The Dhlakama and RENAMO breakaway from government: another test for the SADC's conflict transformation record?
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The decision made in October 2012 by Afonso Dhlakama, the leader of the Mozambique National Resistance Movement (RENAMO), accompanied by a motley group of his former rebel fighters, to pull out from the government of Mozambique and to go back to his former rebel base in Gorongosa, Central Mozambique, has sparked widespread, yet well-founded fears that Mozambique might be heading back to armed conflict involving the same players and precipitated by some of the grievances that were thought to be resolved through the post-Rome Accords dispensation a good 22 years ago. For the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, this development is particularly ominous as it comes at a time when the region is faced with other continuing or broken down peace initiatives notably in Madagascar and the DRC. The elusive peace and security processes in Antananarivo and Kinshasa have resulted in either full scale military offensives as in the eastern Congo or in an unstable politico-security environment as being witnessed in Madagascar. In both these two cases, the SADC has been trying to mediate and find sustainable peaceful solutions without much reported progress. This article critically analyses the SADC’s capability to successfully and sustainably resolve and transform conflicts, using this unstable political and security development in Mozambique as a case in point. It interrogates the extent to which the current dispensation in Mozambique has succeeded in addressing the grievances that were, during the negotiations that culminated in the signing of the Rome Accords, recognised as having caused the brutal 16-year civil war of 1976-1992. The article posits that the October 2012 move by RENAMO, regardless of whether it is resolved through dialogue or it leads to another shooting war, presents a critical challenge to the SADC Conflict Resolution and Management Mechanisms as conceived, developed and practiced to date. Whilst peace has been prevailing in Mozambique for over 20 years, the article analyses whether or not the reneging of RENAMO revolves around the underlying causes of the pre-1992 conflict which remained unaddressed. The article concludes with a set of recommendations on how best the SADC could tackle this recurring conflict in Mozambique while, at the same time, drawing critical lessons that will assist in generally improving and streamlining its current conflict resolution and management mechanisms and practices.