Maputo - The prevailing culture of impunity in Mozambique is fuelling the killings of opposition politicians by unidentified armed militias, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.
The global human rights body made the observation in a statement following the killing of a prominent Renamo opposition leader and mediator Jeremias Pondeca in Maputo at the weekend.
“The killing of Jeremias Pondeca is not only a horrendous taking of a life, but is a blow to efforts to resolve Mozambique’s dangerous political situation,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
He added: “The government’s failure to genuinely investigate past killings provides space for the latest terrible crime. Mozambican law enforcement appears incapable or unwilling to seriously investigate apparent political killings.”
According to Bekele, the repeated failures to bring to book the suspected assassins have created an environment of impunity and fear.”
The Mozambican Criminal Investigation Police, which is the state body responsible for conducting criminal investigations, has publicly promised to investigate all nine cases, but no progress is made.
Besides Pondeca who was shot dead at Maputo’s main beach, Costa do Sol, HRW said that at least nine other people had died across Mozambique since March last year in politically motivated killings.
Despite the provocation displayed through the assassination of its leaders, Renamo has said it will not abandon peace talks.
Renamo spokesperson Antonio Muchanga told the media that negotiations would go forward.
“We will continue the negotiations. Even today, if the Joint Commission was in session, Renamo would be willing to take part in the negotiations,” Muchanga was quoted as saying.
“We know that the barbaric act, committed by the enemies of democracy and of the well-being of the Mozambican people, is intended to force Renamo to abandon the dialogue,” he added.
Since the peace talks began, the commission has so far not yet reached any definitive agreement on any of the matters on its agenda, including Renamo’s demands for six provincial governors and the inclusion of its remnant soldiers in the army.
Over the past four years, tension has increased between Renamo and Mozambique’s governing party, Frelimo.
Attempts to have President Filipe Nyusi and Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama hold face to face discussions to reach a ceasefire and end the hostilities have so far failed to materialise.
Co-ordinated by a team of international mediators led by a former Italian diplomat, Mario Raffaelli, the talks have so far failed to bring to the negotiating table Dhlakama.
He has on several occasions refused to meet Nyusi saying he would respect the outcome of the current talks.
“I organised a team, and President Nyusi also has a team, and they are negotiating in Maputo, in the presence of international mediators. I don't think it's important that Nyusi and Dhlakama, two people, have to meet to negotiate on their own, because this country does not belong to Nyusi or to Dhlakama”, he said.
He said he would simply to sign final documents emerging from the Joint Commission that will seal the handing over of six provinces to Renamo.
Ironically, Dhlakama has acknowledged that “people are tired of war”, but he rejected any ceasefire “before we have reached a general agreement.”
“We cannot end the conflict and the military hostilities and restore peace, while we do not resolve the problem of governance”, he insisted.