3. New Mediation (2013 – Present)
The faith process
During the 114 rounds of Mozambican-mediated talks with the government between April 2013 and August 2015, RENAMO obtained concessions over the politicization of the electoral system and additional roles to fill in the military. Five Mozambican mediators were officially added to talks in January 2014, at RENAMO’s insistence: academic Lourenço do Rosário, Anglican bishop Dinis Sengulane, Roman Catholic priest Felipe Couto, Methodist pastor Anastacio Chembeze and Muslim cleric Sheikh Saide Abibo. Their appointments were made individually by President Guebuza and were a compromise gesture after Afonso Dhlakama wrote a letter to President Guebuza requesting international and national mediation in November 2013. The president wanted to avoid international involvement and to ensure that the mediation relied on government patronage. This was reflected in the way the appointments were made and was initially problematic, but through the provision of technical expertise from the Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, coordination between the mediators improved.
Some of the issues on the agenda for the talks, such as the politicization of the state and the electoral system, were important shifts in policy. In early 2014, the delegations agreed on sweeping changes to electoral legislation, which were then rubber-stamped by parliament. These changes granted the parliamentary political parties absolute dominance of the electoral bodies and political appointees were inserted into the electoral apparatus. The paradox was that RENAMO, during the 2014 elections, was unable to find sufficiently skilled cadres to staff the electoral apparatus.
In early 2014, the delegations agreed on sweeping changes to electoral legislation, which were then rubber-stamped by parliament. These changes granted the parliamentary political parties absolute dominance of the electoral bodies and political appointees were inserted into the electoral apparatus.
During 2014, the dialogue concentrated on the second point of the agenda, defence and security, which led to an agreement to end hostilities, signed by Guebuza and Dhlakama on 5 September 2014. Like in 1992, RENAMO and FADM obtained an amnesty approved by parliament for crimes committed since March 2012. RENAMO, however, as discussed above, refused to hand over a list of its members selected to join FADM and the police. Therefore, the transfer of ‘residual forces’ of RENAMO into the army and the police remains unresolved.
In March 2015, RENAMO tabled its parliamentary bill for more autonomous provincial governments, expecting it to be debated in parliament. This proposal came after Dhlakama and President Nyusi held two rounds of bilateral talks in February 2015 aimed at improving relations. Nyusi successfully convinced Dhlakama to end his boycott of parliament and table the bill for autonomous provincial governments, promising that it would be taken seriously.
This was a step-change from the Guebuza-era treatment of RENAMO and provided hope of a modus vivendi between the government and RENAMO in the short term. But from late March 2015, Dhlakama and RENAMO threatened that if the proposal was rejected, RENAMO would implement it in the provinces regardless. Political tensions increased, resulting in some armed exchanges. On 30 April 2015, parliament rejected the RENAMO proposal by 138 votes to 98 with all FRELIMO deputies voting against the bill, while MDM deputies voted with RENAMO in favour. On 31 July RENAMO submitted a constitutional amendment to the National Assembly that proposed that provincial governors should be appointed by elected provincial authorities, but this was later rejected by all FRELIMO deputies during a vote on 7 December 2015. Dhlakama officially ended RENAMO’s negotiations with the government in August 2015.
The proposal for autonomous regional governments sparked a national debate, which FRELIMO responded to by taking the issue to its grassroots and presenting it as an effort to divide the country. In fact, the proposal advocated a dual administration for elected municipal governments, by a mayor and an elected assembly. Dhlakama would, under this proposal, be able to appoint five of six ‘council presidents’ (where RENAMO most recently won majorities in elections) with the approval of the assemblies and full provincial elections would take place at the same time as the 2019 elections. There were two particularly controversial parts of the draft bill: heads of administrative posts and localities would be named by the new ‘council president’, and provinces would give half of all taxes from minerals, gas and oil extracted from the province to the state. Nominally, RENAMO, through provincial administrations, would therefore draw revenue from some of the country’s most resource-rich provinces, namely Nampula, Zambézia, Tete, Manica and Sofala. This reflects the fact that Dhlakama had calculated that if RENAMO was to survive in the long term, he needed to build up long-term funding. Although not a true separatist, his autonomous regions proposal was an attempt to gain concessions that would put RENAMO in control of patronage positions in order to draw rents.
Rising political tensions and scant progress saw renewed armed violence from May 2015.
Rising political tensions and scant progress saw renewed armed violence from May 2015. Sporadic armed clashes in parts of Tete province from June 2015 resulted in some dead and injured and up to 11,000 Mozambicans fled and registered as refugees in Malawi by mid-2016 (although the majority had left the official camps by September 2016, a large number have stayed in Malawi waiting for a new peace agreement).
