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Mozambique: devolution or revolution?

The internationally mediated new peace talks between the ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) and the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) – its official parliamentary opposition as well as its enemy on the battlefield – began with great fanfare in Maputo on Thursday last week, but were suspended indefinitely just two days later.

Many issues were thrown on the table and such hard lines were taken that the large and very mixed bag of international mediators decided no progress was possible then. The de facto chief mediator, the European Union’s (EU’s) Mario Raffaelli – who also mediated the 1990 – 1992 Rome negotiations that ended the civil war in 1992 – announced after the talks were suspended that mediators were now asking for ‘more order in the discussion.’  This seemed to be a euphemism for ‘let’s get real’ – though it is not uncommon for mediators to take a break near the start to define their own strategies and perhaps offer compromise proposals.

FRELIMO has been negotiating directly with RENAMO on and off for some time, even as a low-level war between them continues. But the ruling party had resisted RENAMO’s demand for foreign mediators to ensure fair play. Eventually President Filipe Nyusi gave in and agreed to an international mediation to be conducted by the EU, the Catholic Church and – rather surprisingly – South African President Jacob Zuma: all proposed by RENAMO.

In fact, FRELIMO has always resisted real decentralisation, for fear of losing control. It appoints all the provincial governors and although it created elected provincial assemblies in 2007, it gave them no real power.

FRELIMO added former Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete; former Botswana president Ketumile Masire – representing the Global Leadership Foundation; and Jonathan Powell, a former envoy of ex-British prime minister Tony Blair, representing the mediating organisation Inter Mediate. Though the agendas of the two sides have not been published, FRELIMO’s demand for a ceasefire is a key issue which RENAMO’s intransigent leader Afonso Dhlakama has flatly rejected. Dhlakama told Savana on Friday that RENAMO would not lay down its guns until the problems that brought about the military conflict had been resolved.

RENAMO leader Dhlakama has refused to lay down arms until all political issues with FRELIMO have been resolved? Photo: Adrien Barbier/ Flickr
RENAMO leader Dhlakama has refused to lay down arms until all political issues with FRELIMO have been resolved? Photo: Adrien Barbier/ Flickr

As Gustavo de Carvalho, a senior researcher in the Peace Operations and Peacebuilding division at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) points out, the problem in Mozambique goes well beyond a ceasefire. Many unresolved issues remain, which date back to the Rome Peace Agreement of 1992. These include the still incomplete disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process of demobilising RENAMO combatants, which remain a destabilising force.

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