Mozambique: Dhlakama Demands Negotiation

Maputo — Afonso Dhlakama, the leader and presidential candidate of Mozambique’s former rebel movement Renamo, has dismissed last Wednesday’s general elections as “a puppet show” and has called for negotiations with the government.

Speaking at a Maputo press conference, he declined to confirm the declaration last Thursday by his own spokesperson, Antonio Muchanga, that Renamo rejects the election results.

Instead he said “this cannot be treated technically. We must negotiate an outcome.”

Dhlakama seemed to be hedging his bets since he said he would also use all legal means to contest the results of an election which, he claimed, was riddled with irregularities.

In fact, Dhlakama’s vote in the election was surprisingly high. According to the parallel count undertaken by the Electoral Observatory, the largest and most credible group of domestic election observers, Renamo has won about 32 per cent of the vote – which is twice as large as his share of the vote in the previous presidential election, in 2009.

The Observatory’s count gives victory to the candidate of the ruling Frelimo Party, Filipe Nyusi, with 60.5 per cent of the vote. The third candidate, Daviz Simango, of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) is projected to win 7.5 per cent.

Dhlakama said he did not want to accuse anybody but the violent episodes which had occurred in places such as Beira, Angoche, Nacala and Tsangano had removed credibility from the elections.

But some of these incidents were entirely the fault of Renamo itself, notably the violence in Tsangano, in Tete province, where a Renamo mob had burnt down polling stations.

Dhlakama said that several voters were prevented from voting because their names were not on the voter’s roll in the places where they were registered. He claimed that others were denied their voting rights because their polling stations opened late, and closed when there were still people waiting to vote,

However, the law and the instructions from the National Elections Commission (CNE) were quite clear on this matter: where voters were still in the queue at closing time (18.00), they were to be issued with numbered tickets and voting was to continue until the last person with a ticket had voted. AIM knows of no case where polling station staff disobeyed this instruction.

“I am not accusing anybody, but I want you to know that Mozambique has showed once again that Africa has a democratic deficit and is incapable of holding free and fair elections”, he declared.

He added “I cannot accept anything that kills democracy”. He denounced the “total disorganisation that threatens the credibility of the elections”, and said he intended to “enter into dialogue with government to create democracy.”

Various international observer groups have described the election as broadly peaceful, orderly and credible, noting that violent incidents only affected a small minority of polling stations. They have urged Renamo to use the mechanisms laid out in the election law to make its protests.

Despite Dhlakama’s promises at the press conference, it is far from clear that Renamo has followed the correct procedure for complaints. On Friday CNE spokesperson Paulo Cuinica told AIM he was not aware of any formal complaints from Renamo.

The correct procedure, in the event of political party monitors noting what they consider to be frauds or irregularities, is to protest at the polling station. If the response from the polling station staff is not satisfactory, the party concerned should then appeal at once to the district law court . Any delay will be fatal to the party’s case.

Dhlakama insisted that he will not go back to war. Asked whether a Renamo rejection of the election results would lead to renewed violence, exactly on the model of the low level insurgency Renamo waged, mostly in Sofala province, from June 2013 to August of this year, Dhlakama insisted that would not happen. He was confident that, in the wake of the agreement on cessation of hostilities he had signed with President Armando Guebuza on 5 September, there would be no further descent into war.

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Image credits: AFP

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