Dhlakama’s own vulnerability became apparent when, in September 2015, his security escort was involved in two armed incidents in Manica province. As happened at Satunjira in 2013, it seems that hardliners in FRELIMO wanted to humiliate RENAMO and had launched an ambush. The 25 September was a symbolic day for one of the attacks as it took place on Mozambican Armed Forces Day (and President Nyusi was out of the country). FRELIMO (and by extension, the security forces) remains divided between Nyusi’s allies and those aligned to the former president Armando Guebuza – who had objected to a conciliatory approach to RENAMO.
After the 25-September incident, Dhlakama went into hiding in Gorongosa again. With President Nyusi’s blessing and guarantees of safety official mediators arranged to meet him in the bush and escort him to Beira on 8 October. He was then effectively placed under house arrest by armed riot police and a stand-off ensued with Dhlakama’s armed guards at his Beira house the following day.
After direct mediation by the provincial FRELIMO governor, the MDM’s leader, the MDM mayor of Quelimane and the Catholic bishop of Beira, this stand-off passed without violence as Dhlakama himself recognized that bloodshed needed to be avoided. His guards handed over their weapons and in exchange the police released eight RENAMO supporters they had detained. The Beira disarmament deal also guaranteed that Dhlakama’s armed guards would be retrained as government police. Shortly after, Dhlakama left the city and returned to the safety of the area around Satunjira and RENAMO announced that it no longer had confidence in the five national mediators and requested they be replaced with international mediators, suggesting President Zuma of South Africa and representatives of the Catholic Church.
The renewed conflict of 2015–16 was more serious than the 2013–14 insurrection, but RENAMO’s attacks remained low cost and high profile, intended to frighten people and show that the government was unable to guarantee security, especially of its officials.
Armed clashes escalated from October 2015 until December 2016. The renewed conflict of 2015–16 was more serious than the 2013–14 insurrection, but RENAMO’s attacks remained low cost and high profile, intended to frighten people and show that the government was unable to guarantee security, especially of its officials. Soft targets such as two hospitals and a number of health clinics were part of this objective in 2016, as were ambushes of road convoys, including once again digging trenches across major highways. The government response was stronger than in 2013–14, with civilians targeted in central Mozambique and Tete province, including reports of huts and property burnt, looting and killings. This was probably also reflective of splits in government military forces, different chains of command and mixed messaging on how to respond to this renewed challenge by RENAMO.
These armed incidents, alongside political killings, kidnappings and shootings such as the January 2016 shooting by unidentified gunmen of RENAMO’s Secretary-General Bissopo in Beira, had further eroded trust between both sides. The killings and shootings in 2016 of RENAMO officials in the urban areas reminded Dhlakama of his own vulnerabilities and focused his attention on the need to reach a new agreement with the government.
The Avenida process
President Nyusi consistently signalled that he wanted a third round of ‘direct talks’ with Dhlakama, who agreed in May 2016 to discuss the possibility of formal talks between RENAMO and the government. A Joint Commission was established in Maputo, initially tasked with preparing a meeting between President Nyusi and Dhlakama. This resulted in two phone conversations in mid-June, which endorsed a four-point agenda for formal talks. Each side selected two items on the agenda. RENAMO wanted to discuss governance of the six provinces it administers and the integration of RENAMO military cadres into key positions in the armed forces, while the government’s agenda items included an immediate ceasefire and the disarmament of RENAMO.
The government also compromised on 7 July and officially agreed to the introduction of international mediators (three chosen by RENAMO and three chosen by the government). The mediation team included representatives of the Catholic Church; the European Union, South Africa (proposed by RENAMO), and the Global Leadership Foundation; as well as Sir Ketumile Masire (former President of Botswana); Jonathan Powell (Inter Mediate); and Jakaya Kikwete (former President of Tanzania, proposed by RENAMO).
The former Italian government mediator from the 1992 Rome peace process, Mario Raffaelli was chosen to lead the mediation efforts jointly with Angelo Romano of Community Sant’ Egidio, as representatives of the EU. Sir Ketumile Masire, a member of the Global Leadership Foundation was also invited to be a co-chair. These negotiations took place at the Hotel Avenida, in central Maputo, and the Joint Commission held 47 sessions.
Between July and December 2016, the Joint Commission and the international mediators worked through the agenda items over five rounds of negotiations. The government and RENAMO set up a sub-commission to work on resulting constitutional amendments on decentralization.
