Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi gave his first state of the nation address on 16 December, but his speech was overshadowed by the ‘counter’ state of the nation given by Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama over a telephone to a packed room. It was his first public address to the media in over two months and along with a subsequent interview gave Mozambique Politics & Security an opportunity to look at Renamo’s intentions in 2016, though they follow the same trend that Dhlakama has been using since the 2014 elections.
Dhlakama first reassured everyone that he was alive and well and claimed that he was speaking from Satunjira, Renamo’s historic military base which was captured and overrun by the army in 2013. He then announced his determination to seize power in six of Mozambique’s 11 provinces, and set the date for doing so as March or April 2016. This was a repeat of the position he has been taking since the October 2014 election, of announcing and then postponing the date for Renamo to take power in these provinces.
Once again he was unclear on how exactly he intends to govern; he said that governors, administrators and directors would be appointed and take office without firing a single bullet But in an interview published in Canal de Moçambique’s edition of 6 January he reaffirmed that he was ready to exert his ‘right to defence’, namely, to wage war.
The old rebel seemed to have run out of patience after two new laws that Renamo had put forward – with the aim of creating autonomous provinces – were rejected by Frelimo in April and December 2015. On 16 December he said that Renamo would not attack crucial economic infrastructure. If true, this would contrast with the 1976-1992 civil war, when Renamo attacks devastated Mozambique as well as the instability in 2013-2014, when the centre of the country was paralysed.
Political analyst Egidio Vaz told Mozambique Politics & Security that, despite affirming that he would only negotiate once he is in power, by setting a new deadline Dhlakama is reopening a window for negotiations. The biggest point of contention in negotiations remains the reintegration of Renamo’s remaining military forces in the police and the army. Over 100 rounds of weekly meetings between the Government and Renamo representatives over three years failed to produce a solution.
Until the dialogue was suspended in August 2015, the Government continued to insist on Renamo providing a detailed list of the soldiers to be reinstated. Renamo instead sought an initial agreement on a reintegration model, and implicitly demanded half of the commanding positions. Meanwhile the state-owned media continue to highlight the cases of any Renamo military men who voluntarily reintegrate into the army, in order to show that the rebellion is losing some of its lustre.
The uncertainty about the country’s politico-military situation is likely to stretch out over the coming year. Dhlakama’s announcement could just be another deadline which he might easily postpone with a bit of media spin, but, despite repeatedly going against his word, his credibility does not seem tarnished among his impoverished supporters. Alternatively it could, as Canal de Moçambique suggested in its recent editorial, generate massive demonstrations if the masses who support Dhlakama get tired of the recent economic hardships.