Mozambique's president insisted on Wednesday that violent clashes with armed rebels did not spell a slide back to brutal civil war, insisting the energy-rich nation remains a safe bet for investors.
"I do not think, and that is a strong 'no' … that we are going back to war," Armando Guebuza stated amid the worst political violence the country has seen since its brutal 16-year civil war ended in 1992.
That conflict – which pitted Guebuza's Frelimo liberation movement against anti-communist Renamo rebels – led to the deaths of an estimated one-million people and made Mozambique a byword for internecine bloodshed.
Since then the country has boomed, amid a coal and gas bonanza and as the warring factions shifted their battle to the ballot box.
But as Renamo's power has waned, its leader Afonso Dhlakama retreated to the bush vowing reprisals if the country's economic windfall is not shared.
A series of tit-for-tat attacks between his supporters and the government led the military to launch a sustained assault on his bases beginning on October 21.
Since then Renamo has declared a two-decade peace deal null and void and gunmen have launched attacks on the country's main highway.
But Guebuza (70) said the clashes were restricted to a certain area and were short-term.
"I don't think there is a problem in the medium and long term and we are doing our best to stop it as soon as possible," he said, speaking in the central-western town Chimoio.
"Things that are happening are localised, and we know where it is happening."
Guebuza personally blamed his old civil war rival Dhlakama for the simmering conflict that has rocked the centre of the country where most coal and gas companies are based.
"Apparently he sees himself as a loser and uses whatever remains of his forces to try to prove that he can impose on the government his own decisions," Guebuza said.
Dhlakama fled when his base in the central Gorongosa mountains fell to the Frelimo government's forces. His location is unknown.
Guebuza insisted the renewed violence would not harm investment.
"There are many people that are investing even today as the situation continues." – AFP