Details of large sums of money paid by Western companies to Renamo prior to the 1992 Mozambican peace agreement have been published in London by Conciliation Resources. Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama interviewed by the BBC, denounced researcher Alex Vines as "a well-known propagandist", and denied that Renamo had received the sums mentioned in the book.
Alex Vines, co-author of "Accord", a book which reveals some of the hitherto hidden background to the 1992 Mozambican peace agreement, has stood by his claims. Vines said he had invented nothing. To write his part of the book "I based myself on interviews with diplomats, particularly Italian ones, and with other people who were directly or indirectly involved in the negotiations in Rome".
Among those whom Vines interviewed was "Tiny" Rowland, who was head of the British multinational Lonrho at the time of the peace negotiations, and who ploughed a small fortune into Renamo.
"My chapter in the book is factual", said Vines. "There's no fiction there. They're facts, some of them based on documents provided to me by people involved in the process, who were linked to the institutions who paid the money I mention, such as Lonrho".
Vines said that some of these documents have been in his possession for the past four years.
The book (on page 68) contains secret correspondence and receipts from Lonrho, which detail how this company paid protection money to Renamo so that the rebels would not attack its interests in Mozambique.
Vines said that Rowland, far from denying that payments took place, recognises that money played an important role in bringing about peace, though he was reluctant to reveal exactly how much he paid to Renamo.
In his BBC interview, Dhlakama demanded that Vines say exactly which persons, on what dates, received the money he speaks of and where.
He claimed that he, as leader of Renamo, never received money from anyone, but admitted that possibly somebody else in his movement might have done. He said he would like to know who received such money.
"I understand Dhlakama's reaction", said Vines, "since it's clear that by now Renamo has run out of money. This probably means that what they received was spent a long time ago".
Dhlakama also objects to Vines' work in exposing Renamo human rights violations, particularly its use of child soldiers.
Alex Vines is unrepentant. He told AIM "when I wrote a report on human rights in Mozambique in July 1992, we verified on the ground that Renamo was indeed committing serious human rights abuses, including the use of children as soldiers. We found that many of the people in the Renamo bases were children".
He noted that this report even published a photo of children in a Renamo base. Anyone who tried to deny this, he added, was flying in the face of the facts.
Full text of Accord report on Mozambique
The Democratic Union (UD), a coalition of three small opposition parties, held an emergency general assembly on 12 February, at which it decided to compete in the May local elections on its own.
The three UD components - the Liberal and Democratic Party (PALMO), the Mozambican National Party (PANAMO), and the National Democratic Party (PANADE) - have thus rejected five parties that wanted to join the UD.
They claim that the invitation to the other five was issued irregularly by UD General Secretary, Antonio Palange, without consulting the other founders of the UD.
The assembly has removed Palange from his post, and elected the PANADE leader, Jose Massinga (a former Foreign Ministry official who confessed to working for the CIA), as the new UD general secretary. Palange remains head of the UD parliamentary group. The assembly also changed the name of the coalition slightly. The name to appear on the ballot paper is "UD/A".
Voter registration undertaken in Mozambique from 10 November to 7 December added 827,876 new voters to the electoral register, the chairperson of the independent National Elections Commission (CNE), Leonardo Simbine, announced in Maputo on 19 February.
As expected, the provinces with the largest number of new registrations are Zambezia with 179,688, and Nampula with 162,725.
In 1994, a total of 6,396,061 voters registered. Adding the new registrations gives a total 1998 electorate of 7,223,937. Simbine said this amounted to 96.6 per cent of the total possible electorate, based on the population figures from the census of last August.
The voter registration took place throughout the country, but Simbine said the CNE paid particular attention to the 33 cities and towns where municipal elections will be held on 29 May. These places contains 1,965,530 registered voters: 27.2 per cent of the total.
Leonardo Simbine said that the CNE has not discovered any instances of fraud in voter registration. The main opposition party, Renamo, has denounced the registration as fraudulent, and is demanding new registration.
However, Simbine made it very clear that this body regards the registration as valid. There were "material errors" during the registration, he said, and attempts were made to correct them.
Renamo's main complaint has been that a number of the registers from the 1994 general elections are missing or incomplete. Simbine admitted that this was true, and blamed it on "defective conditions for archiving and conserving documentation".
After the 1994 elections, he said, it had not been clear what would be done with the registers. "The material was all archived in the district administrations, and not in very good conditions", he added. "We have difficulty in conserving documentation in this country".
Under the CNE's orders, Simbine explained, the electoral wing of the civil service, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), set about reconstituting the missing or damaged registers. This was possible in those cases where the original registration forms filled in by the voters still exist.
