Questions remain after Mozambique deal

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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 -

Mozambique rebel movement Renamo's agreement to a ceasefire is seen as aimed at keeping its political aspirations alive ahead of national and presidential elections on October 15.

Analysts say many questions remain after Sunday's deal that will see Renamo guerrillas integrated into government forces as well as the handover of the rebel movement's weapons.

Renamo waged a 16-year guerrilla campaign against the then Marxist government of Frelimo in a cold-war era conflict that killed close to a million people before a peace deal was signed in 1992.

Renamo became the main opposition in the country's parliament, but support for its leader, Afonso Dhlakama, waned in presidential elections from a peak of 48 percent in 1999 to 17 percent in 2009.

Dhlakama returned to the bush and launched a low-level insurgency in 2012, accusing his political rivals of monopolising power and excluding the opposition from participating in the country's growing economy.

While the state-run daily Noticias declared Sunday's ceasefire “Peace re-conquered”, Mozambican historian and political analyst Egidio Vaz said the deal was “only the beginning”.

“For Renamo to become a totally civil and not an armed political organisation will take time,” he told AFP, estimating putting the deal in place would take up to a year.

Apart from granting amnesty for crimes committed in the latest conflict, the deal also allows for the integration of Renamo guerrillas into the police and army, a process that is to be overseen by an “international force” whose composition is yet to be announced.

Renamo has agreed to hand over its weapons only once the integration process has begun.

“The fact that Dhlakama's armed people are not surrendering arms before the elections means that, yes, they may go back to the bush if the elections are not regarded as free and fair,” says Vaz.

Others are sceptical of the value of the accord itself, pointing out that Dhlakama failed to come out of hiding to sign it and is expected to hold a meeting with President Armando Guebuza to rubber stamp the ceasefire at a later date.

“I don't trust it. The fact that Dhlakama did not accept to come shows they do not trust each other,” Mozambique's Institute for Social and Economic Studies researcher Antonio Francisco told AFP.

“They (Renamo) probably reached a compromise to get into the process of elections,” he said. “Probably Dhlakama and those in the bush with him are tired.”

“The problem is that the motivations for the conflict are still there,” he said.

Negotiations are set to continue over economic questions, including discussion on how the country's new-found natural resource wealth is to be shared so that the opposition will no longer feel excluded.

“What will happen is that they (the government) will have to negotiate some leading positions for Renamo - for example the chair of the board of a leading company,” Vaz believes.

The government will look to the ceasefire agreement to reassure international investors.

Italian and US Petroleum companies are mulling the building of a multi-billion-dollar gas liquefaction platform in the far north in order to exploit vast gas finds.

“The government has increased its understanding that security uncertainty around the Renamo insurgency is creating issues for investors,” Eurasia political risk consultancy analyst Mark Rosenberg told AFP.

“They are obviously now moving ahead in the extractive sector legislation... so they want this wrapped up before ENI and Anadarko make final investment decisions and get moving on the gas project.”

Dhlakama has registered to run for the presidency in the October elections. He will face Frelimo's candidate, former defence minister Felipe Nyusi and Daviz Simango of the Mozambique Democratic Movement, a Renamo breakaway. - Sapa-AFP



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