The talks between the government and RENAMO in 2015 and 2016 were not helped by an ongoing internal struggle in FRELIMO over strategy. The two armed confrontations involving Afonso Dhlakama in September and October 2015 were apparently not authorized by the Mozambican president, and highlighted the divisions in FRELIMO, particularly between hardliners in the FRELIMO Political Commission and President Nyusi and his cabinet. The stand-off outside Dhlakama’s house in Beira contravened an agreement reached by peace mediators, who had guaranteed Dhlakama’s safe passage as a build up to a further meeting between President Nyusi and Dhlakama. The incident demolished what little trust remained.
The security situation remained volatile, mostly driven by brinkmanship rather than brute force, and mostly confined to the central provinces – Zambézia, Sofala, Manica, Nampula and Tete – where RENAMO received high levels of support in the October 2014 presidential and National Assembly elections. The impasse demonstrated that RENAMO lacked the military capacity to sustain an insurgency across the country and signalled increasing fatigue among its mostly middle-aged combatants (40–60 years old) who desired jobs, pensions and a lasting deal. It is significant that although much of Mozambique’s young people vote for RENAMO to protest the government, there is little evidence that significant numbers of youth have become armed combatants. However, in 2017 there was an up-turn in recruitment of young fighters. This has meant that since 2013, rather than a genuine challenge to the government, RENAMO’s return to armed conflict has been more about extracting a new elite bargain through violence, looking to exploit the government’s inability to provide basic services and rampant inequality as the FRELIMO leadership grows richer.
This has meant that since 2013, rather than a genuine challenge to the government, RENAMO’s return to armed conflict has been more about extracting a new elite bargain through violence.
The 2016 negotiations had two phases. The first ran to November and discussed handing over two to six governorships to RENAMO in exchange for progress on demobilization. RENAMO and FRELIMO finally compromised, agreeing to the principle of supporting constitutional reform to allow for decentralization and elected governorships. It became apparent that Dhlakama was becoming fatigued of his rural existence, under pressure from his supporters for a deal and convinced that RENAMO could make gains in local and national elections in 2018 and 2019, especially if the constitution was amended and decentralization allowed for gubernatorial elections (which would enable him to win new rents to redistribute among his supporters). President Nyusi’s position strengthened over 2016, although two deals agreed in principle by his negotiator Jacinto Veloso were vetoed by the administration (a signal of the lack of full buy-in from hardliners in FRELIMO).
As discussed above, initially these discussions needed facilitation by international mediation led by EU-supported Mario Raffaelli and the Community Sant’ Egidio. However, in November 2016, President Nyusi and Dhlakama decided to take a firmer grip of the process themselves as they had become frustrated by intrigues inside their own negotiating teams and decided to start talking directly to each other by phone (rather than using intermediaries). This was a breakthrough, signalling that both men felt they could reach a new deal and that they wanted greater Mozambican ownership of the process.
The Manzoni process
Most of the international mediators left Mozambique on 16 December 2016 and soon after the Swiss Ambassador to Mozambique, Mirko Manzoni, and mediators Jonathan Powell and Neha Sanghrajka began facilitating direct and continuing engagement between the two leaders, which led to Dhlakama announcing a week-long ceasefire (27 December 2016–3 January 2017). An extension of a 60-day truce (until 4 March 2017) followed, which RENAMO and government forces both observed and armed convoys were suspended during this time. On 3 March, RENAMO extended its truce to 4 May and then extended it indefinitely to allow the new peace talks to progress. RENAMO restarted peaceful political activities in central Mozambique in 2017.
In February 2017, President Nyusi and Dhlakama confirmed that new negotiations were underway. Two six-person working groups were established: one on decentralization and the other on military affairs (including disarming and dismantling the RENAMO militia, integration of RENAMO into the defence and security forces, and equality for former RENAMO fighters in the military). In May 2017, an eight-person Monitoring and Verification Team was established and mandated to supervize the ceasefire.
Furthermore, a contact group made up of ambassadors of Switzerland (Chair), the US (co-Chair), Botswana, China, the EU and Norway and the UK began work on 6 March 2017. Learning from mistakes made during the Avenida process, the contact group was a disciplined and accomplished mediation effort led by Manzoni, who gained trust from his discretion and focus.
By August 2017, sufficient progress was achieved for President Nyusi to meet Dhlakama near his bush base in central Mozambique for a face-to-face meeting to the amazement of many Mozambicans. They met for a second time in February 2018 in central Mozambique and a lasting deal was close to being agreed. However, Dhlakama died on 3 May 2018 in Gorongosa due to complications linked to diabetes.