But a relatively small number of registers proved quite impossible to reconstitute. In the 33 municipalities where elections will be held on 29 May, there should be 3,760 registers in all. Of these 3,570 - or 94.9 per cent - are complete, or are only missing a few names. 59 registers - 1.6 per cent - have many omissions, and 131 registers - 3.5 per cent - are completely missing. The number of voters whose names are missing is 79,355 - or 4.04 per cent of the total electorate of the 33 municipalities.
Simbine said that, as from March, STAE will campaign to persuade all the voters whose names were in the missing registers to come forward with their voting cards. Their names will then be written into fresh registers.
The 131 missing registers did not all disappear from Renamo strongholds, as Renamo has hinted. The problem is scattered all over the country - thus while 17 registers have disappeared from the Renamo stronghold of Beira, there are 13 missing from Xai-Xai, where Frelimo is dominant, and 12 from Nampula, where the two parties were level pegging in 1994. 21 out of the 33 municipalities have at least some registers missing.
Currently three out of the nine members of the CNE are boycotting its meetings. All of them - Jose de Castro, Joao Almirante, and Juliano Picardo - were nominated by Renamo.
Simbine objected to reporters referring to them as "the Renamo members of the CNE", since the CNE is supposed to be an impartial body, whose members take no instruction from political parties. But in fact Castro, Almirante and Picardo have been behaving as Renamo members, and begun their boycott when CNE spokesman Carlos Manuel declared in January that there was no reason to repeat the voter registration.
Asked whether the three would be replaced, Simbine replied "the places are not vacant". The three have not resigned, and there is no mechanism for sacking them. They cannot be removed during their term of office.
Renamo has repeated its threat to boycott the municipal elections unless new voter registration is organised.
Two members of a Renamo "contact group" set up to deal with the election crisis, Raimundo Samuge and Agostonho Ussore, gave a press conference on 17 February, in which they said Renamo would not even register for the local elections before its complaints over voter registration are dealt with.
The period in which parties, coalitions and groups of independent citizens contesting the elections are to register runs from 23 to 26 February.
Ussore and Samuge protested that the government has not reacted to Renamo's earlier protests, at the alleged frauds committed during voter registration.
Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi has made it clear that the government has no intention of reacting. Dealing with electoral complaints is the job of the National Elections Commission (CNE), the independent body charged with organising the local elections. He also made clear that "no party is obliged to take part in the elections".
Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi has revealed that flooding in parts of central and northern Mozambique in January and early February led to the loss of 32,500 hectares of crops. This was much less damage than caused by the 1997 floods, in much the same areas, which had wiped out 105,000 hectares of crops.
The government's priority was to ensure that farmers in the affected areas could plant again. This would require about 400 tonnes of seeds (for grain and for various types of beans).
Half this quantity was immediately available from the country's emergency reserve, the Prime Minister said, while the Ministry of Agriculture had been instructed to contact international bodies such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to procure the other 50 per cent.
Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi has inaugurated an extension to the privately-owned University and Polytechnic Higher Institute (ISPU) in Quelimane, capital of the central province of Zambezia.
Speaking at the ceremony on 20 February, the Prime Minister said that one of the ways to overcome differences in levels of economic development between the north, centre and south of the country is to expand higher education, and pre-university courses to all regions.
There are now six university-level institutions in Mozambique. Three are publicly owned - the Pedagogic University, Maputo's Eduardo Mondlane University, and the Higher Institute of International Relations (ISRI). The three private bodies are ISPU and the Catholic University, both set up in 1995, and the Mozambican Institute of Science and Technology (ICTM), established a year later.
The National Director of Foreign Trade, Nicolau Sululu, has announced that the final figure for Mozambique's 1997 exports is $234.4 million, an increase of 7.4 per cent over 1996.
This is more than the government had been expecting. When Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi presented the provisional 1997 statistics to the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, in mid-December, the projection for exports was only $218 million.
The most important export product is prawns, accounting for 38.4 per cent of the total value of exports. Prawns, sold mainly to Spain, Japan and South Africa, brought in $90.2 million.
Sululu is predicting that exports in 1998 will reach $315 million, an increase of 34 per cent. But this is dependent on the sale of electricity to South Africa. Currently negotiations over the sale of power produced at the Cahora Bassa dam are at an impasse, since the South African electricity company, Eskom, and the dam operating company, Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB), cannot agree a price.
A new bank, "BIM-investimento, SARL" (Investment International Bank of Mozambique), formed by Mozambican and Portuguese capital, was registered on 16 February in Maputo. This new institution, part of the BIM group, has a share capital of $2 million.
The main shareholders are the privately-owned International Bank of Mozambique (BIM), and the Cisf bank, the investment wing of the Portuguese banking group, BCP/Atlantico. This is the Portuguese bank that already has a majority shareholding in BIM.
