Renamo leader and commander-in chief Alfonso Dhlakama has said his army will return to war and destroy Mozambique unless the government of President Armando Guebuza meets several demands, key among them political reforms and a revision of the 1992 peace accord which ended the country’s civil war and led to the integration of former Renamo fighters into the army, police and state institutions.
Dhlakama left his home in the port of Nampula last month and led an estimated 800 armed Renamo bodyguards back to base at Casa Banana on the foot of Mount Gorongossa. He said he was fed up with President Guebuza’s failure to share government posts, reform the political system and integrate ex-Renamo rebels into the security forces. He has vowed never to leave Gorongossa unless Guebuza agrees to a revision of the General Peace Agreement – signed to end the war on 4 October 1992 – to meet his demands.
Dhlakama has also set two deadlines for President Guebuza to report to his base in Gorongossa to discuss his demands or face a renewal of the civil war which ended 20 years ago, but both have been ignored and passed without a flare-up of hostilities. Renamo and the Frelimo government fought a bitter civil war which raged from 1977 and ended with the signing of the Rome Peace Accords in 1992, leading to the formation of a unity government. In terms of the agreement, political leaders were to share government posts equitably while all former combatants who were not demobilised were to be integrated into the police and the Armed Forces for the Defence of Mozambique (FADM).
Renamo said the government has not even tried to honour the agreement. Dhlakama said he also wanted a bigger share of Mozambique’s expected coal and gas profits and an overhaul of the electoral system to prevent alleged fraud.
Last week Dhlakama said although he does now want conflict, the Renamo units he has re-assembled are ready to take Mozambique back to a war situation if necessary. The former rebel leader says due to marginalisation and exclusion from sharing the country’s resources, Renamo is also considering using military power to divide Mozambique in a way that will leave it running the north while the Frelimo government takes the south of the country.
“I am training my men and, if we need to, we will leave here (Gorongossa) and destroy Mozambique. If it is necessary, we can go backwards. We prefer a poor country than to have people eating from our pot. We want to say to Guebuza, ‘You are eating well. We want to eat well too. The situation cannot go on like this. We are thinking of asking for the country to be divided. Frelimo will have the south and we will have the centre and north. If they delay, they will be held responsible for the consequences. I will not leave here without solutions for everything I have demanded”, he declared in an interview with AFP.
Last week Frelimo set up a commission to meet with Renamo to discuss its grievances, but Renamo refused to meet with the commission. At a press conference on Saturday, Renamo national spokesperson Fernando Mazanga said Renamo was not interested in negotiating with any Frelimo delegation, but only with “serious people” from the government, reports The Zimbabwean. Mazanga said that Renamo has set up its own team of negotiators.
Renamo units started military drills two weeks ago and since then several former guerrillas are reported to have gone back to Casa Banana, a rudimentary military camp of mud and thatch huts. Dhlakama said Renamo can mobilise up to 5 000 troops and will draw its firepower from a network of secret arms dumps containing mortars, AK-47 rifles, ammunition and rockets which were not surrendered to the disarmament authority when the civil war ended.
He said his guerrillas are prepared to defend themselves in the event of an attack by a 60-man elite police Rapid Response Force which has been deployed by the government to keep an eye on Casa Banana. Renamo views the deployment of the police force to Gorongossa as a provocation because there is a long history of bad blood between the two forces. Four members of Renamo were allegedly killed by the police unit during clashes between the two sides in Nampula in April this year. Despite growing regional concern over the possibility of a return to civil war, the government has ignored Dhlakama and says it does not take his threats of war seriously.
In terms of the Rome Peace Accords signed to end sixteen years of civil war in 1992, Mozambique was supposed to set up an army of 30 000, of which 15 000 were to be drawn from the government and another 15 000 from Renamo. However, when the new army was formed in 1994, it had less than 12 000 men with more officers than privates. Observers say many ex-combatants refused to join the security forces because of war fatigue. The process was stopped in mid-1994 when attempts to conscript the men forcibly led to troop mutinies in assembly points holding both Renamo and government forces.