Dhlakama predicts further meeting with Nyusi

Maputo – Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the Mozambican rebel movement , Renamo, has said that he will have a further meeting with President Filipe Nyusi this month.

Interviewed in Friday’s issue of the independent weekly “Savana”, Dhlakama  gave no exact place or date for the meeting, but said the purpose would be to make adjustments to documents on decentralisation which are being drawn up by a working group formed by the government and Renamo.

These documents would then be submitted to the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.

The last time Nyusi and Dhlakama met was on 6 August, near the Renamo base in the bush of the central district of Gorongosa, where Dhlakama has been living since late 2015. Dhlakama has refused to return to Maputo, or to any other city, on grounds of security.

Dhlakama claimed the negotiations were going well, and the two sides had drawn much closer in their positions on decentralisation. He believed the working group on decentralisation would soon send a consensual document that he and Nyusi would consider.

“If we think it’s good, we shall send it back, and we shall sign a political agreement that we want the Assembly of the Republic to analyse and approve,” he said.

He believed the document would enter the Assembly later in November.

This document, Dhlakama added, would cover the constitutional amendment needed so that provincial governors are no longer appointed by the President, but are elected. It would also include provisions on provincial finances.

“There is no decentralisation or autonomy of a town, district or province unless these places have the capacity to organise their budget,” said Dhlakama.

The Assembly knew the documents would soon arrive, and Dhlakama believed that, although they might not be approved this year, the deputies would vote on then by March 2018, so that they could take effect in the general elections scheduled for October 2019. To date general elections have elected the President, parliament and provincial assemblies. Dhlakama wants to add a fourth ballot paper, for the election of provincial governors.

A second working group is dealing with military questions, Dhlakama said this was “a practical matter” that did not need to go to the assembly.

He pointed out that the 1992 peace agreement envisaged armed forces drawn 50 percent from the government army of the time, the FAM/FPLM, and 50 percent from Renamo. This 50-50 balance would be replicated throughout the officer corps.

Dhlakama failed to mention that this formula proved impossible. The new armed forces, the FADM, envisaged in the peace agreement, was to consist of 30,000 volunteers, half from each side. But there were nowhere near that number of volunteers – the vast majority of fighters on both sides just wanted to go home, and had no intention of signing up for a new army.

When demobilisation was delayed, and attempts were made to pressgang troops into the FADM, mutinies broke out across the country in the assembly points set up for the government and Renamo fighters. Faced with the outright refusal of most fighters to join the FADM, the new army had to be formed out of however many volunteers there were, regardless of the 50-50 formula.

The Supervision and Control Commission (CSC) overseeing implementation of the peace accord, including the Renamo representatives on the CSC, agreed to this. As a result when the FADM was formed, in 1994, it had less than 12,000 men, and more officers than privates. About two thirds of the FADM’s initial intake came from the FAM/FPLM, and one third from Renamo.

Now Dhlakama is returning to a demand for parity, or near parity, between Renamo and the government in the appointments of officers.

He said: “Frelimo will have to retire some of its officers to make way for ones from Renamo”.

But nobody is recruited to the FADM from “Frelimo”. Since 1997 the FADM has been a conscript army. All Mozambicans, of both sexes, have a legal obligation to register for military service in the year of their 18th birthday. The recruiting officers do not ask the 18 year olds which party they support.

Dhlakama’s claim that “everyone” in the FADM is “from Frelimo” is breathtakingly untrue. First, there are still senior officers who were originally from Renamo, including Raul Dique, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the FADM. Secondly, the vast bulk of FADM troops were recruited since 1997 as conscripts, some of whom then decided to make a career for themselves in the army. They were not chosen on any political party basis.

All Renamo members had a chance to join the FADM in 1994, but most opted for demobilisation. Dhlakama now wants a second attempt to put his men into the FADM, but it is not clear where he will find them. Most of the militia members who have been with him since 1994 must be well over the age of 35, which is normally the cut-off age for recruitment to the armed forces. Bringing demobilised Renamo fighters out of retirement is scarcely an option, since most of them will also be too old.

Dhlakama insists that he wants “republican armed forces” that owe no allegiance to any political party – but at the same time he demands recruitment of the officer corps on a specifically political party basis.

He said he was disappointed that, in the recent reshuffle of the top defence and security leadership, Nyusi did not appoint anyone from Renamo.

“There was almost no advance, it was an internal reshuffle in the Mozambican government and Frelimo,” he claimed. As commander-in-chief, Nyusi “failed greatly”, he said.

Dhlakama said he could not leave the Gorongosa bush yet “because the army is still 100 percent Frelimo”.

He would not feel safe until what he called his “commandos” were included in the FADM. – AIM.

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