Peace and decentralisation not yet on Moz’s agenda

Maputo – The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Monday began its last sitting of the year – but the key issues of securing a lasting peace and decentralising provincial governance were nowhere to be seen on the parliamentary agenda.

The leaders of all three parliamentary groups, in their formal opening speeches, stressed the importance of these matters, but none of them saw it  fit to submit any legislation on them. Thus they are all waiting for documents to be produced in the long drawn out negotiations between the government and the rebel movement Renamo.

Working groups were set up on decentralisation and on military questions, but they operate secretively, far from the press, and have yet to submit any specific proposals.

There are 27 points on the assembly’s agenda, and most are entirely routine – such as the annual economic and social plan and the associated state budget, President Filipe Nyusi’s annual State of the Nation address, questions to the government, the annual report from the Ombudsman, and the ratification of various international treaties and protocols.

The assembly’s chairperson, Veronica Macamo, stressed that other urgent matters could always be added to the agenda. The sitting is scheduled to end on 15 December, but that date is only “indicative”, Macamo said. The sitting can be extended, if necessary.   

The head of the parliamentary group of the ruling Frelimo Party, Margarida Talapa, stressed that Nyusi has “worked tirelessly in his efforts to bring lasting peace”, including a visit in August to a Renamo bush camp in the central district of Gorongosa for a face-to-face meeting with Renamo leader, Afonso Dhlakama.

Nyusi “has shown his total openness to constructive, sincere and serious dialogue with all actors in society, particularly with the Renamo leader so that Mozambicans can live definitively in effective peace”, she said.

Talapa was sure that, under Nyusi’s leadership, Mozambican will soon be “one of the most peaceful nations and a privileged destination for investment in southern Africa”. It would become a nation “where all citizens regard each other as true brothers who debate and solve their differences on the basis of dialogue and tolerance”.

She hoped that Dhlakama would honour commitments given in the path to peace, and that “the spirit of peace and reconciliation will be accepted by all members of Renamo inside and outside of parliament”.

Talapa said Frelimo believes that “efficient and participatory governance needs the support of considered and responsible decentralisation”, Frelimo was thus “completely open to discussing decentralisation and hence the organisation of the state and even, if necessary, amending the Constitution”.

The head of the Renamo parliamentary group, Ivone Soares, also stressed her party’s commitment to peace and decentralisation, and clearly expected the Assembly to rubber-stamp whatever came out of the negotiations between the government and Renamo, and not to be “a blocking force”.

Soares wanted documents from the negotiations to enter the assembly during this sitting “to allow the provincial governors to be elected”. This will indeed require a constitutional amendment, since under the current constitution the governors are simply appointed by the President.

Soares said that directly electing provincial governors “will strengthen democracy and justice”, although Renamo did not object to the presidential appointment of governors when the Constitution was approved unanimously by the Assembly in 2004.

She also insisted on the need to “reorganise the defence and security forces” by placing officers from Renamo’s illegal militia in positions of command. She called for an army completely separate from political parties but at the same time demanded that people from one political party, her own, be granted senior positions in the army, the police and the intelligence service (SISE).

The head of the third parliamentary group, that of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), Lutero Simango, stressed the urgency of amending the Constitution. He called for reducing the powers of the President, for elected provincial governors, for the “real independence” of the judiciary, and for “an independent National Elections Commission, with administrative and financial autonomy”. But he too brought no draft amendment to the assembly, and was just waiting for the negotiations to produce something.

Simango warned “the longer it takes to amend the Constitution, the more a time bomb is being planted that will endanger the future of the new generation”.

Talapa, Soares and Simango all denounced the abortive insurrection on 5 October in the northern town of Mocimboa da Praia but none of them dared mentioned the words “Islamist” or “fundamentalist”, treating the armed group as if it was something completely mysterious.

Only Soares had an idea about its origins – unfortunately, this was a conspiracy theory that the group derives from a faction in Frelimo that is opposed to Nyusi and the decisions of last month’s 11th Congress.

But there is no mystery about the goals of the group. Residents of Mocimboa da Praia have told reporters that the insurgents want to impose sharia law, ban the sale of alcohol, prohibit Christian symbols such as crosses, and remove secular monuments – the same programme of Islamist extremists across the globe. But Mozambican political parties prefer to be wilfully blind to this unpleasant reality.

On one key area, the three speeches diverged sharply. Soares and Simango demanded that those responsible for plunging the country into illegal and unconstitutional debts should be held responsible and severely punished. Talapa did not so much as mention the issue.

The “unconstitutional debts” were the guarantees issued under Nyusi’s predecessor, President Armando Guebuza, for US$2 billion worth of loans from the European banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia for the security-linked companies Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company), Proindicus and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management).

These government guarantees added 20 percent to Mozambique’s foreign debt, and led the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to suspend its programme with Mozambique. Other partners followed the IMF’s lead, including the 14 donors who used to provide direct support to the Mozambican state budget. All further disbursements were suspended in April 2016, and there is no sign of any resumption.

“The unconstitutional debts have damaged the entire Mozambican people,” said Soares. “They make us all look as if we’re corrupt and thieves”.

Issuing the guarantees for loans that had never been approved by the assembly was “a mega-fraud”, and those responsible, she demanded, should be named and punished.

The budget for 2018 would once again have no donor support, said Simango, and he blamed this on the “intransigence” of the authorities in failing to hold responsible those involved in the illicit guarantees. – AIM.

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