Mozambique, which one is it; Armed conflict or civil war?


“Mozambique is undergoing a war process”, researcher Michel Cahen says. The academic also believes that peace will not exist in the country until 2019, the year in which legislative elections will take place.

Is there already civil war in Mozambique between the government forces of Frelimo, in power for 41 years, and Renamo? Or can it be said that the country is headed for civil war? The European Union’s envoy to the negotiations, Mario Raffaelli, said on Wednesday 23 November that the negotiations were moving forward. However, it is not the first time that negotiations have been said to be moving forward and then, for one reason or another nothing happened.

All because Renamo does not recognize the results of the October 2014 elections and demands to govern the six regions in which it claims to have obtained an absolute or relative majority. In the light of the events following the main opposition party’s challenge, Deutsche Welle Africa asked the director of researches at Casa de Velázquez in Madrid what criteria could justify talk of civil war.

“It is true that I use the concept of civil war to talk about current events. The official expression is ‘political-military incidents’. And it is true that fortunately we have not return to the old civil war of 16 years – from 1976 to 1992. Obviously that is not it. However, in some parts of the country the intensity of the fighting and insecurity are of the same nature as that seen in the 16-year civil war. Luckily when I say ‘civil war’ I am not saying that we return to the situation of the 80s or early 90s, when 80% of the country was in a war situation”.

Differences between civil war and armed conflict:

Cahen explains the difference between war and armed conflict. “In French it would be ‘jouer sur les mots’ – play with words. That is, an armed conflict between guerrillas, which have a social

base, and the army and police. But it is also a war for the people who are living in that situation. And for me this is much more important”, he says.

It could be said that what is happening in Mozambique is only an armed conflict, Cahen says. But economic imbalances and tremendous social inequalities are likely to fuel yet another civil war. “If the negotiations are unsuccessful, in my opinion, we are already in a civil war”.

The researcher reaffirms that there is a situation of civil war in isolated zones of Mozambique, like the areas around the Gorongosa Mountains, in the central province of Manica and in the central part of Sofala and in parts of the central province of Tete, notably the Tsangano area, from where 15,000 refugees fled to Malawi as a result of the conflict. Also in certain areas of the central province of Zambézia. In these areas, he says, there is war, although it is not nationwide.

Sonia Frias, president of the African Commission of the Geography Society, is apprehensive about the situation in Mozambique.

“I like to think that we did not go as far as civil war. Friends and colleagues from the universities with whom I have contact in Mozambique are very apprehensive and even speak of the area where I was born, in Chimoio, Sunssudenga, as experiencing a very serious situation with regard to the danger of being on the road. So, at a distance I want to think that they are tensions, they are conflicts, that will be solved with calmness and diplomacy”. The anthropologist says she had felt concern and discomfort on the part of the population when she was in Mozambique. But she believes that the parties to the conflict “will not go to extremes”, and that Mozambicans and the international community are committed to not letting the rupture lead to war.

Power sharing does not put national unity at risk:

Cahen reminds us that Mozambique is a “very heterogeneous” country, where no ethnic group has the majority, and as such “cannot be represented by only one political party”.

He points to decentralization as the focal point of this political-military crisis and maintains that it would be a step forward for Frelimo to accept that some regions of the country should be governed by an opposition party. “It is a classic situation in Germany or France. It is a sharing of power that does not endanger national unity”, he says.

“But in Frelimo’s political tradition, any dilution of the uniqueness of political power calls national unity into question”, he says, “Which does not correspond in any way to the situation in Mozambique”.

The professor hopes that negotiations will move in the right direction “because otherwise Renamo will not surrender”. In addition, he adds, “there are many young people who want to go to war” and they are being held back “because the president of the party, Afonso Dhlakama, is being moderate”.

Source: Deutsche Welle

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