Tentative ceasefire in Mozambique

The leader of Mozambique’s opposition party this week announced a two-month ceasefire in the rumbling conflict between Renamo and the government, extending a week-long truce, which has been welcomed by the president.

Renamo’s Afonso Dhlakama said he had done so to allow talks with President Filipe Nyusi’s government.

Worsening clashes between the Frelimo government and Renamo, an armed insurgent group and an elected opposition party, have revived the spectre of Mozambique’s civil war, which ended 20 years ago.

Both sides have clashed sporadically since Renamo challenged the results of the 2014 elections.

“There have been some minor incidents but the seven-day truce went well, so I announce the extension of the truce for 60 days, until March 4,” Dhlakama said in a telephone press conference.

“The truce is intended to build an atmosphere conducive to advancing talks in Maputo in peace and tranquility for both sides.”

Dhlakama, who lives in hiding in the Gorongosa mountains in central Mozambique, said Renamo forces would not attack government troops or positions.

Last year saw a sharp escalation in violence, and more than 15 000 people have been forced to flee to government-run camps, relatives’ homes or across the border to Malawi and Zimbabwe.

The unexpected truce announcement came after tentative moves towards a peace process were suspended indefinitely last year as a result of various setbacks that included the killing of a Renamo negotiator.

President Filipe Nyusi said the truce was “productive”, according to local television reports.

Trust “is being created”, he said, adding that government forces had not launched offensive attacks on Renamo.

The fighting is usually focused along Mozambique’s main roads, with Renamo attacking government convoys and civilian vehicles. Government soldiers have been accused of ruthlessly targeting suspected rebels in nearby villages.

Many displaced people say the soldiers often treat villagers in the central region as rebel sympathisers.

The death toll is unknown but scores of people are reported to have been killed last year, with both the Frelimo and Renamo parties suffering assassinations of local politicians.

Despite the truce, one Renamo official was gunned down outside his house last week.

Authorities say 3 100 people now live in government camps after fleeing the conflict, and several thousand more people have escaped the conflict zone to stay with relatives elsewhere.

The United Nations refugee agency says 8 600 people have been forced into neighbouring Malawi and Zimbabwe. — AFP, Reuters

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