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November 23, 2012

Mozambique Government to Talk with Renamo Rebels

by Jinty Jackson

Mozambique’s government has agreed to talks demanded by former rebel group - turned opposition party Renamo.  This comes after Renamo’s leader, Afonso Dhlakama, last month returned to a remote former military base, threatening to plunge his country back into war unless the government agreed to talk to him.  
 
Mozambique has been on edge since Renamo’s president, Afonso Dhlakama, moved back to an old bush camp in the remote Gorongosa Mountains and began giving civil war-era soldiers refresher courses on how to use guns.  This development cast a pall over peace celebrations in October, and led to fears of a return to the brutal 16-year civil war in which over a million Mozambicans died.
 
Twenty years after the war ended, Renamo members believe they have never benefited from the peace agreement and multi-party democracy.  The ruling Frelimo party has won every election since 1994 and Renamo is crying foul.
 
Prime Minister Alberto Vaquina has designated for his agriculture minister to lead the talks, which will take place in Maputo soon.  
 
Cabinet spokesman Henrique Banze made clear that these are not formal negotiations but rather exploratory talks to understand Renamo’s grievances.
 
He says what is happening is Renamo asked for an audience to explain what they think.  The government is bringing nothing to the table but needs to understand what issues they want to discuss.  
 
Renamo has high hopes for the talks, and says it wants them to lead to what the party calls a transitional government.  The former rebels also want to talk about a better distribution of the country’s resources.  Renamo accuses the Frelimo of cashing in on vast coal and natural gas reserves set to earn the country billions of dollars in the coming decade.
 
Renamo spokesman Fernando Mazanga denies the party is putting the screws on the government, in order to get a slice of the action.
 
He says we don’t want the resources for Renamo but we want to be the spokesmen for the Mozambican people.  Mazanga says only when an agreement is reached and signed will Dhlakama agree to leave the bush camp and military training ground.
 
A date for the talks has not yet been set.