/ 23 October 2013

Mozambique’s Renamo: A short history

Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama.
Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama. (AFP)

Renamo, which this week declared Mozambique's hard-won 1992 peace deal over, was formed in 1976 as an anti-Communist rebel group backed by neighbouring white-minority regimes and fought the ruling Frelimo.

In the latest attack, Renamo gunmen opened fire on a police station on Tuesday just hours after the group had declared the end of the peace pact in retaliation for a military raid on its bush camp in central Sathundjira on Monday, fuelling fears of a return to the dark days of civil war.

Renamo has failed to seize power in 15 years of war and two decades of peace and analysts say the group is too weak now to take another shot at toppling its archfoe through warfare.

Renamo (the Mozambican National Resistance Movement) was founded a year after Mozambique's 1975 independence from Portugal and boasts a bloody history of resistance to communist rule during the Cold War era.

It opposed the newly formed Marxist-leaning government led by Frelimo (the Mozambique Liberation Front), with its guerrillas engaging in deadly sabotage activities, attacking villages and blowing up infrastructure.

Tensions between Frelimo and Renamo escalated into a civil war that was fought between 1977 and 1992.

Colonial alliances
Backed by colonial Rhodesia, Renamo was used to destabilise the Frelimo government, which supported the Zimbabwe liberation fighters.

Following Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, Renamo formed alliances with South Africa's apartheid regime, which supplied it with arms.

More than a million people were killed during the 16-year bush war.

A Rome peace accord signed in 1992 ended the war and paved the way for multi-party elections in 1994. Renamo lost and became the official opposition party.

It garnered only 16.5% of the vote in the 2009 polls, losing to President Armando Guebuza and prompting dejected Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama to threaten fresh civil strife.

Facing dwindling political support, Dhlakama set up camp in the Gorongosa mountains in October 2012 and instigated fresh training for former guerrilla fighters numbering no more than a thousand.

He said in November that he was willing to "destroy Mozambique" if Renamo did not get a bigger slice of the country's growing wealth.

The rebel group turned opposition party has pushed repeatedly for greater inclusion in the Frelimo government, calling for the overhaul of electoral laws.

It demanded last year that the government renegotiate the terms of the 1992 peace accord, a plea Frelimo rejected. – AFP