Mozambique: Mediators suspend talks, war escalates
Efforts to end the growing violent conflict in Mozambique have stalled, largely because of the hard line positions taken by the government and the armed opposition group Renamo. There has been an increase in attacks and deaths by Renamo in recent months.
Government-Renamo negotiations resumed briefly on Wednesday 27 July and then were suspended by the mediators until Monday 8 August. The mediators submitted proposals in response to the first item on the agenda, Renamo's demand to take power in six provinces. On Saturday 23 July, because of what lead mediator Mario Raffaelli described as “several impasses”, the mediators suspended talks and drew up their own proposals which were submitted to the two sides on Wednesday. Raffaelli said: “We urge the two sides to seriously consider the proposals”. He said the suspension in talks was for "logistical reasons", but it will also allow the two sides extra time to consider how to respond. Raffaelli also said that the mediators had met twice with President Filipe Nyusi and maintained telephone contact with Renamo head Afonso Dhlakama.
Both sides have taken hard lines. Government says the Renamo demand is unconstitutional and the constitution must be followed. Ivone Soares, head of the Renamo parliamentary bench, told the closing parliament session Thursday 28 July that “never, never, never will Renamo give up the governance of the six provinces”. Savana (29 July) says that its sources claim that the mediators "came to the conclusion that the two parties are not yet prepared for a serious dialogue and decided to leave the country. … According to our sources, there was no opening for counter-proposals from either side."
In the face of this intransigence and lack of seriousness on both sides, some of the mediators were not prepared tocontinue clearing their diaries and pay the costs of staying in Maputo. Finally, there also appear to be divisions within the large number of mediators and less than total support for Raffaelli as lead mediator. Savana says two of the government nominated mediators, Quett Masire and Jonathan Powell, left Maputo on 25 July, two days before the negotiations were suspended, while Jakaya Kikwete never joined the talks.
As negotiations are suspended, the war is being stepped up with a major escalation of Renamo attacks. In a particularly provocative action, Renamo guerrillas raided Mopeia, Zambezia, where President Filipe Nyusi had held a public rally just a week before. And there are reports of more deaths than previously admitted. Paulo Manjacunene, Frelimo first secretary in Sofala, said Saturday that 108 Frelimo members had been killed by Renamo since mid-December. (O Pais 1 Aug; it is unclear from the article if this figure is national or just Sofala.)
On 25 July gunman fired on a Vale coal train in Cheringoma, Sofala, injuring two people in the engine cab. On 8 June, Vale suspended the movement of its trains along the Sena line after two attacks, resuming the transport of coal from Moatize to Beira on 27 June. That traffic has been stopped again. The next day, 26 July, Renamo attacked the Cheringoma administrative post, killed a policeman, burned a vehicle of the National Institute for Social Action (Instituto Nacional de Acção Social, INAS) and stole pension payments being distributed. (Lusa, Rhula, AIM, O Pais)
On Saturday 30 July a Renamo group of 20 attacked the district town of Mopeia, Zambezia, where President Filipe Nyusi had held a rally on 22 July. It was the first Renamo attack on the town, although Renamo has been active in the district. At least two people were killed in the early morning raid. The police station, government offices, hospital and a health post were attacked; gunfire continued for 45 minutes; the police post was held for an hour and prisoners freed. Two government vehicles were burned and the health post damaged; medicines were stolen. (AIM Pt 30, 31 July; Diario da Zambezia 1 Aug) O Pais (1 Aug) reports that the local director of the security services SISE is missing.
Interviewed by AIM, the Mopeia district administrator, Vidal Bila, gave a real feeling of a country at war. He said Renamo had hoped to capture weapons from the police post, "but they failed because, strategically, weapons are no longer stored at the command post. Each police person takes their weapon home."
In other Renamo attacks the administrator's house was attacked, but Bila noted that his home was not attacked because he instructed the two police officers and their bodyguards to remain quiet, leading Renamo to think the house was not occupied - a decision which he said saved their lives. (AIM Pt 30 July)
In another expansion of the war, there have been two attacks in Maúa, a district in the centre of Niassa in an area where there have been no previously reported attacks. On 24 July in Mapula and 31 July in Maiaca, Renamo gunmen attacked the health centre, the police station, and the house of the head of the administrative post. The gunmen stole medicines and surgical equipment and fired shots. (AIM Pt 31 July) On 24 July Renamo is said to have killed the wife of the village secretary in Tsana, Funhalouro, Inhambane.
Police say that the N7 Vanduzi-Changara convoy is being attacked three times a week. Drivers involved in the attack on 22 July say it injured 16 people, not the two claimed by the police. (Savana 29 July).
Afonso Dhlakama's tourmaline mine in Barue, Manica, has been ordered to close by the mining inspector (Inspecao Geral dos Recursos Minerais e Energia), because it did not pay a fine last year after failing to pay taxes and an accident which killed one miner. (VoA Pt 28 July)
The highest-ranking former Renamo fighter in the military was retired by President Nyusi on 27 July. Olimpio Cambona had been Deputy Chief of Staff of the armed forces (FADM). As lieutenant general, Cambona was the highest-ranking Renamo member to join the FADM after the 1992 peace accord. Renamo has repeatedly accused the government of marginalising officials from the opposition and favouring officials linked to the ruling party. But Renamo spokesman Antonio Muchanga told Deutsche Welle that this retirement was normal, and that at his rank no one can serve for more than 8 years, which Cambona had done. But he went on to argue that other Renamo commanders had been improperly removed before reaching the time limit.
Of 11,000 refugees in Malawi, all but 1800 have returned home to Tete, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.