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New threats to lasting peace

On Friday 4 October, Mozambique celebrated ten years of peace brought in by the signing of the Rome Agreement in 1992. But as most people toasted in merry to the prolonged period since guns were silenced, new waves of criminality and corruption are threatening to derail the gains made so far.
Fred Katerere

Just at the end of the 16 year civil war waged between the ruling Frente Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO) and the then rebel movement Resistencia Nacional Moçambicana (RENAMO) , most gun related criminal acts -that emerged -were blamed on ex-fighters who were not absorbed into the armed forces and police.

Now the picture is clear- once a gunman always a gunman. Some serving officers- some of them former fighters in the civil war- have in recent months been apprehended for using their service issued guns to rob premises or loan them out to criminals who will in return share the spoils with the rogue officers.

These are among major problems besetting this nation of about 18 million and the political leadership is racking their brains for solutions - in order to keep the flame of peace aglow.

Manuel Jorge Tomé, a parliamentarian from Manica province, in the central part of the country, recently said there will be no total peace in the country unless crime is combated.

"We do not have peace in the country because we have (rising levels of) criminality," said Tomé.

His assertions are not far from a recent study on the country by the South African Institute of Security Studies (ISS) which noted that "... Mozambique is very close to becoming a criminalised state."

In August this year a police sub-chief Inspector Orlando Chivanga was arrested for robbing a Maputo Bureau de change of 110 million meticais (about 4,600 US dollars) at gun point.

Chivanga, who was working at the Maputo city police command, used his service gun to threaten the security staff at the exchange house in order to steal the money.

Of the stolen money, only 12.100 million meticais were recovered, and Chivanga accused his colleagues- who arrested him - of having stolen the remainder of the amount.

Chivanga is among several other officers who use their service guns to rob and at times, escape from the arm of law. Even when they are arrested most of them are never tried as they bribe their way out of holding cells or remand prison.

“The legal system has collapsed and court rulings are available to the highest bidder,” noted a local economist, who added: “As long as one has money to bribe the officers, there is no prosecution”.

Recent major cases of corruption involved money laundering in a local bank and over US $400 million was stolen. Trial of the suspects never materialised.

Two prominent people who tried to investigate the bank frauds - a newspaper editor Carlos Cardoso and the government's head of banking supervision, Siba-Siba Macuácua, were both publicly assassinated in November 2000. Now almost two years after their deaths investigations into their assassinations have been going at a slow pace and suspects are yet to come to the courts .

Recently Anibal Antonio do Santos Junior aka Anibalzinho, one of the principal suspects in the murder of Cardoso escaped from maximum prison in a move that was said to have been the work law enforcing agents. This has led to the suspension and detention of some heads of police units and the government officers. Some critics are calling for the resignation of the Home Affairs minister. A lot of criminal cases are being blamed on the political leadership whom critics allege are giving a hand in sustaining criminality by assisting them avoid prosecution.

In the year 2001 a local leading writer, Mia Cuito noted; "We live in a kingdom where those who lead us are gangsters." This year he added scorn on the Mozambican elite saying they were using power "in order to enrich itself. They don't think of Mozambique, they think of themselves"

The ISS notes "There is a lack of political will to fight organised crime and corruption. The relative impunity with which some of the successful [drug] traffickers operate is often a result of their close connections with individuals at the highest levels of government or the Frelimo party."

In a no-holds barred statement in parliament on 6 March 2002, Attorney-General Joaquim Madeira pointed out "There is growing tendency for illegality to gain supremacy over legality, the dishonest over the honest. "He added; n"The culture of legality is still a dream, even among leaders who believe they are free or not to respond to requests by the Attorney General's office." He gave out an example where he sent requests for information to four ministers - one sent the material requested, one telephoned to say he would not respond, and two did not respond at all.

The Attorney General also said corruption in the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC) was alarming adding the department does not process and even destroys the files on cases they are supposed to institute investigations.

Just at the time when everyone is grateful that peace is here to stay, the government now has a mammoth task of ensuring that it swiftly moves to combat crime and corruption in order to win the trust of the populace. Peace comes with a price but Mozambicans do not want to leave in the shadow of guns any more.

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