“Mediators are not the owners of our problem” – Dhlakama

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Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama says that it is up to the government and Renamo and not the international mediators to secure peace in the country. In an interview with O País, the leader of Renamo talks about the authorship of attacks in the country and the control of his men.

O País: Recently we have been witnessing the intensification of attacks in central, north and southern areas. What is Renamo’s goal? Is it to strengthen its influence in the political dialogue?

Afonso Dhlakama (AD): We did not cease fire; the military conflict continues. This is one way of compelling the government to spread its forces. At the moment, they are concentrated in the Gorongosa region. The idea was to [make the government forces] go where there are Renamo operations, because they know that Renamo is limited only to defending itself. These are military strategies; this does not mean spreading the war because it ended in 1992.

O País: Throughout the war, Renamo said it only attacked in order to defend itself. At this point, we cannot say the same thing…

AD: The reason remains the same. The way to reduce the concentration in the Gorongosa area is to conduct military operations in other parts of the country. For example, someone can attack you in Marracuene and you can answer in Xipamanine; therefore, this is self-defence. I would like this to be resolved, because we do not want war. If we wanted war, we would be attacking in Maputo to cause panic, just as the President orders attacks in Gorongosa, where I live.

O País: What was the government’s counter-proposal to Renamo’s demand for the governance of the six provinces?

AD: So far, there is no counter-proposal by the government. On the contrary, the government said it was impossible, unconstitutional, but did not know how to explain. Sometimes the government, through Jacinto Veloso, tried to find out whether there was going to be independence in these provinces and how they will work, but there is still no counter-offer. The dialogue sessions were held for a week only and the government team was limited to saying that it was impossible, that the 2014 elections were not meant to elect governors but to elect deputies, members of the provincial assemblies and the president. We simply say that President Nyusi did not win the elections, although he has taken office, and that we wanted a middle ground compromise.

O País: Have you talked to President Nyusi?

AD: No. We talked a month ago, at that time when he accepted international mediation. We have not spoken again to this day.

O País: Why is it that the mediators abandoned the dialogue and only came back this week?

AD: No, they did not ‘abandon’ the dialogue, that interpretation is incorrect. When they left their own countries, they may have calculated that it was a light task and in a week they would be able to mediate and resolve the issue. It must have been a problem of logistics, I have no proof, but I believe that logistics may have played a part. They did not flee, nor fire the co-co-ordinator. I believe that on Monday [8 August] they will resume work.

O País: What is it that mediators have been saying to the Renamo leader?

AD: Mediators are not the owners of the problem the country is going through. They spoke to the President and asked to talk to me. As I am in Gorongosa, they went to my office and I spoke to them by telephone about the points that Renamo wants and they advised that the two parties [stood] closer.

O País: Is the lack of contact with the President one of the reasons that attacks intensify with each passing day?

AD: No, because it has not been the routine. Last month we talked, but this has not been frequent.

O País: What plans does Renamo have for the country?

AD: Renamo is a political party. The lack of democracy that exists in Mozambique is part of Renamo’s fight. It is a project that comes from 1977. Between ‘75 and ‘77, Frelimo was the only party. It developed communal villages, executions, shootings, revolutionary courts, among others. All this. Renamo came together and created democracy. Renamo forced Frelimo to go to Rome to sign the peace accords. Unfortunately, Frelimo did not accept Renamo’s political project and we continue to fight for multi-party democracy, the rule of law, strong institutions, free and transparent elections and courts that work. The [defence and security] forces such as the police, military, do not belong to parties; [we fight for] economic development and employment for youth. For there to be national unity, and not only on paper, people from different regions of the country must feel like brothers, and that there is development, and especially peace – this is Renamo’s political project.

O País: Dhlakama said he had no problem with Vale, however, Renamo has gone back to attacking the company.

AD: This is the strategy because the mining company gives money to Frelimo. We do not know how many millions Vale spends. And Frelimo receives this money. It does not go to the development of the country, much less to the centre area; the money goes to purchase weapons. When people die, only the family complains, but when a train is attacked, calls come from everywhere.

O País: There are reports of attacks on health centres in the districts by Renamo.

AD: Renamo never attacks health clinics. What can happen is that Renamo attacks barracks, military positions, and sometimes a military offensive takes place near a health facility and sometimes there is firefight. Renamo never planned to attack a health post.

O País: Does the Renamo leader have control of all operations?

AD: I am not the general chief of staff, I am a political leader. I know that our forces, when they are attacked, defend themselves. They also plan operations in anticipation, to avoid being defeated. I cannot have control, but I have led Renamo since 1977 and I know all the commanders. I may not know what goes into each fight, every day, because that is not my role.

O País: How is your health? Will you run for president in the next election?

AD: I am in good health. Of course, people are always saying that I am sick. I may catch malaria, have fever, but I’m fine. I hope that the negotiations take place, so that I can go back and walk freely. I have been confined for some time.

O País: Will you run again in the next elections?

AD: I do not know; it depends on Renamo. If the party thinks I am the right person, I can still do it. I am not my own master and I have no great concern to run. The important thing is to bring peace and democracy.

O País: Do you have any successor in sight?

AD: I am not a régulo (traditional chief). My father is a régulo and I know that when he dies one of the children will replace him, because it is the traditional power. In political power we do not speak of who will replace who, it is the party that decides.

O País: Are you creating conditions to be replaced?

AD: As I said, we are a democratic party, we hold meetings, we have various bodies and it is they who deliberate. Once the mediators get back Maputo, there is a possibility that I will declare a truce in Gorongosa if the government forces withdraw.

Source: O País

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