Vunduzi, Mozambique - The leader of Mozambique's opposition party Renamo registered to vote on Thursday, raising hopes for a peaceful October presidential election in a country where his movement has been conducting a low-level insurgency.
By registering to vote - just one day before a deadline for citizens to do so - Afonso Dhlakama would now be legally allowed to make another bid for the presidency himself, something he has yet to confirm he will do.
Dhlakama, who has lived in the bush for more than a year to escape what he said was government persecution, told reporters he was interested in reaching a deal with the government to end Renamo's insurgency.
“If we can reach an agreement on the political tensions, then we can end this. We could have an effective ceasefire as early as tomorrow, it depends on the other side,” he said.
Whoever wins the October 15 vote is expected to help bring to fruition major coal and offshore natural gas investment projects that have the potential to bring billions of dollars to a nation that was in ruins two decades ago.
Dhlakama, 61, was registered by a mobile brigade of electoral officials who travelled into the bush of Sofala province in central Mozambique, where Renamo guerrillas have battled the army and police and ambushed road and rail convoys over the last year.
Dhlakama, who led his rebels against the ruling Frelimo party in Mozambique's 1975-1992 civil war, said Renamo would decide whether he would run for president on October 15.
Frelimo, which has ruled since independence from Portugal in 1975, has won every election since the end of the civil war.
Dhlakama accuses Frelimo and President Armando Guebuza of monopolising political and economic power. The constitution bars Guebuza from running for a third term and former Defence Minister Filipe Nyusibut will run as the Frelimo candidate.
Dhlakama said he was hopeful of securing a deal with the government over issues including guaranteeing his personal security to come out of the bush.
The government denies it is seeking to kill him, but Renamo had accused it of trying to send police with the electoral officials this week, something it said was a potential threat to Dhlakama's life.
“We're both leaders, I on the right, and Guebuza on the left, but we can overcome our differences,” Dhlakama said.
There was no immediate reaction from the government, which has been demanding that Renamo fighters lay down their arms.
As part of the deal to allow Dhlakama to register, Renamo had agreed that its fighters would stop ambushing convoys on the main north-south highway.
Since April last year, Renamo partisans have carried out sporadic raids on police and military posts in parts of central and southern Mozambique and ambushing vehicles on the N1 highway, killing several dozen people, disrupting traffic and causing cancellations in the tourism industry.
Buoyed by foreign investment, Mozambique's economy is forecast to grow by more than 8 percent this year from 7 percent in 2013, according to the IMF, which calls it “one of the most dynamic economies in Sub-Saharan Africa”.
Mozambique's resource-led boom involves investors including Brazil's Vale, London-listed Rio Tinto,Italy's Eni and US oil firm Anadarko. - Reuters