Mozambique – Political Violence Resumes

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Concerns over increased violence as rebel leader announces a bid to take over six provinces.

According to reports on January 14th many hundreds of refugees are fleeing across the Malawian border, describing how Mozambican government forces are driving people from their homes in the search for supporters of the Renamo armed opposition and their leader Afonso Dhlakama.

Dhlakama recently on December 16th stated his claim to claim six provinces in the  central and northern parts of the country, reigniting fears of a restart in the violence which ended 24 years ago. He claimed to have backing of public support and said he would retaliate if the government opposed him, reported News24. 

“The soldiers came in government vehicles to burn houses and maize barns and accused us of sheltering Renamo soldiers,” farmer Omali Ibrahim said as he was arriving at the Kapise refugee camp in Malawi’s southern district of Mwanza. The camp now houses over 1,500 people compared with 300 in June last year.

Dhlakama was the leader of Renamo during a 16-year civil war which ended in 1992, and he has refused to accept the results of a 2014 election, in which he was beaten by President Filipe Nyusi of the Frelimo party.

According to reports violence in the villages of Zobue and Moatize in Tete province is driving refugees across the border into Malawi. Senior Official in the Malawian Ministry of Home Affairs, Bestone Chisamile, said that the influx is a “big problem”. Medecin Sans Frontieres (MSF) and the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) are providing support at the Kapise camp.

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President Nyusi – CC 2014.

Earlier in December Renamo had called for international mediation between itself and the Mozambican government. Renamo spokesperson Antonio Muchanga said that new proposed mediators – South African President Jacob Zuma and figures from the Roman Catholic Church – are to be in place of the previous Mozambican mediators.

According to reports, the specific details of the Catholic Church officials were not detailed, but it was suggested that they responded promptly to the request by Renamo, and there were also signs that Zuma had accepted the invitation, reported Mozambican state owned media AIM.

Muchanga blamed the Mozambican mediators for failure of past dialogue, which began in April 2013. although it was Dhlakama who was to cease dialogue in August 2015. President Nyusi has stated that he wants face to face talks and is not interested in mediators.

Renamo has refused to disarm on disband its armed militia, as was stipulated in an agreement on the cessation of hostilities, signed on September 5th 2014.

Muchanga also denied that Renamo gunmen are defecting to the government; reports have suggested a steady trickle of former Renamo fighters asking to join the army or police, or seeking military pensions promised by the government, reported AIM.

According to Malawian media Nyasa Times, Mozambique is to blame for a rise in the influx of guns in Malawi, and there are concerns that violence, particularly in Tete province, could spill over the border.

Other reports from Mozambican state-owned AIM claimed that Renamo are responsible for the abduction of Frelimo officials in six districts of Sofala province. The districts cited were Gorongosa, Maríngue, Cheringoma, Chemba, Muanza, Nhamatanda and Chibabava.

Reports, which could not be independently confirmed, claimed that on on December 11th Renamo kidnapped the First Sectretary of a Frelimo committee in Muanza, whose whereabouts are still unknown. On January 5th Renamo kidnapped a Frelimo First secretary in Bededo locality of Nhamatanda. Other reports suggested that ten schools in Tete province, near the Malawian border, remain closed since they were shut down by Renamo rebels in June 2015.

Africa Confidential recently commented that President Nyusi is likely to face one of his most difficult years yet, with the country at a crossroads between stability and prosperity, and conflict and economic crisis.

Mozambique relies heavily on foreign aid, for around a quarter of its US$4.92 billion budget, alongside International Monetary Fund (IMF) emergency finance, which is conditional on unpopular austerity measures. There are also concerns that Nyusi may be facing opposition from within his Frelimo party.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin today

Mozambique: Shootouts & Blockades
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, No.10, Pp.20756A–20756B

Mozambique: Renamo Drags its Heels
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, No.4, Pp. 20543B

Mozambique: Calm After the Storm
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, No.2, Pp. 20458C–20459A

Mozambique: Frelimo Government
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, No.1, Pp. 20419B–20420B

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