Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Mozambique’s former rebel movement Renamo, on Saturday threatened to set up a secessionist “Republic of Central and Northern Mozambique”.
Dhlakama does not recognise the results of the 15 October general elections, according to which Filipe Nyusi, candidate of the ruling Frelimo Party, was elected president with 57 per cent of the votes.
Dhlakama claims the elections were fraudulent, even though there were literally thousands of Renamo appointees at all levels of the electoral apparatus, from the polling station staff, right up to the National Elections Commission (CNE).
Addressing a rally in the central city of Beira, cited by the independent television station STV, Dhlakama announced “Renamo will form the provincial governments in the six provinces and I, Afonso Dhlakama, will become President of the Republic of Central and Northern Mozambique”.
In five of the provinces concerned – Sofala, Zambezia, Manica, Tete and Nampula – Dhlakama won the largest share of the presidential vote in October. But in only two of them (Sofala and Zambezia) was Renamo the largest party in the parliamentary election. In the sixth province Dhlakama claims, Niassa, the ruling Frelimo party won both the presidential and the parliamentary election.
Although this is obviously a secessionist proposal, Dhlakama claimed that he does not want to divide the country, or give independence to the central and northern regions. He claimed it was a proposal for “political and economic autonomy”, and guaranteed that Mozambicans will not need passports to travel between his “Republic” and the rest of the country.
He did not explain where the money, the staff or the offices to run a completely new republic would come from.
He dismissed claims that his proposal flagrantly violates the Mozambican Constitution. “In no part of the world are there constitutions that cannot be amended”, he said. There were also democracies with “autonomous provinces”, and he cited the Portuguese regions of Madeira and the Azores as examples.
The Mozambican Constitution does indeed contain provisions for its own amendment. Constitutional amendments require a two thirds majority in the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.
But Renamo cannot possibly muster such a majority. Not only does Renamo only hold 89 of the 250 seats in the new Assembly, but Dhlakama is also threatening to boycott parliamentary sittings altogether.
Furthermore, the Constitution also states that the unitary nature of the Mozambican state must be respected in any constitutional amendment. The only way to override that would be through a nationwide referendum.
Dhlakama declared that he is willing to negotiate with the government. But he also claimed that he is “politically and militarily superior” and will, if necessary “govern by force” in his secessionist republic. This sounds, not like negotiation, but like an ultimatum.
Although he is threatening to demolish the Mozambican state, Dhlakama was escorted to and from his rally by a contingent of the Mozambican police force.
Threats to split the country in two, usually along the line of the Save river, the conventional boundary between southern and central Mozambique, have been Renamo staples for years, and so far the threats have never come to anything.
Dhlakama refused to give any date for proclaiming his new republic, and he will therefore be able to postpone it indefinitely without actually abandoning the idea.
This is far from the first time that Dhlakama has made wild and unrealistic promises to his followers. Thus, after Renamo’s crushing defeat in the 2008 municipal elections, Dhlakama promised to set up parallel municipal administrations. Not a single such Renamo municipal administration came into existence.
After the 2009 general elections, Dhlakama repeatedly promised nationwide demonstrations against the results. But not a single Renamo demonstration was held.