The unexpected death of Dhlakama was a major setback for a peace process that was coming to fruition and weeks, if not months, away from a final agreement.
The unexpected death of Dhlakama was a major setback for a peace process that was coming to fruition and weeks, if not months, away from a final agreement. Negotiations stalled for many months as RENAMO came to terms with its leadership loss and prepared to choose a successor. Soon after, 58-year-old Ossufo Momade (an ex-general and secretary-general of RENAMO) became interim leader and was later elected at a party congress as permanent leader on 17 January 2019.
The mediation process, resumed in August 2018, when the government and RENAMO signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on military issues, paving the way for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of RENAMO’s militia. The signing of the memorandum coincided with the first anniversary of the meeting between President Nyusi and Dhlakama.
This change of leader also significantly slowed the pace of mediation efforts, as demonstrated by Momade remaining in the safety of the Gorongosa region until eventually visiting Maputo for two rounds of direct talks with President Nyusi in late February and early March 2019. This was followed on 2 June by a meeting between President Nyusi and Momade in Chimoio during which they agreed on a provisional commitment for a definitive peace agreement in early August (scheduled for a final cessation of hostilities ceremony on 1 August in central Mozambique and on the 6 August a final peace deal ceremony in Maputo).
Internal RENAMO discord
The death of Dhlakama in May 2018 not only slowed the pace of negotiations but also changed the internal dynamics of RENAMO and sparked a power struggle between different regions and ethnic groups. Momade is part of the largest ethnic group in Mozambique, the Macua, and is from Nampula province. He and his supporters have been pivoting the party away from central Mozambican leadership, which is dominated by those of the Ndau ethnic group. This was evident during the 2019 Congress and the leadership election, but it also has some electoral logic as RENAMO’s greatest gains in the municipal elections of 2018 were in Zambézia and Nampula provinces.
The discord inside the opposition party became public in June 2019, when a group of rebel RENAMO military officers threatened to overthrow Momade as party leader if he did not step down by 10 July. They alleged that Momade had persecuted and executed two dissidents who had opposed his presidency and his disarmament undertakings with Nyusi. In April 2019, Momade appointed one of his key-backers, André Magibire as the new secretary-general of RENAMO (who is a member of the Military Affairs Commission and has actively been involved in the peace process since it began). He replaced Manuel Bissopo, who was dismissed in February 2019 (Bissopo was from Sofala province and a failed candidate for the RENAMO presidency).
Momade refused to step down and, on 26 June 2019, after weeks of party wrangling, RENAMO officially nominated Ossufo Momade as its presidential candidate in the October elections. Shortly afterwards, on 1 July, RENAMO announced its candidates for governorship elections. These include two popular defectors from MDM – Manuel de Araújo for Zambézia and Ricardo Tomás for Tete. Other key appointments are António Muchanga for Maputo province, Alfredo Magumisse for Manica and Luis Trinta Mecupia for Nampula. These appointments indicate that RENAMO is seriously targeting these governorships and hopes to pick up seats using these names to help galvanize support. Sofala province may prove more difficult. Elias Dhlakama, younger brother of the late RENAMO leader, was caught off-guard by his nomination for Sofala. He only knew of his nomination when it was announced and declined to stand. A dispute over RENAMO leadership continues to rumble on, which may weaken Momade’s grip on Sofala. Voters that disagree with Momade’s leadership are likely to transfer their support to MDM (as happened in 2009).
Figure 4: National Assembly results – Sofala province (1994–2014)
On 24 July 2019, a dissident group of RENAMO’s militia based in Gorongosa, led by Major-General Mariano Nhungue Chissinge and self-styled as a ‘Military Junta’, threatened violence for a second time and to disrupt the final stage of peace talks. In a press conference they called for an end to government dialogue with Momade and declared that Momade was no longer the party’s leader, accusing him of ‘abducting and isolating’ RENAMO officials who had supported the party’s late leader, Afonso Dhlakama.
The death of Afonso Dhlakama was a major setback for the peace talks and probably delayed a final agreement by at least a year. Dhlakama demonstrated statesmanship in seeking a sustainable agreement with President Nyusi and both men had shown brave leadership to meet face-to-face. Time will tell, whether RENAMO’s new leadership, can deliver on peace and capitalize on an electorate increasingly disillusioned with FRELIMO. Time will also tell, whether the recent intra-RENAMO splits hinder its disarmament and ‘imperil completion of the peace process – as well as hinder RENAMO’s 2019 electoral prospects’.