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File photo / António Muchanga, Renamo spokesman
The Mozambican rebel movement Renamo on Tuesday denied that the government’s defence and security forces have withdrawn from eight positions around the Gorongosa mountain in the central province of Sofala,
President Filipe Nyusi had announced that troops would withdraw from these positions by 26 June. When Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama claimed last week that there had been no withdrawal, the Defence Minister, Atanasio M’tumuke, retorted that forces had been withdrawn from all eight positions specified by the President.
At a press conference at the Renamo Maputo office on Tuesday, the party’s national spokesperson, Antonio Muchanga, claimed that troops had only moved from one position to another, and this should not be regarded as a withdrawal.
“They moved from the positions at Maphangaphanga, Nhacunga, Nhaugenge and Nhamadjiua, and the forces that had been there went to the positions of Zogorwe, near the Nhadue river, Tazaronda, Nhaulanga and Mucoza”, said Muchanga. He claimed these movements had taken place before 25 June, the date of Nyusi’s withdrawal announcement.
On 26 June, said Muchanga, the only movements had been from the Lourenco position to the headquarters of the Canda administrative post, and from the Nhalilos position to Nhaulanga. Again, he did not regard these movements as a genuine withdrawal.
Muchanga claimed that, in his phone conversations with Dhlakama, Nyusi had agreed a withdrawal, by the end of June, from 26 positions held by the defence and security forces in Gorongosa.
He added that when, on 4 May, Dhlakama extended the Renamo truce for an indefinite period, it was in the belief that the government forces would indeed be moved from the 26 positions by 30 June.
“What we are demanding is compliance with this understanding”, said Muchanga. “If there are difficulties, then say so, and the two leaders can then find a better way out. The truth is that no-one has left Gorongosa. The failure to leave calls into question the word of the Commander-in-Chief”.
M’tumuke had said the government would invite journalists to see for themselves that the withdrawal has taken place.
Muchanga responded that, if the Minister wants to take journalists to Gorongosa, he can do so “but what we want is the withdrawal of the defence and security forces from the positions back to barracks”.
Muchanga also insisted that Renamo armed men be recruited into the armed forces (FADM), the police and the security service (SISE).
But volunteers from Renamo were included in the FADM when it was set up in1994. The initial core of the FADM consisted of volunteers from the old government army, the FAM/FPLM, and from Renamo. Since then, the FADM has grown on the basis of conscription, and conscripts are not asked what political party they support.
Reintroducing recruitment on a political basis now would be fraught with difficulties, and arguably unconstitutional. Furthermore, anybody who was in the Renamo army at the end of the war of destabilisation, in 1992, had the opportunity to join the FADM. Those who chose not to do so were given 18 months demobilisation pay, much of which was paid for by foreign donors.
Those who fought in the war are by now, 25 years later, too old for normal recruitment into the FADM. But it is suspected that Renamo has illegally recruited younger people into its militia, although no-one is entirely sure how many people are in the Renamo force.
Asked what Renamo would do now, faced with the government’s alleged failure to withdraw its forces from the Gorongosa positions, Muchanga promised that Renamo would continue to interact with President Nyusi to ensure that agreements reached between Nyusi and Dhlakama are implemented.
One difficulty inherent in the dialogue between Nyusi and Dhlakama is that nothing is written down, which makes it difficult for outsiders to know precisely what was agreed about withdrawal from Gorongosa.
Certainly M’tumuke was in no doubt that the withdrawal only covers places from which Renamo was expelled in the recent past. He told reporters last Friday “we only withdrew from the positions we had occupied during our pursuit of the Renamo gunmen”.
The minister clearly had no intention of withdrawing forces from positions that had been held prior to the recent clashes with Renamo.