After Renamo leader Alfonso Dhlakama last week declared an indefinite truce, he claimed that Mozambican military forces would withdraw from 28 positions in the central district of Gorongosa by the end of June. Dhlakama added that the withdrawal of military forces was part of the agreement between Renamo and the governing Frelimo party that led him to declare the indefinite truce.
Dhlakama made his statement in an interview with the independent weekly Savana on Friday after Mozambican President Felipe Nyusi had announced the withdrawal of troops from the province. Dhlakama claimed this was a quid pro quo for the truce he declared in late December which has now been extended to an indefinite period. Dhlakama said:
“With this indefinite truce, the President of the Republic would commit to removing all the positions of the government forces that are around the Gorongosa region. … They would leave in phases. We shall draw up a calendar, but with a final date, so that by the end of the first half of this year, all the troops have been withdrawn from the Gorongosa region”.
Referring to the armed forces of Mozambique as “the government” Dhlakama also claimed that the government positions had effectively surrounded the Gorongosa mountain range. In 2012, following the discovery of major natural gas reserves, Renamo reactivated old fighters from the civil war that ended in 1992 – 93 and began recruiting others. The government, for its part, stressed that the Constitution only allows one military force in the country and demanded that Renamo disarm.
Sporadic fighting and highway robberies carried out by Renamo fighters has since 2012 functioned as a red flag that, according to many independent analysts, stalled the potential investment and economic development the country was poised for. Mozambique could become the world’s second-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas by the mid-2020s.
Renamo president Alfonso Dhlakama is now living in a Renamo base in the Gorongosa foothills. He said since the war was now over, the military concentration in Gorongosa no longer made any sense. Dhlakama added that only police positions would remain in such places as Gorongosa town and the Vanduzi and Canda administrative pots. One of the positions from which the Mozambican armed forces (FADM) is withdrawing is the former Renamo military base of Mazembe, he said.
Dhlakama said this base will be converted into a joint centre for government and Renamo officers to supervise the truce in the central provinces. “They will have transport so that, in the event of violations in these provinces, or complaints from the communities, they would have to go and investigate”, he added.
A second centre is reportedly being established in Maputo. According to Dhlakama, “this will have the mission of receiving reports from Gorongosa, and from various provinces”. The Maputo centre would analyse these reports and pass them onto to the working group between the government and Renamo that is dealing with military matters.
The Renamo leader recognized that “this process is very complicated and it’s slow”, but he thought it better to go slowly “and try and purge once and for all the problems of the previous agreements”. He said he believed a final agreement could be reached by the end of 2017.
Dhlakama also said that it is crucial that he and Nyusi should reach agreements in principle before the details were discussed in the government – Renamo working groups.“The groups are negotiating the points that the two of us already know about”, he said. “If a Renamo group sits down with a government group and negotiates something that I don’t agree with, and that the President of the Republic doesn’t agree with, then there’s no success”. Dhlakama said he hoped that the agreement he eventually signs with Nyusi “will be the last agreement, and that Mozambicans may rest once and for all”.
Dhlakama denied that the negotiations are taking place in secret. However, he confirmed that “We cannot go round publishing things which are not yet mature. … There’s no secrecy, but we cannot every week, or every day, say ‘’we’re agreeing point X now, we’re agreeing point Y now’’. I think that’s not good in negotiations, because on both sides there are people who sometimes don’t feel good when things are going well, and may want to block them”.
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