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close this bookThe Courier N 140 - July - Aug 1993 - Dossier: National Minorities - Country Reports: Dominica, Mozambique (EC Courier, 1993, 96 p.)
close this folderCountry reports
close this folderMozambique : Hope at last
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentInterview with president Joaquim Chissano
View the documentInterview with Afonso Dhlakama, RENAMO leader
View the documentEEC-Mozambique cooperation

Interview with Afonso Dhlakama, RENAMO leader

'We shall respect the voters' verdict'

In pure guerrilla tradition, Maringue, the RENAMO headquarters, is out in the bush, an hour's flying time from Beira.

The Red Cross plane, the only aircraft authorised to touch down there, comes to a halt at the end of the overgrown runway, near the old 20-seater biplane which crafty South Africans recently managed to palm off onto the RENAMO for $500 000 and which has never flown since it was delivered.

Paul Domingos, the chief RENAMO negotiator at the talks in Rome, bursts out of the yellowing Savannah on a motorcycle to greet you. You are then guided along a narrow path, 50 cm wide at most, and after a good five minutes' walk, emerge into a huge, shady clearing, fringed with towering trees and dotted with houses and a large, straw-roofed rectangular hut-the meeting room.

By chance, or by organised coincidence, Afonso Dhlakama, the President of the RENAMO, has called all the men in charge of the movement to Maringue that very day for a briefing, which he obligingly interrupts to receive the European Parliament delegation, headed by Henri Saby, the Chairman of the Development Committee. He introduces his RENAMO staff, who are proud to see that such guests have gone to the trouble of coming so far to talk to their leader.

After the talk, Mr Dhlakama answered questions put by The Courier.

· Mr Dhlakama, you now have to transform a guerilla organisation in to a political party. How is this being done?

- Well, we have already started changing our movement into a political party but we're running into a problem of resources, namely money. As a political party we need to have representatives in the different European countries so that we can explain our policies, something we never really had the chance to do during the fighting because we were isolated here. Only the voice of the government was heard, and this spread disinformation in the international community. The signing of the Rome agreement gave us international recognition, so it's easier to send delegates to represent us outside the country, although the lack of money is a very serious problem. But this change is taking place, indeed we can say that, Renamo is in fact a political party since it ' has signed an agreement with the governmeet, an agreement setting out various principles that were agreed. The government is the party holding power and Renamo is in opposition. The agreement confers on Renamo the status of a political party.

· You referred to a lack of money. Who gives you money at present?

-Nobody gives us money, that's why things are so bad. Nobody gives money to Renamo-if you could see how we live, I tell you some of our followers, our fighting men, go barefoot and in rags, they don't have anything at all. I'm telling you that we don't have telephones or fax machines for our representatives. There's no money. If someone was giving us money, we wouldn't have to endure these conditions. We don't even have the basics.

· Is this why you recalled your representatives in Maputo a few weeks ago?

-Actually, this was not a question of money but of the whole process itself. I called my Maputo representatives here, provincial delegates are here as well, as you can see, together with the heads of the committees at Maputo for this meeting here, which is very, very useful. We are reviewing everything that's happened since the signing, the violation of the agreement, all the problems we have, and we are considering our strategy to make sure that our brothers in the government and Frelimo, and in the international community, help to resolve all these problems. That's why we're gathered here.

After the meeting, the delegations and committees will return to Maputo to continue their efforts to find solutions for our problems.

· Mr Dhlakama, the timetable agreed in Rome for the transition to democracy seems to be slipping. Do you share that view?

- No. What I mean is that the Rome agreement has been violated by Frelimo. It's been violated in various ways. For instance, Frelimo is putting, or has already put, some army battalions in the police force, which means that the police force is not independent of parties-it will continue to be the instrument of a party, as it always has been. It has always been an organ of the Frelimo party. This is one of the government's violations. There are others. Under the Rome agreement, Frelimo said it would provide Renamo with accommodation, transport, communications, etc., but the government has not done so. To this day we haven't got proper representation throughout the country for this reason, or even accommodation for myself. I stay on here in the bush because the government hasn't provided the right conditions in Maputo. The fact that the government is not cooperating means that it is violating the agreement. But we are patient, we know that the government is nervous and that it was forced to accept democracy, freedom and elections. Frelimo didn't want this, it's uneasy. But we understand, we won't give up, we're going to make them understand that this is what democracy means.

