Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Renamo.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says it has received “worrying information” about armed clashes in Mozambique between national security forces and members of Renamo, the former rebel group.

“Human rights violations, including cases of enforced disappearances and summary executions, have also been reported,” said spokesman Rupert Colville on Friday.

He said the announcement by the head of the police on Monday that any public protest would be repressed raised serious concerns.

Ahead of demonstrations called for this weekend and the next week, Colville said: “We urge the government to fulfil its obligation to guarantee that all citizens may exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.”

Tension has been rising in Mozambique over the past few months after Renamo rejected the outcome of the 2014 legislative elections and announced its intention to seize power in six of the country's 11 provinces.

Military operations by the army against Renamo have mainly affected the Tete province but the fighting seems to be spreading to other provinces, including Sofala, Zambezia, Nampula and Manica, according to the commission. It noted about 10 000 people had left the country since December.

Security forces have been accused of summary executions, looting, destruction of property, rape, ill-treatment and other human rights violations. According to reliable sources, at least 14 local Renamo officials have been killed or abducted by unidentified individuals or groups since the beginning of the year.

On January 20, there was an assassination attempt on Renamo secretary-general and MP Manual Bissopo.

Renamo, which was once backed by South Africa’s apartheid government, became the main opposition party at the end of the 16-year civil war in 1992.

“Attacks against police and military forces have also been attributed to Renamo,” said Colville.

“Members of Renamo are also reported to have committed human rights abuses and violations against civilians perceived to be associated with the ruling party Frelimo, or to be co-operating with security forces.”

Renamo fighters have been accused of carrying out sniper attacks on some roads, which have resulted in a number of casualties, including civilians.

“The lack of accountability for past human rights abuses and violations seems to be a key component of the deteriorating situation.

“We are particularly concerned about the killing on April 1 of public prosecutor Marcelino Vilankulo and about the lack of progress in the investigation into the March 2015 murder of Gilles Cistac, a law professor who had denounced electoral fraud,” said Colville.

The rights office said it was alarmed by recent reports that human rights defenders who were calling for public demonstrations in favour of accountability and transparency in the management of public resources had been harassed and threatened.

The police chief's threat last Monday to crack down on demonstrations was troubling, the rights office said.

Independent Foreign Service