Mozambique appoints military commander to lead police force

Júlio dos Santos Jane_yukon services

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi yesterday appointed a military commander to head up the country’s police force, turning to Júlio dos Santos Jane, a former deputy chief of staff who most recently headed up the armed forces’ Civic Service wing.

Jane faces a challenging task taking on the organised crime that has infiltrated the Mozambican police force, observers said, while at the same time leading the police response to Renamo action in the centre and north of the country.

Jane was in charge of the unit protecting the city of Maputo during the civil war against Renamo which ended in 1992, according to a profile in daily newspaper O Pais today. He was trained in the USSR and in the past headed up the national military training college in Nampula.

Abel Zico, an economics professor at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo who knows Jane personally, said the new General Commander is a man of action rather than words. “He is very reserved in his speaking,” Zico said, so his speeches will likely be less bombastic than his predecessor, Jorge Khalau. That in turn “may help take some of the heat out of the current conflict”, Zico said.

Jane will not be the first military man to be made General Commander of the police force. Custodio Pinto was appointed to the role by Armando Guebuza in 2006, only to be replaced by Khalau in 2008.

The appointment of an outsider to the post should run smoothly, according to political analyst Américo Matavele. He said today that the role Jane is taking on “is more one of co-ordination, in a strategic vision, so I don’t seen any confusion in operational terms.”

However, for Adelino Timóteo, a political commentator and columnist, Jane’s appointment “reflects the fact that we continue to live under a military regime.” The police, he said, still “does not have the institutional autonomy that could have been expected after 40 years.”

Borges Nhamirre of transparency NGO  Centro de Integridade Publica (CIP) said Custodio Pinto’s appointment to the police force in 2006 resulted in internal conflict in the upper echelons of the force and an increase in crime. Moreover, Nhamirre said, “we are at war, whether we accept it or not. And military men are the best at making war.”

Police ‘infested’

Khalau’s sacking on Wednesday was met with widespread rejoicing among civil society and political observers. Human Rights League president Alice Mabota said that Khalau’s removal was a “great happiness”, while weekly newspaper Savana today says he “will not be missed”. MDM politician and mayor of Quelimane Manuel de Araújo said yesterday the move was “a step in the right direction” for Nyusi’s regime.

The new General Commander has a difficult task ahead of him to reform a police force which has become “infested” by organised crime, according to Mabota. Speaking ahead of Jane’s appointment, Mabota said: “I don’t know if the new people will have the capacity to undo what he has done. Organised crime has taken over the police… The new commander will have great difficulties bringing about change.”

Jane’s biggest challenge will be to disentangle the networks of organised crime “controlled by senior officials who feel like they own the police force,” Zico said today. “Without that, the police will continue catching duck and chicken thieves but not the real criminals who keep us awake at night.”

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