo for the truce he declared in late December, and which has now been extended for an indefinite period.

“With this indefinite truce, the President of the Republic would commit to removing all the positions of the government forces that are around the Gorongosa region”, said Dhlakama. “They would leave in phases. We shall draw up a calendar, but with a final date, so that by the end of the first half of this year, all the troops have been withdrawn from the Gorongosa region”.

He claimed that the government positions had effectively surrounded the Gorongosa mountain range. Dhlakama himself is now living in a Renamo base in the Gorongosa foothills. Since the war was now over, he added, the military concentration in Gorongosa no longer made any sense.

Only police positions would remain, Dhlakama said, in such places as Gorongosa town and the Vanduzi and Canda administrative pots.

One of the positions from which the Mozambican armed forces (FADM) is withdrawing is the former Renamo military base of Mazembe. Dhlakama said this will be converted into a joint centre for government and Renamo officers to supervise the truce in the central provinces.

“They will have transport so that, in the event of violations in these provinces, or complaints from the communities, they would have to go and investigate”, the Renamo leader said.

A second centre is being established in Maputo. According to Dhlakama, “this will have the mission of receiving reports from Gorongosa, and from various provinces”. The Maputo centre would analyse these reports and pass them onto the working group between the government and Renamo that is dealing with military matters.

Dhlakama recognised that “this process is very complicated and it’s slow”, but he thought it better to go slowly “and try and purge once and for all the problems of the previous agreements”. He believed a final agreement could be reached by the end of 2017.

He thought it crucial that he and Nyusi should reach agreements in principle before the details were discussed in the government/Renamo working groups.

“The groups are negotiating the points that the two of us already know about,” he said. “If a Renamo group sits down with a government group and negotiates something that I don’t agree with, and that the President of the Republic doesn’t agree with, then there’s no success.”

Dhlakama hoped that the agreement he eventually signs with Nyusi “will be the last agreement, and that Mozambicans may rest once and for all”.

He denied that the negotiations are taking place in secret – but in the next breath confirmed that in reality they are. “We cannot go round publishing things which are not yet mature,” said Dhlakama.

“There’s no secrecy, but we cannot every week, or every day, say ‘we’re agreeing point X now, we’re agreeing point Y now’. I think that’s not good in negotiations, because on both sides there are people who sometimes don’t feel good when things are going well, and may want to block them”.

Meanwhile,  Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi on Friday urged the population of Ancuabe district, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, to remain vigilant against the illegal exploitation of the district’s natural resources.

Speaking at a rally in the Ancuabe administrative post of Meza, Nyusi urged the people of this district, which is rich in forests and mineral resources, to fight for preservation of the environment.

He cited the example of illegal logging which damages both the state and the local communities who are unable to benefit from this resource. “If the timber of Ancuabe is properly exploited, then the country will gain, and so will the community,” said Nyusi.

“We need to preserve our forests,” he insisted, pointing out that people are allowing illegal loggers to corrupt them for laughably small sums in bribes.

“For every 100 meticais in bribes, the country is losing millions of dollars,” said the President. “They are making millions of dollars out of our timber.”

It was the same story with poaching and with illegal mining. Nyusi urged his audience to stop poachers from decimating the country’s wild life, while artisanal mining should only take place within the legal norms and without polluting the rivers.

“Let us protect our wealth: let us protect our forests, our subsoil, and our animals,” he urged. Nyusi’s remarks come in the wake of a moratorium on all logging in the central and northern provinces.  That followed “Operation Trunk”, an offensive against illegal logging, in which 150,000 cubic metres of timber were seized at dozens of timber yards. – AIM

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