EXCLUSIVE:Renewed political tensions leave Mozambique on the brink of strife
from ARIMANDO DIMINGOS in Maputo, Mozambique
MAPUTO, (CAJ News) – POLITICAL upheavals have returned to haunt
Mozambique, leaving the country teetering on the brink of the catastrophic days of a civil war that left more than 1 million people dead.
The bone of contention is a disputed general elections, held last year in October, which the main opposition Mozambican National Resistance
(RENAMO), believe were rigged in favour of the ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO).
A third candidate also rejected the results of the presidential poll.
The elections steered Filipe Nyusi to power as the fourth president of the country, with more than 57 percent of the vote ahead of longtime
opposition leader, Alfonso Dhlakama, who garnered more than 36 percent.
Daviz Simango of Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM) was a distant third.
The National Assembly elections were a two-horse affair between the two main parties with FRELIMO winning about 56 percent (144 seats) and RENAMO amassing more than 32 percent (89 seats) of the 250 seats on offer.
While European observers endorsed the poll, their local counterparts concluded that while their parallel vote count was broadly in line with
the official results, however, the group still termed the elections “partly free and fair, and not very transparent” citing politicization and a lack of transparency of the electoral bodies, voters being turned away and other irregularities.
Exactly a year later, the situation has degenerated into events reminiscent of the civil war that paralysed the former Portuguese colony
and from 1977 to 1992.
RENAMO waged the bloody civil war against the ruling party.
During most of the civil war, the FRELIMO-formed central government was unable to exercise effective control outside of urban areas, many of which were cut off from the capital.
It is reported that in RENAMO controlled areas, which included up to half of the rural areas in several provinces, health services of any kind were isolated from assistance for years.
The problem worsened when the government cut back spending on health care.
The war was marked by mass human rights violations from both sides of the conflict with RENAMO contributing to the chaos through the use of terror and indiscriminate targeting of civilians.
The central government executed tens of thousands of people while trying to extend its control throughout the country and sent many people to re-education camps where thousands died.
During the war, the opposition proposed a peace agreement based on the secession of RENAMO-controlled northern and western territories as the
independent Republic of Rombesia, but FRELIMO refused, insisting on the undivided sovereignty of the entire country.
An estimated one million Mozambicans perished during the civil war, 1,7 million took refuge in neighbouring states, and several million more were internally displaced.
There are fears of a repeat after Dhlakama, who recently was put under house arrest for threatening to destabilise peace in the Southern African nation, is demanding that his party be allowed autonomous rule in the provinces that have emerged its strongholds.
The provinces (out of 11) comprise Manica, Nampula, Niassa, Sofala, Tete and Zambezia.
Earlier this year, the main opposition warned of a growing risk of instability in the energy-rich nation after parliament rejected the bill.
The bill would have given it rights to elect its own governors but FRELIMO voted against the measure, while MDM abstained, consigning RENAMO to a defeat.
There had been glimmer of hope amid plans by the parties to engage in dialogue but events of the past few weeks appear to have put paid to those prospects.
The increasing political unrest has seen Dhlakama placed under house arrest last Friday as he returned from hiding following a shootout that
claimed 23 members of his entourage in September. It is the second time his convoy has been shot at.
The detention came after Dhlakama’s home outside the commercial capital, Beira, was raided by security forces while members of his security detail were arrested.
Residents in the vicinity forced to leave the suburban area.
Analysts have described the latest developments as a “sad chapter.”
Tete has witnessed some skirmishes between RENAMO supporters and the government forces, who have been on high alert in anticipation of the
situation deteriorating further.
“While majority Mozambicans do not wish to witness another political unrest which will lead to civil war coupled with the killings of innocent people as well as destruction of public infrastructure as was the case in the late 1990s, our party RENAMO) was clearly robbed of its victory by FRELIMO-aligned electoral authorities,” said Juliano Vieria, a senior official in Tete.
“Our party tried in vain to engage amicably with FRELIMO in order to address the looming catastrophic and regrettable political disaster
through settlement of a unity government but all efforts have been outrightly rejected.
“This leaves our president with no choice than demanding what is rightly ours (the six won provinces),” said.
Silvia Eusebio, a staunch FRELIMO supporter, accused the ruling party of reneging on the reforms that helped end the civil war.
“Apart from refusing to accept defeat in the six provinces, FRELIMO is also trying to dominate all key security positions for military and police at the expense of RENAMO, a development which we always treat with great suspicion.
“Mozambique belongs to all but we wonder why one political party always wants to impose itself on the will of the people,” he said in Maputo.
Eusebio appealed to the Botswana President, Ian Khama, who is the Southern African Development Community Chairman to intervene to avert a
The ruling party and government have meanwhile pledged their commitment to peace.
The tensions, as the country celebrates 40 years of Independence, are overshadowing the success story of recent years as Mozambique, a country
of some 26 million people, has been rated as one of the fastest growing economies in the world with an abundance of gas deposits.
A civil war will have disastrous consequence on the regional bloc as the battle could spill into neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe, South
Africa, Swaziland and Tanzania.
“If the situation is not contained, yet another civil war will claim thousands of lives in Mozambique and the region.
“The prospects of war are always minimal in this region but it should be remembered not all RENAMO rebels surrendered their weapons in line with
the Roma Peace Accord of 1992,” said social commentator, Kurt Xavier.
– CAJ News
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