May 20, 2003

Dissent among minor parties over coalition with Renamo

No sooner was the ink dry on the new coalition between Mozambique's main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, and 12 minor parties, than disputes began to break out. The agreement was signed on Saturday, May 17, between Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama and Lutero Simango, chairperson of the Electoral Union, the grouping that brings together ten of the minor parties. The purpose of the coalition is for the opposition to stand united lists of candidates in all 33 municipalities in the local elections scheduled for 28 October.

But other Electoral Union figures say they were not properly consulted over the new alliance with Renamo. Cited in the daily paper "Noticias", the Electoral Union general secretary, Carlos Reis, claimed on May 20, that Simango had no mandate to sign an agreement with Dhlakama. In his view, the signing had been "anti-democratic", because not all the constituent parties of the Electoral Union had been informed beforehand. Reis said that Thursday, May 15, Dhlakama had met with the leaders of the Electoral Union parties, and told them that a possible coalition would be discussed after his return from a visit to the United States. In the meantime, a commission would work on drafting the principles for a coalition.

Dhlakama left for the US on Sunday, May 18, and so the last thing Reis was expecting was the signing of a coalition document on Saturday. Yet on Friday night, Dhlakama rang up the leaders of the Electoral Union parties one by one calling them to a Saturday meeting - a meeting which flatly contradicted the Thursday gathering, and resulted in signing the new coalition agreement. Reis told "Noticias" that he regarded Dhlakama's behaviour as "dictatorial". He thought Dhlakama just wanted an agreement in order to show his American hosts that he was the leader of a united opposition. Reis thought any alliance with Renamo should be studied carefully "to avoid situations of total dependency or humiliation". Negotiations should be between equals, and with no pre-conditions.

These criticisms precipitated an emergency meeting of the standing council of the Electoral Union that began on Monday. It is not yet clear what conclusions, if any, that meeting has reached. (AIM, Maputo)

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