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Mozambique: Is a diamond driven conflict in the offing?

29 october 2012

An old axiom that says old habits die hard is resonating well in Mozambique where a former rebel leader, Afonso Dhlakama has abandoned all the sumptuousness of government to set up a camp in the bush.

He was not happy with the Frelimo led government, which failed to meet some of his demands that included greater inclusion of the former fighters in the country’s armed forces and revisions to election laws.

Dhlakama also wanted power to veto election results after accusing Frelimo of fraud in previous plebiscites.

“It is true that he went to Gorongosa with a group of former supporters. However, the government has opened all channels to dialogue and this is very critical,” Minister Counsellor in charge of affairs at the Mozambican embassy in Harare Isac Massamby was quoted as saying by the Herald newspaper.

“There are so many channels at his disposal for discussions and one of them is Parliament where he has 29 members.”

Although Dhlakama had claimed that he does not want war, he did not rule out clashes if his followers were attacked.

Funding

Questions had been raised as to where the ex-rebel leader would get funding to support his fight with the government, should his cabal come under attacked.

During the country’s internecine war, Dhlakama got his machinery oiled by Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) Prime Minister Ian Smith to destabilise Mozambique, which provided military bases to the liberation freedom fighters.

When Smith’s government was torpedoed, Renamo continued receiving funding from Apartheid South Africa.

With Robert Mugabe in charge from 1980, Zimbabwe deployed troops to Mozambique to assist the government fight Renamo.

However, after talks, the rebels joined the government in 1992 but maintained at least two military bases, including the one at Gorongosa.

Although it was not yet clear whether Dhlakama was funding himself or receiving funding from outside Mozambique, there are fears that diamonds would be used to finance the ex-rebel’s activities.

Several kimberlites were found in nortwestern Mozambique and close to the Zambian border but little work had been carried out to evaluate their diamond bearing potential.

Mozambique, which said last February that it wanted to join the Kimberley Process by December this year, had 27 companies and individuals prospecting for diamonds under 40 separate licences.

These companies held research and exploration licences in Niassa, Sofala, Manica, Inhambane, Gaza and Maputo provinces.

Massamby said although there were some diamond explorations in some parts of the country, it was too early to suggest that Dhlakama intended to use them to fund his activities.

Former rebels in neighbouring countries such as Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had previously used the so called blood diamonds to fund their war activities.

KP bid under ‘threat’

Should Dhlakama surprise the government and takeover areas that are believed to contain diamonds, there is no doubt that the country’s gems would come under heavy scrutiny from the United Nations.

Mozambique’s bid to become a member of KP would also suffer a major dent.

KP had to a larger extent managed to keep conflict diamonds at bay and it would certainly closely watch developments in Mozambique.

Whoever is whispering words of war in Dhlakama’s ears should stop forthwith, as this has a huge potential to destabilise a country, which had been touted as one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Mozambique’s economy was set to start cashing in on a mineral resource rush in the next five to 10 years.

The country was also poised to benefit from large capital inflows from the discovery of significant natural gas and coal discoveries.

Be that as it may, the last thing that KP needs is another war driven by “blood” diamonds.

Yes, one can argue that this article is too myopic and highly speculative, but there is no reasonable doubt that diamonds can be used to fund Renamо given that there is no Rhodesia and Apartheid South Africa to bankroll their activities.

Mathew Nyaungwa, Editor in Chief of the African Bureau, Rough&Polished