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Lusa (File photo)
More than 200 soldiers have been removed from 8 army bases in Gorongosa, but they have only been transferred to other bases in the area, and there are still some troops in 3 of the 8, journalists discovered. Provocatively, most soldiers have been moved to Satungira, Renamo head Afonso Dhlakama‘s former headquarters which was captured by government troops in 2013.
Defence Minister Atanasio M’tumuke said on 30 June that 8 bases had been emptied and that he would take journalists to see. Finally on 5 and 6 July a restricted group of Mozambican journalists was taken to 7 of the bases and found 4 empty and 3 still with a military presence. Journalists found government forces in Nhamadijwa, Nhariroza and Magueiras, but saw no troops in Nhachenge, MaPanga-Panga, Nhancunga and Lourenco. The government military commander told the journalists at first that all 8 bases had been evacuated, but later admitted that the troops were still in the area. (O Pais 7 July)
There is a joint Renamo-government military commission, based in Satungjra, overseeing the withdrawal of troops. On the government side of the commission, Borges Nordino told the journalists that the withdrawal had been verified. But Joao Buca for Renamo said “troops are not being withdrawn, they are just being rotated.” For example troops were withdrawn from Maguerias but then troops being withdrawn from Nhachenge were sent to Magueiras, he said. (STV 6 July, http://bit.ly/2tUZVnI)
The commander of forces in Gorongosa is named as Wind Wind Badford by O Pais and Winde Uani Bed Ford by Savana.
State media has been reporting that Nyusi only ordered the closure of the 8 bases, but Nyusi has never public commented. Dhlakama said that Nyusi had agreed to close all 26 bases and withdraw all troops from Gorongosa by 30 June. It remains unclear what was agreed on the telephone.
Two Mozambican journalists were kicked off the media delegation. Andre Catueira, who reports for Savana and the Portuguese press agency LUSA, was flown from Maputo by the military. But at the start of the trip into the Gorongosa area, the Defence Ministry press aide asked if anyone was from MISA, the Media Institute of Southern Africa, a regional journalist’s association. Catieira confirmed he was Mozambique vice president and was immediately excluded. Also excluded at that point was the correspondent for Zambeze, Benedito Cobrissua. Asked for a reason, the press aide simply said ‘orders from above’. When pushed for more information, he only said LUSA and Zambeze were banned, according to a MISA statement.
Comment: Blaming the Portuguese?
There is an important group within Frelimo using a nationalist and anticolonial position on the two most contentious issues in Mozambique today. They are trying to block negotiations with Renamo and keep Dhlakama in the bush, and trying to block investigations of the $2 bn secret debt. Part of this involves blaming Portugal, the former colonial power. Thus the Portuguese press agency LUSA was banned from the Gorongosa trip.
Facebook has been used repeatedly to attack critics of the government and a post on 5 July on Facebook said that the media group Soico, owner of STV and O Pais, and the Budget Monitoring Group which was holding a public meeting on the Kroll report on 6 July, were working for the Portuguese Secret Service. Thelr goal is to convince the IMF and donors to not restore budget support, the Facebook post claims. And Antonio Carlos do Rosario, SISE official and head of the three secret debt companies, took the line that Kroll was an agent of foreign powers and he was defending the motherland against them.
Such nationalism can be see as a last refuge of people with their backs to the wall, but it does appear that such views are held at high levels of the military and security services. And they are likely to raise the pressure on the critics.
By Joseph HanlonSource: News Reports & Clippings
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