Mozambique's former rebel movement Renamo has protested at the “discrimination and exclusion” which it suffered at the hands of the organisers of ceremonies on Saturday marking the 22nd anniversary of the 1992 peace agreement signed between the government and Renamo.
Addressing a Maputo press conference on Monday Antonio Muchanga, spokesperson for Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, said this year's celebrations should have marked “a guarantee that Mozambicans are moving together towards the harmonious development of the country”, following the 5 September declaration on a cessation of hostilities “which brought a breath of fresh air to all lovers of peace across the world”.
In previous years Dhlakama and Renamo had boycotted the official celebrations of the anniversary. This year they had every intention of attending, but found that the organisers had excluded them.
Since Dhlakama was campaigning in the western province of Tete ahead of the 15 October general elections, he announced that he would attend the commemorations in Tete city. Muchanga said that Dhlakama arrived at Independence Square in Tete, at the time indicated on the government programme - only to find that the Tete provincial government had moved the ceremony forward an hour to spare themselves the embarrassment of sharing a platform with Dhlakama.
In Maputo, the official laying of a wreath by President Armando Guebuza at the Monument to the Mozambican Heroes was followed by an ecumenical ceremony organised by churches at which Renamo had been invited to speak.
The master of ceremonies even publicly announced that the Renamo representative, Jeremias Pondeca, would address the ceremony. But, after all the prayers had been said, and Guebuza had made his speech, Pondeca was simply never invited to make his address.
“How is it possible to encourage reconciliation while discriminating against one of the main authors of the General Peace Agreement?”, asked Muchanga.
He blamed senior figures in the Christian Council of Mozambique, the umbrella body for the mainstream protestant churches, for excluding Renamo.
“These people talk in the name of Christ and of love but what we saw on Saturday has nothing to do with Christianity”, Muchanga declared. “Christ taught us to value other people, but what we witnessed on the Day of Peace, was an act of contempt, an attempt to humiliate and exclude leaders of Renamo”.
He noted that these same religious leaders are involved in the Electoral Observatory, the main grouping of Mozambican election observers, and suggested that their “partiality and appetite to exclude” would also characterise their behaviour during the observation.
Muchanga claimed that these religious figures “watch calmly while houses of Renamo members are destroyed, and Renamo members are attacked and insulted, but shout when those attacked defend themselves, because they think it legitimate that the opposition be suffocated”.
Religious leaders invited leaders of the ruling Frelimo Party to campaign illegally inside churches, he alleged, citing by name the Brazilian Pentecostal sect, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IURD), which has supposedly sent a circular to all its pastors urging them to persuade their congregations to vote for Frelimo.
Muchanga boasted of his own religious faith, and claimed that “God has chosen and anointed President Dhlakama and Renamo”.
Asked whether Dhlakama has remained in contact with Guebuza, Muchanga said the two men spoke on the phone, and recently Dhlakama had complained to the president of the allegedly biased reporting on the election campaign by the public television station, TVM. Muchanga suggested that TVM is taking orders from the President's office.