“I have honor to declare Mozambique as a country free of the threats of landmines.” That is how Oldemiro Baloi, the Mozambican Foreign Minister announced to the world of Mozambique’s post-war gains in September 2015. The world celebrated with Mozambique as this is a country that was at war for four decades. The exact number of lives claimed by landmines is not known but Human Rights Watch estimated that between 10 000 to 15 000 lives had been lost by 1994. That was more than two decades before the proclamation by the Mozambican government and one can only imagine the undocumented loss of life in that period. From fighting off the Portuguese imperial power to fighting each other, Mozambique has been the absolute war-monger of Southern Africa. Peace comes but it never lasts and even when it does seem to prevail, it is embroiled in distrust. Will the Mozambican debacle ever end?
Who are Frelimo and Renamo?
Mozambique’s Frelimo and Renamo, the warring parties signed a peace deal in 1992 after decades of civil war that started almost immediately after the Portuguese pull-out in 1975. Speaking to IBTimes UK, Joseph Hanlon, a journalist and development researcher said Frelimo was founded in 1962 in Tanzania by exiled Mozambicans seeking to overthrow Portuguese rule. This movement became the ruling party of young Mozambique in 1975. Renamo on the other hand was formed by white Rhodesians seeking to keep Mozambique from supporting black guerrillas trying to overthrow the Rhodesian government. South African armed forces however took over the sponsorship of the dissident outfit which used various degrees of sabotage to pressurize Frelimo to desist from supporting nationalist movements. The civil instability claimed up to 200,000 lives and displaced about 2,000,000 Mozambicans after which the 1992 peace agreement was signed. There have been five relatively peaceful national multiparty elections since the agreement and hope is high for the future but there is always an imminent danger of another show-down.
The September 2014 Peace Deal
In October 2013, Afonso Dhlakama repudiated the 1992 peace agreement after a stint in his bush base of Sofala that resulted in intermittent violence. Violent clashes between government troops and the Renamo rebel fighters continued until a new deal was brokered in September 2014. Speaking on the side-lines of the peace accord finalisation, Renamo’s negotiator Saimone Macuiane said, “The declaration of the cessation of military hostilities which we’ve just signed is made in the spirit of good faith and represents the will of all of Mozambique’s people to establish peace and harmony in our country.”
The problem with Mozambican peace has always been it does not last. Accords are just signed paper and Dhlakama is not compelled by them to stay away from the jungle. After the October 2014 election loss to Felipe Nyusi, Dhlakama claimed he had been cheated and went back to the jungle. He is Mozambique’s Tarzan except he is in no mood for good behaviour the moment he goes into the jungle. This could simply be desperation as it seems he is a man who hoped to achieve political glory but his efforts are frustrated at every corner by the popular vote.
Renamo Provinces and the looming threat of war
Mozambican peace should be added to the dictionaries as an evolved type of stability that only lasts for a moment. Now that Dhlakama is back in the bush, he is a threat to stability. The Washington Post reports that he has kept an army of around 150 men and a 10-man “presidential guard” which he adamantly refuses to disarm. Since his loss to Felipe Nyusi, Dhlakama has shown intentions of seizing control of six Northern provinces- Manica, Sofala, Zambezia, Nampula, Tetet and Niassa. Now he says by end of March, he would have taken over the six provinces “peacefully” if he faces no resistance. Resistance is however to be expected and on 20 January, Manuel Bissopo’s was seriously injured and his bodyguard killed. Manuel Bissopo is Renamo’s secretary general. Renamo carried out attacks on the main North-South highway in Sofala. Six people were injured in the attacks and a few days after, the dissident outfit raided a town and burnt houses, injuring two people. The United Nations refugee agency reports that nearly 11,500 Mozambicans have fled their country to Malawi since mid-December, accusing the government of arbitrarily burning their houses in search of dissidents.
UNHCR spokesperson Leo Dobbs said, “Early this year the refugeed we talked to said they were fleeing violence in their villages and more recent arrivals have said that they were fleeing for preventive reasons after fearing imminent clashes between government forces and Renamo, the main opposition group, which has said it wishes to take control of six provinces in the north of Mozambique.”
The peace and relative economic prosperity of Mozambique again hangs in the balance and the warring parties are the same. It is a pity that when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. The general populace being displaced and losing houses to fires started by Renamo and government troops is feeling the heat while the war-mongers direct the strife from behind the scenes.
Image Credit: AFP