Lisbon — Despite larger quantities of Soviet materiel and the assistance of allied troops, the government of Mozambique has been unable to end the rebel threat. The prospects of a military solution to the ongoing civil war appear dim. The few Western journalists who last August visited Gorongosa, military headquarters of the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo), were surprised at what they found: A neatly kept military camp, tons of Soviet ammunition and a school building with lessons in Portuguese and mathematics chalked on the blackboard.
Arriving shortly after the headquarters were captured by Mozambique government and Zimbabwean troops, the level of organization found at Gorongosa suggested that analysts' assessment of Renamo as uncoordinated bands of rural bandits must be revised.
The rebels, who have been fighting the Marxist government of Samora Machel since Mozambique's independence in 1975, have since recaptured a base at Cavalo, only 12 kilometers from their former headquarters, as well as taking a key area near Manianje in early March.
A government military spokesman remarked in February that in central Mozambique, the resistance travels in ``groups of 1,000 or more.''
The right-wing Renamo guerrilla movement is often dismissed by the Frelimo (Front for the Liberation of Mozambique) government and some Western diplomats as created by Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and directed by South Africa. Renamo's Pretoria-assigned mission, they charge, is to keep Mozambique weak and dependent by wrecking the country's economy and making it ungovernable. They point out Renamo's choice of economic targets, such as factories, highways, and railroad lines as proof of their charge.
The havoc wreaked on Mozambique's economy affects neighboring landlocked countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi as well. These countries depend on Mozambique's increasingly fragile port and railroad system to export and import. When these don't work, they must use more expensive South African facilities -- risking political strong-arming by Pretoria.
Observers have been surprisd at the level of rebel activity in the north and central regions. There, government troops are supplemented by up to 15,000 allied Zimbabwean and Tanzanian soldiers, who are better trained and supplied than the Mozambicans.
In addition to the perceived threat from South Africa, Zimbabwe President Mugabe's request last November for military assistance from Moscow reflected the drain that duty in Mozambique has caused on Zimbabwean military resources. Almost a third of Zimbabwe's Army is deployed in Mozambique.