Moz opposition leader to leave hideout

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iol news pic Afonso Dhlakama renamo Independent Newspapers Afonso Dhlakama, the leader of Renamo, addresses supporters in Maraza, outside Beira. File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

Maputo - Mozambican opposition Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama will come out of hiding on Thursday and return to the capital Maputo for face-to-face talks with the country's president, his spokesman said on Tuesday.

The meeting on Friday with President Armando Guebuza is aimed at cementing a peace deal ending two years of armed conflict and allowing Dhlakama to make a late start in campaigning for presidential elections in October.

“We invite our members, sympathisers, admirers and the population in general to join us in welcoming president Dhlakama on Thursday afternoon at the Maputo International Airport,” Renamo's spokesman, Antonio Muchanga, told journalists at a briefing in Maputo on Tuesday.

Dhlakama disappeared from public life in October 2012, relocating to a remote bush camp in central Mozambique and claiming the government had not kept to the terms of a 1992 peace deal.

That accord ended 15 years of bitter civil war between the Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo) and the initially Marxist Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo), which assumed power after independence from Portugal in 1975.

In late 2013, the Renamo leader went into hiding in the Gorongoza mountains as government troops overran his camp and the low-level conflict deepened.

Despite a peace deal signed between his party and the Frelimo-led government late last month, which promised his rebel fighters positions in state security forces and an amnesty for crimes committed during the near two-year insurgency, Dhlakama had been unwilling to leave his hideout, citing “security” concerns.

Renamo says that the international community will guarantee Dhlakama's safety while he travels to Maputo.

A group of diplomats, led by Italy and representing the United States, United Kingdom, Portugal and Botswana, is to journey to Gorongosa on Wednesday to accompany him to the capital, his party says.

“I will go with them there, we will fetch the president and bring him back here,” Renamo member of parliament Ivone Soares told AFP.

Dhlakama, 61, has run in every presidential race since 1994 but saw his support wane to 16 percent in 2009 polls.

Guebuza is stepping down after serving the maximum two terms and his Frelimo party's candidate, former defence minister Felipe Nyussi, is seen as almost certain to win the presidency. - AFP

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