Mozambique leader calls for talks to end violence

Report
from Agence France-Presse
Published on 24 Oct 2013

10/24/2013 17:51 GMT

MAPUTO, October 24, 2013 (AFP) - Mozambique's President Armando Guebuza called for dialogue Thursday, warning of a threat to peace after two days of tit-for-tat violence between government forces and members of former rebel group Renamo.

The two sides signed a peace agreement two decades ago, ending a long civil war, but Renamo declared that accord over after the army seized its base during a raid on Monday.

"Mozambique is currently living through moments in which peace is under threat," the president said at a community meeting in central Sofala province.

"We should all continue to engage in dialogue. If we hold a dialogue with conviction, we shall cease to be weak," he said.

"This moment is a test, an examination of our conviction as to whether we really want peace."

Guebuza's comments came after Renamo fighters reportedly attacked a police station in the region.

The ruling Frelimo party's relations with Renamo, now the official opposition, have been tense since the 1992 peace agreement that ended one of Africa's bloodiest conflicts in which around a million people were killed.

Renamo took up arms against the then-communist government of Frelimo -- the Mozambique Liberation Front -- after independence from Portugal in 1975.

Defence Minister Filipe Nyusi on Wednesday justified the raid on the Renamo base as necessary to stem "internal terrorism".

"The pursuit (of armed Renamo men) was necessary to disable this core of terrorism and will continue in order to maintain stability in the country," he told reporters.

Mozambique, which is due to hold local government polls next month and a national vote in 2014, has a history of election-related violence.

Renamo is demanding a bigger role in electoral bodies, as well as a cut of revenues from coal and gas resources.

Leader Afonso Dhlakama last November returned to his bush camp near the central Gorongosa mountains, accusing Frelimo of seizing the country's wealth.

Guebuza's spokesman Edson Macuacua told AFP the president was ready to hold talks with Dhlakama, who he fled his camp when it came under attack on Monday and whose current whereabouts are unknown.

Over the last six months Renamo militants have clashed sporadically with government forces.

The unrest has been confined to the central region, but this week's attacks have sparked fears of renewed war between the foes, prompting worried reactions from the United Nations, the United States and neighbours South Africa.

In talks with independent negotiator Lourenco do Rosario this week, Renamo said it did not want to return to war, but demanded that government forces pull back from the base they seized on Monday.

But it appears unlikely that the government will give up the base after the defence minister hinted that the camp could be "transformed into an army headquarters".

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