Previously, the Mozambican government rejected calls for negotiations out of hand, saying that they were confronting a “faceless enemy”. Since the identities of insurgency leaders became public (see our Country Update of 11 August, drawing on reports by the US State Department and the Centre for Investigative Journalism), there have been increased calls for dialogue and negotiations, spearheaded by ex-President Joaquim Chissano, who brought the Renamo/Frelimo war to an end after negotiating a peace treaty, under the auspices of the Community of San Egidio.

In an interview with DW Africa, the researcher from the Observatorio do Meio Rural (OMR), João Feijó says that the terrorists who carry out armed attacks in Cabo Delgado are Mozambicans, well identified by the local communities. He says:” There is an official speech by the Government of Mozambique that the enemy has no face, we don’t know what they want, there are no channels of communication. We want to demonstrate that the enemy has flesh and blood. They are common people, known by the local society. They have a list of claims that, although poorly structured and immature, but exists. Thirdly, we want to show that there are communication channels. Regarding dialogue, we believe that it should be understood not as a simple formal form in the sense of negotiation sitting at the table, but as a broader thing, which may include the possibility of releasing hostages or kidnapped people. But it can also include assistance to people who are in the insurgency zones. In other words, a comprehensive negotiation, which must include the possibility of rethinking the development model.

“What matters is demystifying the idea that the enemy has no face. The enemy is Mozambican, he is a person who was born among us, who played football with us, who studied with us and who, at a certain point, became radicalized and explored the social contradictions existing in Mozambican society. The population lives in poverty in the province of Cabo Delgado, rich in raw materials

“President Joaquim Chissano is someone who has a great deal of experience in terms of governance in Mozambique and in terms of conflict management. He is someone who, when he came to power, inherited a war that existed between the Government and RENAMO, in which positions were very extreme. In this context, he rowed against the current and created new paradigms of reflection and the conditions to allow the meetings of Rome to take place and the conflicting parties to sit down and reflect on a country they have in common.

He identifies Mozambican political culture as a major obstacle to negotiations:” There is this obstacle in the negotiations between the ruling party and the opposition. But it is an obstacle that cuts across all Mozambican society and derives from our own culture of power. That is, we see power, not as a relationship, not as a space in which we have to negotiate, but as something we have to own. We see the possibility of making concessions as a sign of weakness. So, when we have this arrogant political culture, it becomes difficult to enter a negotiation space, because we already enter the space with a dominant attitude. I think this can be a lesson not only for the Government of Mozambique but for society as a whole.

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