RENAMO to arms or to polls?

Instead of engaging in armed banditry or guerrilla warfare that can be devastating for the entire country, Mozambique’s opposition party Renamo should instead focus its attention on the 2014 presidential and legislative elections to have its voice heard, says Institute for Security Studies (ISS) senior researcher Gwinyayi Dzinesa. He believes Renamo should provide Mozambicans with a clear vision of how everyone can share in the country’s resource wealth and try to beat the ruling Frelimo at the ballot box rather than with guns and grenades.

Renamo, which had waged a 16-year war against Frelimo just after independence, last week announced that the peace agreement that it had signed with the ruling party in 1992 was null and void. Its leaders had retreated to their bush camps in the Gorongoza jungle in the centre of the country in October 2012 and have since been responsible for a number of attacks on security forces and civilians in the area. Earlier this week, the Mozambican army attacked a Renamo base for the second time in two weeks. Dzinesa says he doesn’t believe Renamo will resort to a full-scale war with Frelimo, but could continue its armed banditry, which could be very damaging for the country. It clearly doesn’t have the capacity to return to war.

‘It is difficult to see where they could get weapons and equipment from,’ he says. ‘Renamo might have access to old arms caches since there has been no effective disarmament since 1992.’ During the war Renamo was supported by the former government in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), apartheid South Africa, and the United States – the justification being that Frelimo was a communist ally. The ISS has warned in an earlier report that, to ensure stability in Mozambique, it is crucial that elections be seen as free and fair. The opposition party’s main gripe these last two decades has been around the composition of the security forces and electoral reforms. It accuses the ruling party of stuffing the National Electoral Commission with its own supporters and of rigging the polls.

Yet little came of the nationwide protests that Renamo promised to unleash after the 2009 elections. The party has now decided to boycott the local elections slated for 20 November and still hasn’t pronounced itself on the legislative and presidential polls coming up next year. So far, negotiations between the two parties haven’t born any fruit.

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