By Joseph Hanlon
Renamo’s enlarged National Council meeting Thursday in Beira decided that negotiations with the government are over. Using a pair of popular Portuguese expressions, Jose Manteigas, spokesman for the meeting, said the negotiations are “em aguas de bacalhau” – meaning useless or fishing in waters that have no fish – and that the Monday talks are “fora de barulho” – meaning a playing card which is not in the pack, and thus is invalid or false. (Diario de Mocambique 12 June)
President Filipe Nyusi had already said he saw no point in continuing the meetings. But on Friday he announced a new round of talks with opposition leaders, which could include Dhlakama. (Lusa 12 June,Noticias 13 June)
Renamo President Afonso Dhlakama, speaking Friday after the close of the National Council meeting, gave the government three days to open negotiations on “decentralising the state”. If that did not happen, Dhlakama said Renamo would carry out the National Council decision that Renamo should impose its own government on the five provinces it says it won in the elections. (Lusa 12 June) “Renamo will govern by force in the provinces where it won the elections,” Manteigas said Wednesday. (O Pais, 12 June) And on Thursday he added that Renamo would occupy provincial government buildings to install its own administration. Present government officials would be given the choice of remaining in their posts and joining Renamo, or leaving and handing over to Renamo. (Lusa 11 & 12 June)
Lusa reported Friday (12 June) that there were significant numbers of military and riot police vehicles on the streets in Beira and Nampula.
Manteigas also said that the government does not want to implement the cease fire agreed on 5 September 2014, so the national council had decided that Renamo will create its own police and army, and that it already had “men in combat positions” throughout the country. (Canal de Mocambique 12 June) Initially they will just be used to defend President Afonso Dhlakama and Renamo members from attacks by the police, riot police, and army.
The Renamo proposal for “autonomous provinces” takes as its model Maputo city, which is both a province with a governor nominated by the President, and a city with an elected mayor, and apply it to all provinces – giving the current provincial assemblies the same power as Maputo city assembly, and creating a new post of an elected head of the provincial assembly. But a key problem is that the Renamo bill says that there would be no elections initially, and Dhlakama would nominate the first assembly presidents in the five provinces he claims he won – and then also nominate district administrators and other local officials.
Comment: Both Frelimo and Renamo seem divided, although on both sides the hard line is dominant. Renamo on Wednesday created a Political Affairs Commission to put more dynamism into the political side of Renamo. MediaFax (11 June) says the new body represents the military – the generals and the Presidential Guard, who remain armed, and who say they have gained nothing from two decades of peace and have been putting pressure on Dhlakama. Frelimo hard liners and president Nyusi argue that the “autonomous provinces” proposal is unconstitutional, and in any case would destroy national unity.
O Pais (11 June) reports that some senior Renamo figures accept that the proposal for “autonomous provinces” (autarquias provinciais) was badly written and they want to rewrite it and resubmit it to parliament. And in his statement Friday, Dhlakama said his proposal for autonomous provinces would be extended to all 11 provinces. Perhaps most importantly, in his Friday statement Dhlakama said he wanted talks about “decentralising the state” – less than demanding approval of autonomous provinces. In a press briefing Tuesday before the National Council meeting, Dhlakama admitted that “sharing power would be the first step towards decentralization of state administration.” So there is a recognition that any negotiation is not about decentralisation or demobilisation, but about giving some power to Renamo.
Meanwhile, on the Frelimo side, some argue that some further decentralisation to provincial assemblies is both useful and would not divide the country. Now Nyusi has made an implicit offer of renewed direct talks. But Dhlakama wants a share of power, which Frelimo would not give. So can Nyusi offer Dhlakama anything that the Renamo president would accept? jh