The Frelimo-led Mozambican parliament has granted amnesty to Renamo fighters in an effort to broker peace and end the small-scale conflict that has plagued the East African country for over a year. Several similar bills have been passed before, specifically during the “war of destabilisation”, to attempt to coax Renamo into surrendering: amnesty was granted in 1984; twice in 1987; again in 1989; and, a final blanket amnesty in 1992 was extended to all crimes during the “war of destabilisation”.
The Mozambican parliament unanimously passed the Bill that will grant all Renamo gunmen involved in the clashes since the Renamo ‘return to war’ in 2013 complete amnesty, as of 23h00 on 12 August 2014. This followed lengthy negotiations between the two parliamentary groups, Frelimo and Renamo, to the exasperation of the third parliamentary group, the Mozambique Democratic Movement, which was notably excluded. The timeframe specified in the Bill was the main sticking point: it prescribed that pardon would be granted in respect of crimes committed between June 2012 and the present, but Renamo wanted the pardon to extend to all security related crimes since the first democratic elections in 1994.Some Renamo members even suggested that there be no limit on the date and that the amnesty should simply apply to all its members.
Negotiation yielded a compromise start date of 8 March 2012, specifically dating back to a clash between police and Renamo gunmen in the northern city of Nampula, where about 300 demobilised Renamo gunmen had camped at the police station and actively interfered in the city’s normal activities for several months. Both sides blamed the other for starting the clashes and details are still sketchy, but the incident is widely regarded as the catalyst of the political-military tensions that escalated in Renamo’s ‘return to war’ strategy.
Besides backdating the bill to March 2012, Renamo also negotiated the inclusion of several other incidents under the Bill’s remit, including violent incidents committed in 2002 in Savane, in 2004 (Cheringoma) and 2011 (Maringue). The Bill provides amnesty for all crimes committed against state security organs, all military crimes, and all crimes against persons and property related to security and military offences, within the prescribed period.
Beyond the Renamo gunmen, the Bill also extends to any policemen and soldiers who committed abuses during the amnesty period and ‘crime’ is defined to include murder, arson, theft and the illegal possession of firearms. Hence, Renamo leader Alfonso Dhlakama’s spokesperson Antonio Muchanga, who was arrested in July 2014 for inciting violence, was released on 19 August 2014. Similar charges against Jeronimo Malagueta, head of the Renamo Information Department arrested in June 2013, will also likely be dropped.
President Armando Guebuza promulgated the Amnesty Law on 14 August 2014, the law was then sent to the official gazette, the “Boletim da Republica”, for immediate publication. As such the law took effect when it was published in the gazette on 18 August 2014. This all bears well for the future security and stability of Mozambique in the lead up to the 15 October 2014 elections.