Other shareholders in the investment bank are the publicly-owned telecommunications and electricity companies, TDM and EDM.
The World Bank's private sector funding body, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which has a 25 per cent stake in BIM, has also expressed interest in joining the new bank.
The police in the central city of Beira on 11 February received a gift from the Chinese authorities valued at around $2 million. The donation included 16 vehicles, three dozen motorcycles, two speedboats, first aid kits, tents and rucksacks.
This aid for the police force honours a promise made by Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng when he visited Mozambique last May, and responded positively to requests from the Mozambican authorities for equipment for the police.
The Frigo customs terminal, on the outskirts of Maputo, has more than doubled its revenue within the a year, according to customs supervisor Arlindo Chaquisse.
Speaking at a ceremony on 13 February marking the end of a customs training course, he said that customs revenue collected at Frigo in January alone was around 21 billion meticais (about $1.8 million). This compares with nine billion meticais collected at Frigo in the same month in 1997: the increase is 133 per cent.
Chaquisse attributed this dramatic increase to the replacement of all customs staff at Frigo by new, younger officials, equipped with modern skills and working methods.
The new Frigo staff are part of a group of customs technicians who on 19 December completed the first customs training course organised since the operational management of Mozambican customs passed into the hands of the British firm, the Crown Agents.
The 80 per cent reduction in Mozambique's debt stock agreed to by the Club of Paris, the grouping of major creditor nations, in January is not enough to bring the country's debt down to fully sustainable levels, Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi said in Maputo on 13 February.
Shortly after the Paris Club announcement, Mozambican and Russian technical delegations concluded negotiations on Mozambique's debt to the former Soviet Union. In line with the Paris Club position, the Russians would go no further than an 80 per cent reduction.
While this does eliminate around two billion dollars worth of debt, it still leaves Mozambique owing Russia $509 million, to be paid over 33 years, at an interest rate of 0.8 per cent per annum.
Prime Minister Mocumbi said that the Paris Club and the Russian debt relief arrangements left the country with a relatively sustainable, but not fully sustainable debt.
"We are not satisfied with the outcome we reached with Russia", he declared. "The debt should have been reduced by 95 per cent or even by 100 per cent, given the conditions under which we acquired that debt. The Russians know that perfectly well".
Around two thirds of the debt to Russia was military debt, incurred through the purchase of Soviet military equipment during the war of destabilisation.
As for the Paris Club position, the Prime Minister said "we would have achieved greater conditions for sustainability if they had gone beyond an 80 per cent write-off. The Paris Club have their own reasons for their procedures, but we are not satisfied".
The delay in dealing with the ex-Soviet debt has also postponed Mozambique's entry into the HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Countries) debt relief initiative, which seeks dramatic reductions in both bilateral and multilateral debt.
Reaching an agreement with Russia was a HIPC pre-condition imposed by the IMF and the World Bank. Since the deal was not reached until the end of January, hopes that the HIPC "decision point" (the moment when the IMF and the World Bank declare Mozambique to be eligible for HIPC treatment) would be reached in December were dashed.
World Bank officials insist on a gap of at least 18 months between the "decision point" and the "completion point" (when the debt relief is actually implemented), during which time Mozambique has to continue showing what the IMF regards as "good performance" in implementing its structural adjustment programme.
The end of 1999 now looks like the earliest date that the IMF and World Bank will agree to, unless creditors put strong pressure on the Bretton Woods institutions.
Mocumbi said that Mozambique had done all in its power to achieve an early "decision point". It was now up to World Bank and IMF officials to decide.
Asked about supposed difficulties with some Paris Club creditors, notably Portugal and Japan, Mocumbi said that since the Paris Club as a whole had taken a position, there should be no serious problems with its individual members.
He hoped that "at bilateral level, we may obtain better terms than those offered by the Paris Club".
The influence of the Intertropical Convergence Zone, and the shifting of the Atlantic anticyclone to the Indian Ocean are two factors that have caused rains in areas of Mozambique where drought was feared, as an effect of the "El-Nino" weather phenomenon.
According to Antonio Olivares, a technical expert with Mozambique's Food Security Early Warning system, there is a good chance that rains will continue to fall if those two phenomena persist.
Despite reports of floods and loss of crops in several districts in central Mozambique, Olivares is hoping for a good harvest. He estimates that only about 10 per cent of the cultivated areas countrywide were hit by flooding, and the remaining areas benefited from the rains.
He says that this does not mean that the "El-Nino" phenomenon has subsided, because the abnormal heating of the surface waters of the Pacific Ocean is still evident.
According to Olivares, another phenomenon that influenced the rainfall was the January tropical storm that affected the provinces of Cabo Delgado and Nampula in the north, Zambezia and Sofala in the centre, and Inhambane in the south of the country.
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