Southern Africa likes to think of itself as a haven of peace and stability on the continent.
Yet disturbing things are going on in Mozambique that completely belie this complacent self-image.
The simmering cold war between government forces and the ruling Frelimo’s arch-enemy, Renamo, has gone hot again.
Renamo’s irascible Afonso Dhlakama is once again holed up in his bush camp in the central district of Gorongosa, directing a new spate of Renamo ambushes against vehicles on main roads in the centre of the country.
More than 6,000 Mozambican refugees have poured across the border from Mozambique’s north-western Tete Province into neighbouring Malawi to escape the renewed fighting.
They are living in makeshift camps at Kapise in the border district of Mwanza. But since “refugees fleeing warfare” does not quite tally with the official view of reality in Maputo, the Mozambican government is reportedly denying their plight or even their identity as Mozambicans.
As a result, the governments of the two countries are squabbling over what should become of them. Malawi wants them recognised as refugees and relocated to Luwani Refugee Camp, which has the facilities to accommodate them properly.
But Mozambique instead wants them repatriated because it does not acknowledge that they face any danger back home.
The governor of Tete, Paulo Auade, refuses to even admit that they are Mozambicans, according to recent media reports. He insists they are actually Malawians, internally displaced by drought and looking for emergency aid. But the UNHCR says they are Mozambican refugees.
It seems both sides in the political conflict are terrorising the villagers. According to media reports, some of the refugees in Kapise have told NGOs and reporters that Mozambican defence and security forces have carried out summary executions, rapes and the burnings of houses and barns in their villages. The government has denied this, placing all the blame on Renamo.
Why the Frelimo-Renamo conflict won’t go away is something of a mystery. Part of the reason is undoubtedly the stubbornness of Dhlakama, who simply won’t accept defeat.
He insists that he and Renamo have been cheated of victory in every election since the start of multiparty democracy in 1994. Most observers would contest this. Yet most would probably also accept that Frelimo has indulged in some vote-rigging – how much is unclear – and that in any case it maintains an unfair grip on power by its excessive control of the state apparatus.
In addition, Frelimo has failed to govern the country in the best interests of all of its people, neglecting particularly those northern areas where Renamo draws most of its support from.
And so the peculiar ambiguity of Mozambique’s politics continues, with Renamo MPs continuing to represent the party in the National Assembly, conducting normal legislative business, while the other wing of the party continues the old bush war.
This is not good for investment and tourism in the centre and north of the country, obviously.
The new President, Filipe Nyusi, was expected to resolve the problem. But he hasn’t.
Some Mozambique watchers suspect that President Nyusi is playing a double game, holding out an olive branch to Dhlakama with one hand but trying to hunt him down with the other.
Source: The Star
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