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Slow Disbanding of Troops Worries UN in Mozambique

By John BattersbyStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / July 29, 1994



MANHICA, MOZAMBIQUE

THE United Nations Operation in Mozambique has launched a last-ditch effort to speed up the demobilization of government forces and ensure that a new national Army is in place before the country's first democratic elections scheduled for Oct. 27-28.

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But diplomats here worry that the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) is deliberately delaying the demobilization of its troops and handing over weapons to the joint fledgling Armed Forces for the Defense of Mozambique (FADM).

With little more than two weeks to go before the Aug. 15 deadline for demilitarization, the Frelimo government has demobilized only 55 percent of its 49,000 troops designated to be discharged to civilian life.

In contrast, the former rebel Mozambique National Resistance Movement has exceeded its required demobilization levels by an additional 20 percent of its troops. The additional Renamo soldiers had initially volunteered for the new Army and then changed their minds.

President Joaquim Chissano's government is holding out against growing international pressure to accept a phasing in of the new Army before and after the election. UN officials say it is impossible to train more than half the new 30,000-strong force before the ballot. A UN-technical team has been visiting government and former rebel assembly areas this week to inspect conditions and to encourage soldiers to join the new military.

A spate of mutinies by soldiers of the government and former rebel armies in recent weeks - more than 30 this month alone - has raised concern of a repetition of events in Angola, where the failure to demobilize opposing forces before the 1992 ballot contributed to a rapid descent back into civil war after the poll.

``The military process is incredibly slow,'' said UN Special Representative to Mozambique Aldo Ajelo in an interview last week. ``We have accumulated terrible delays, and there is an explosion of violence in the assembly areas,'' he said July 21, noting that the first deaths had just occurred in Moamba, west of Maputo.

The mutinies by soldiers usually follows months of confinement -

often without pay - of soldiers awaiting full demobilization and transport to their rural villages.

Ajelo dismisses a direct comparison with Angola, pointing out that former rebel leader Afonso Dhlakama appears committed to the political process and has developed a relationship with Mr. Chissano that has resolved many obstacles in the past. ``Here in Mozambique there is no real army in the bush,'' he says.

``We have much better control over the territory than my colleagues in Angola had ... and Dhlakama is not Savimbi,'' he says, referring to the Angolan rebel movement leader Jonas Savimbi, who plunged Angola back into civil war after losing the 1992 election. ``But the failure to demobilize and create a new Army is a very familiar syndrome to those who observed the Angola peace process,'' says a UN aid worker.

DIPLOMATS worry that an outright Frelimo victory would enable hard-line elements in the ruling party to resist any form of power-sharing with a defeated Renamo and sow the seeds of a drawn-out, postelection conflict. This would make the government, which presently holds only tenuous control over most of the country and is heavily dependent on interntional aid, hardpressed to cope with a postballot power struggle.

In this former Frelimo military base, recruits for the new Army train amid the wreckage of rusting military hardware and bold revolutionary murals. But the training is behind schedule because of a lack of enthusiasm among soldiers in a country exhausted by a devastating 16-year civil war and a government with a record of not paying its troops. Only 2,452 infantrymen have been trained, 697 are undergoing training, and some 9,775 people have indicated they are available to be trained.

But Maj. Stuart Cattermull of the British Mozambique Short-Term Advisory Training Team is optimistic. ``We have been pleasantly surprised with the capacity of the soldiers to integrate and be trained,'' he says. ``We have had no trouble between Renamo and Frelimo at the camp, which is really quite staggering.''

But Major Cattermull concedes that the arrival of recruits is behind schedule and the delivery of equipment and supplies has suffered delays. ``It's been an uphill battle all the way on those fronts,'' he says.