· From your point of view, is the war really over or will the fighting start again if implementation of the agreement is held up?

-I say no. I believe that there will never again be war in Mozambique. I believe this because only Renamo or Frelimo can wage war. If one provokes and the other responds, there is war. But if one always provokes and the other avoids reacting, there is no war. If we wanted war, we would have started it already because we've been provoked by the government on a number of occasions. I said in Rome, on the day of the signing, that Renamo's guerillas would never resume the fighting, and I have repeated this message to ambassadors and to the United Nations. And I reiterate it now. There will not be war- unless in the future some third party or other people start a third war-but I think that fair, universal and democratic elections are the only way of stopping wars. But in this time of transition, Renamo is having to put up with these government tricks. There won't be a war such as the one in Angola-thetas a terrible situation and people are still dying. That's why we are doing everything we can, not to react to the government's provocations, so that there won't be war.

· Many people do indeed fear a repetition of the Angolan situation in Mozambique. Can you give assurances that, if you lost the elections, which is a possibility, you would respect the voters' verdict?

-Certainly. Our principles are democratic principles. We know the consequences of elections. We did not fight for power, we fought for democracy. If we lost the elections, we'd bow to the principle of democracy and recognise any party, whether it was the government or another party. We'd agree to go into opposition as long as the elected government also recognised the importance of the opposition, the rights of the opposition; we wouldn't have any problem with that. But we should like to ask the government in turn to be patient if it loses the elections. After all, they are used to governing. They've been in power for 17 years. They won't find it easy to respect Renamo when it wins the elections.

· Do you have a programme of government yet?

-Well, we do have our programme, our general principles, but right now we are working on our government's development programme. If Renamo were elected, what it would do in the fields of health, education, the economy, transport, finance, and all that. Our people are drawing up our ideas for each sector and department and soon they will be published.

· Mr Dhlakama, many of the officials you introduced today seem very young and inexperienced. Will they be able to rise to the challenge of governing Mozambique?

-As regards government, running the party, taking part in elections, assuming office and governing on the basis of my democratic programme, I think that we are prepared. As regards my age, I don't think it affects my leadership. I started this struggle when I was very young and I don't see why it should be a problem. It's up to the people. If the people elect me, I shall carry out my programme. I think I could well be the first young African leader to govern democratically because I'd like to tell you, Renamo is the first party of struggle in Africa that was created to bring democracy to Africa. This is very important. I'll be the first such young leader in Africa; it will serve as an example for all the other African countries.

· Won't one of Renamo's first tasks as a political party be to try to make its African neighbours forget its past finks with Rhodesia and South Africa?

-This isn't a problem, no problem at all. The past is the past. We did have a little help from Rhodesia but circumstances dictated this. We received their aid-I'd have liked to receive aid from the United States of America, Portugal, France and Britain, but they didn't give us any, despite the fact that we were defending the same principles that they uphold: freedom, democracy and justice. Those governments made a mistake and so we had to turn to Rhodesia and South Africa for aid in the past, but that's a long time ago. Now that Renamo is a party among other parties we don't have links that could have implications for the party as was the case in the past. I don't think there is a problem.

· One fast question. [low do you explain the fact that people in the areas you control, such as Inhaminga, are so desperately poor that they even lack clothing?

-Well, this is the situation we touched on earlier, the fact that people are living in conditions of great hardship. Everyone living in our areas is suffering great hardship. It's dreadful in view of the fact that there are countries in Europe that make clothing or other things, put them in warehouses and then destroy them when they are out of date, so they do not have anything to send us. Here there are people who are forced to use treebark and such like. These conditions are hard but the people are courageous and still believe in the future. And I as their leader, their long-standing leader, I tell them to look to the future. The present is full of suffering but in future there may be a better life, with clothes, soap and food. These people are hopeful. The end of the war has given them hope and so has the prospect of democracy.