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Mozambique's 20-Year Peace at Great Risk

Morning mist in Gorongosa. Photo by Bart Wursten on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Morning mist in Gorongosa. Photo by Bart Wursten on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Yesterday, Mozambican armed forces launched a raid against the year-long headquarters of opposition leader and ex-guerrilla leader Afonso Dhlakama in Gorongosa, in the center of the country. After a number of raids on security forces attributed to Renamo, Dhkakama's rebel group-turned-political party, some even on the National Highway, and a series of failed negotiations in the country's capital Maputo between Renamo and the government, Mozambican armed forces had essentially surrounded the Renamo base in recent weeks.

Following the attack, on October 21, 2013, a Renamo spokesperson declared it constituted an assassination attempt against Dhlakama, marking the end of a 20 year peace deal, signed in 1992 in Rome. Renamo announced that Dhlakama had fled into the bush. He was reported to have said he “could not control” the response of his supporters to the government attack.

Renamo and the state of Mozambique (led from independence by governing party Frelimo) fought over the country during a bloody period of civil war, fueled by Cold War politics and longstanding rivalries. When Renamo came in from the bush, it agreed to become an opposition party as a part of a “multi-party” democracy. The group never had a harmonious relationship with the government, trying to play the spoiler in a number of elections, but remained in parliament acting as Mozambique's main opposition party.

An important context of this year's increasing conflict are upcoming municipal elections (which Renamo was boycotting) and the continued discovery of major hydrocarbon deposits off Mozambique's Indian Ocean coast (see our coverage).

Comment about the escalation of hostilities was quick to pour in, much of it from a generation which grew up after the country's bloody civil war. On Twitter, many joined in a chorus of “no” to war.

NO to the “ex-combatants” in “power” #NO

We don't want war here.

Commenters on the Facebook wall of @Verdade newspaper observed that the common people pay the price in conflicts, or “carry the can” while leaders seem “quite relaxed”.

A number of young people jokingly referred to Dhlakama as a “Bin Laden”.

The unconfirmed and seemingly fake twitter account of Afonso Dhlakama tweeted “I am alive and in a safe place” provoking a number of sarcastic and disrespectful responses.

Long-time blogger on Mozambique JPT wrote

Olho o telefone, deixado em silêncio, e está cheio de mensagens, alarmadas, o temor da escalada… E a paz, esse bem supremo, está em perigo

I look at my phone, left on silence, and it's full of messages, alarmed, fear of an escalation… And peace, this supreme good, is at risk

Most were extremely worried about the uncertainty that lies ahead. Fransisco Moises commented on Moçambique para Todos blog

Pelos vistos, o acordo de Roma morreu. Tudo é agora possivel. Tomar e quebrar uma base nao é ganhar a guerra. Os que se encontram nas matas poderao agora lançar a guerrilha, principalmente sem o controlo do Dhlakama que era impedimento para muitos homens que queriam actuar.

The Rome accords are dead, it appears. Now all is possible. Taking and busting up the base is not winning a war. Those now in the bush can launch guerrilla attacks, without the control of Dhlakama who was actually preventing many men from taking action.

Not all were so critical of the government's attack. Commenter Antonio Vasco wrote on Moçambique para Todos blog

Era a hora!
Bases militares ou pro-militares da Renamo em Moçambique?
Mas,a Renamo nao é ela um Partido Politico?
Se o desaparecimento do Lider da Renamo for permanente,talvez,talvez a Renamo como Partido Politico poderá ela transformar-se num verdadeiro partido politco.
Boa Noticia! Se for necessario,que as forças de Seguarança e militares de Moçambicanas que destruam todas palhotas dessa base.Boa,boa e boa noticia!

It was about time!

Military or militaristic bases of Renamo in Mozambique? But, isn't Renamo a political party? If the disappearance of the leader of Renamo is to be permanent, perhaps, perhaps Renamo as a political party can actually become just that.

Good news! if necessary, the armed forces should destroy all of the huts of that base. Good, good, and good news!

Meanwhile, President Armando Guebuza carries on his “Open Presidency” tour, curiously in the same province as the attacks and on the eve of municipal elections slated for November 20.

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