Afonso Dhlakama, head of Mozambique's opposition party Renamo. File photo: Grant Lee/Reuters

Maputo – Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the Mozambican rebel movement Renamo, on Friday announced a further two month extension of the truce his forces have been observing since late December.

Dhlakama is still living at a Renamo base somewhere in the central district of Gorongosa, and has refused to leave, so he communicated by telephone with reporters gathered at the Renamo office in Maputo.

He declared “as from zero hours tomorrow, 4 March, a new truce takes effect, lasting until 4 May”.

Initially, the truce was only for a week, beginning on December 27. Dhlakama announced the truce after phone conversations with President Filipe Nyusi. In early January the truce was extended by a further two months, to March 4.

In the Friday press conference, Dhlakama confirmed that he remains in regular phone contact with Nyusi, and guaranteed that the peace talks “are on a good path”.

The truce has been holding. Since it began there have been no further Renamo ambushes on the roads, and no clashes have been reported between the Renamo militia and government forces.

There is no longer any need for armed escorts on main roads in the central provinces, and so traffic has returned to normal. Schools that had closed because of the military tensions have now reopened, and farmers who had fled from the countryside are returning to their homes and fields.

The peace talks are being handled by two working groups – one on decentralisation (which essentially means how the provinces are to be governed), and the second on “military matters”, including the disarming and demobilization of the Renamo militia. Each group has four members, two appointed by Nyusi and two by Dhlakama.

Renamo has dropped its demand for foreign mediators to attend the talks. Nyusi and Dhlakama agreed to dispense with mediators, and have instead set up a “contact group” of seven ambassadors resident in Maputo. The group is co-chaired by the Swiss and American ambassadors, and the other members are from China, the UK, Botswana, Norway and the European Union.

The “contact group” is intended to advise the government and Renamo, and the statement from Nyusi’s office announcing its creation said it “will provide coordinated financial and technical assistance”.

Dhlakama appears to have dropped his demand that Renamo be allowed to govern six provinces where he claimed Renamo won the 2014 general elections. Instead consensus is emerging that a constitutional amendment should be passed allowing for the direct election of provincial governors, rather than the current system of appointment by the president.

Independent Foreign Service