Mozambique pact goes up in smoke

April 17, 1991

By Paul Fauvet

MAPUTO, Mozambique — The only agreement between the Mozambican government and the South African-backed Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo or MNR) seems close to collapse as rebels announced in mid-March that they were reneging on the accord.

The December 1 agreement signed in Rome restricted Zimbabwean troops deployed in Mozambique to the Beira and Limpopo Corridors, the two rail lines that link landlocked Zimbabwe to the Mozambican coast. In return, the MNR promised to cease all military operations against the two corridors.

In late February, MNR commander-in-chief Alfonso Dhlakama announced that he had authorised renewed attacks on the Limpopo Corridor and claimed Zimbabweans were still operating "all over the country".

The MNR named 52 places where Zimbabwean troops were still stationed, but Zimbabwe denied this, saying that redeployment of its troops into the two corridors was completed on December 28.

The international Joint Verification Commission in charge of monitoring implementation of the agreement painstakingly visited 18 of the alleged sites, looking for signs of a Zimbabwean presence. It could not find any.

The MNR's response was increasingly hysterical. Dhlakama claimed the commission's work amounted to "nothing" and demanded the removal of Zimbabwean troops by April 5, or the Beira Corridor would also come under attack. Dhlakama claimed there were even Zimbabweans "hidden in Maputo, disguised as Frelimo troops". He put their numbers inside the country at 25,000. Even at the height of Zimbabwean military offensives against the MNR, no observer had put the number of Zimbabwean troops at more than 12,000. Zimbabwe says it has now reduced the number to 5000 — 3000 in the Beira Corridor and 2000 in the Limpopo Corridor.

The MNR implemented its threat to attack the Limpopo Corridor. In late February there were five incidents of sabotage. Italy's ambassador to Mozambique, who chairs the monitoring commission, condemned the MNR violation of the agreement.

The commission, in addition to the belligerents (Mozambique, Zimbabwe and the MNR) and Italy, contains representatives from the United States, Soviet Union, Britain, France, Portugal, Zambia, Congo and Kenya. Its decisions are made by consensus, and even Kenya, which supports the MNR, has joined the other commission members in condemning Dhlakama's stand.

On March 11, Dhlakama met with US deputy assistant secretary of state Jeffrey Davidow. Davidow reportedly expressed Washington's displeasure at the MNR's behaviour, and Dhlakama was said to ld be no further attacks on either of the corridors.

This promise lasted only five days. On March 16, the MNR attacked a train full of railway maintenance workers, killing three and injuring five.

The MNR says, meanwhile, that it is willing to resume negotiations with the government — but not about a cease-fire.

Dhlakama told a South African newspaper that he did not consider a cease-fire possible before the end of the year. The rebels' apparent aim is to use their military strength to exact further political concessions rather than risk an early verdict from the electorate.

Mozambique's President Joaquim Chissano reacted angrily to the MNR's tactics in a March 15 speech, declaring, "It is beyond comprehension that the peace process should be delayed, and at each step obstacles and pretexts are raised to extend the sacrifices and decay that our people and country are suffering".

The pluralist provisions of the new constitution have allowed other political parties to emerge to challenge the ruling Frelimo party. All these new groups are potential competitors with the MNR for the right-wing vote.

So far, three parties have announced their existence. PALMO (Liberal and Democratic Party of Mozambique) put out a manifesto that Frelimo charged was racist toward the country's white, Asian and mixed-race minorities. PALMO also inveighed against an alleged southern domination of the government, to the detriment of Mozambicans from the centre and north.

Less inflammatory is the Mozambique National Union. This is a breakaway from the MNR, based in the central province of Zambezia, where it still claims to have an armed contingent. Although labelling itself "social democratic", the party is firmly anticommunist and preaches free market economics.

The third party, the Independent Congress of Mozambique, is remarkable for being based in Kenya. Its president, Victor Saene, admitted that 5000 of his party's claimed membership of 5800 were living in Kenya.

Frelimo still has no competition on the left or centre, and is the only party that is organised nationwide. Yet Frelimo, far from gathering the fruits of the political changes it initiated, seems paralysed. There is massive ideological confusion in Frelimo. The party's 1989 congress defined Frelimo as a "party of all the people" and dropped previous references to class struggle.

Frelimo has yet to decide whether it will return to the party's roots and seek its electoral base among peasants and workers, or whether it will seek the favours of the emerging national bourgeoisie. That sector has grown in strength in recent years as the economy has been "liberalised" under IMF dictates.

The issue will probably not be resolved before the Extraordinary Congress of Frelimo due later this year. Speaking in March, Chissano urged Frelimo cadres not to fall into "pessimism and passivity" — something that is all too evident, particularly in the main cities.
[Abridged from the US Guardian.]

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