Mozambique rivals to sign final peace deal

Maputo (AFP) –


Mozambique's ex-rebel group-turned opposition party, Renamo, will on Tuesday sign a final peace agreement with the government in Maputo, 27 years after the end of the first civil war.

This marks the third attempt to secure a lasting peace deal between the two long-time rivals since 1992.

It comes days after President Filipe Nyusi and Renamo leader Ossufo Momade penned a pact on Thursday in Gorongosa National Park agreeing to formally end military hostilities.

The pact brought to a finish the long peace negotiation process initiated by Afonso Dhlakama, the historic leader of the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo) who died in May last year, and comes just months before general elections on October 15.

The impoverished southern African country votes in parliamentary and presidential polls in which the ruling Frelimo party, which has dominated power for more than four decades, is expected to win.

Renamo launched a brutal 16-year civil war against the Frelimo government shortly after independence from Portugal in 1975, a conflict that left one million people dead.

The rebel movement then entered politics after a 1992 peace pact which was signed in Rome, paving the way for multi-party elections in 1994.

Renamo lost that vote and subsequent elections and became the official opposition party.

- 'Important development' -

In October 2013 Renamo declared the end of the 1992 peace deal after the military raided its bush camp in central Sathundjira.

Clashes then erupted again between government forces and Renamo soldiers from 2013 to 2016.

Despite the end of the civil war and Renamo transforming into a political party, it retained an armed wing.

Last week Renamo began disarming armed members as part of the peace deal.

Some of the demobilised fighters will be absorbed into Mozambique's army and police, while others will be reintegrated into civilian life.

More than 5,200 Renamo fighters are expected to surrender their weapons to the government.

But the party is suffering internal divisions with a small group of disgruntled members vowing not to turn in their arms and refusing to recognise the new leader Momade, who has already been nominated as Renamo's presidential candidate for the October vote.

Nyusi warned last week that any Renamo fighters who chose not to hand in their weapons under the ongoing disarmament programme would be "hunted down".

Tuesday's signing also comes as Nyusi's administration is battling a jihadist insurgency in the north, which has claimed more than 250 lives since October 2017, and ahead of the visit to the country by Pope Francis in September.

Analysts have described the agreement which will be witnessed by President Cyril Ramaphosa from the neighbouring economic powerhouse of South Africa, as "an important development".

"The sustainability of this deal is in the hands of Mozambicans and depends on the conduct of credible elections in October 2019," said Alex Vines, head of the Africa programme at Chatham House in a report published Monday.

"A lasting agreement is in the national interest. It would mean that a new Mozambican government formed after the national elections can focus on gas industry development, improving services, poverty reduction and combating new security challenges, such as growing violent Islamic radicalism in Cabo Delgado," Vines said.