Mozambique rebel movement rejects peace talks

Renamo leader says government’s invitation for him to travel to Maputo and discuss his grievances is ‘cynical’.

Supporters of Afonso Dhlakama, the leader of Renamo, have been involved in a series of deadly attacks [AFP]

Mozambique’s revived rebel movement Renamo has rejected a government invite for high level face-to-face talks to end destabilising military skirmishes.

The Frelimo party-led government had called on its civil war foe Afonso Dhlakama, the leader of Renamo, to travel to Maputo on November 8 to discuss his grievances personally with President Armando Guebuza.

But just hours later Renamo rejected the invitation outright as “cynical”.

Defence is an animal instinct. Any animal's first reaction is to defend itself and survive,

by Fernando Mazanga, Renamo spokesman

Renamo spokesman Fernando Mazanga branded the offer “a political propaganda campaign without minimal respect for ethics”.

Supporters of Dhlakama – a rebel leader in Mozambique’s brutal civil war – have been involved in a series of deadly attacks and are demanding a share of the country’s resource wealth.

For many Mozambicans the crisis has uncomfortable echoes of a 16-year civil war between Renamo and the ruling Frelimo party that resulted in the deaths of around one million people.

Amid nearly a year of simmering tensions and sporadic attacks on police and civilians, the Mozambique army raided Dhlakama’s bush camp on October 21.

He has been in hiding since then, “trying to escape attack”, according to Mazanga.

The factions signed a peace deal in 1992 and Renamo subsequently became the main opposition party, but has since seen its support erode.

Guebuza said he wanted to hold talks “out of respect for the strong wishes of the Mozambican people”, his office said in a statement reported by the state news agency.

Renamo accused the government of planning fresh assaults on the movement’s strongholds in central Mozambique.

‘Solution is dialogue’

A face-to-face meeting between the two leaders is seen as the only way of ending the impasse after months of dialogue between Renamo and the government failed to yield results.

Last week Guebuza told the AFP news agency in an interview that “the solution is dialogue. It is not a military solution”, a day after government forces attacked another Renamo camp.

Asked whether Renamo was preparing to act against the alleged assault by government forces, Mazanga replied “defence is an animal instinct. Any animal’s first reaction is to defend itself and survive”.

Renamo has in the past called for Guebuza to travel to the central Sofala province for talks, where Dhlakama has strong support.

It says the leader would be in danger of attacks if he travelled to Maputo.

Renamo earlier threatened to disrupt local elections slated for November 20 unless the government gives in to its demands. Campaigning officially started Tuesday, but the movement has refused to register.

Source: AFP