Mozambique’s president says clashes with rebels will not reignite civil war

Armando Guebuza moves to placate international investors after attacks by Renamo forces

President  Armando Guebuza  greets a surpporter in Chimoio, capital of the Manica province. Photograph: Ferhat Momade/AFP/Getty Images

President Armando Guebuza greets a surpporter in Chimoio, capital of the Manica province. Photograph: Ferhat Momade/AFP/Getty Images


Mozambican president Armando Guebuza has moved to dispel fears that recent violent clashes between government troops and the former rebel movement Renamo could reignite the country’s brutal civil war.

In a move that looks designed to placate international investors pumping hundreds of millions of euro into the energy- rich nation to develop its infrastructure, Mr Guebuza told news agencies on Wednesday his country would not return to the bloodshed of the past.

“I do not think, and that is a strong ‘no’ . . . that we are going back to war. Mozambique is not in a situation of instability,” he said in an interview.

Mr Guebuza is the leader of the ruling party Frelimo, which was involved in a brutal 16-year civil war with the anti-communist rebels Renamo that ended in 1992, leaving an estimated one million people dead.

His comments have come amid a worsening of political violence that started 12 months ago in the southern African country, after Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama led some of his former rebels back into the bush, where they have launched attacks against government troops.

Mr Dhakama and his Renamo supporters are said to be disappointed at not securing a greater share of post-war Mozambique’s political and economic gains, and as a result they are trying to force the government to grant them concessions.

The country has been one of Africa’s success stories over the past 20 years, turning itself from one of the world’s poorest countries to one of its fastest growing economies on the back of finding natural resources and following the shift towards democracy.

On October 21st, government troops attacked and took over Mr Dhlakama’s military base in the central Gorongoza mountains, killing one of his senior aides. However, the Renamo leader escaped. According to a spokesperson, he was alive and well, but his whereabouts remain a mystery.

Peace agreement
Since then Renamo have pulled out of the peace agreement that ended the civil war and attacked a police station, as well as civilians travelling by bus last Saturday, killing one and injuring ten. On Monday, the government attacked and took over a second Renamo base in the area.

The escalation in violence has prompted the UN, US and southern African leaders to call for restraint and a return to peace talks by both sides.

But Mr Guebuza has maintained the violence will be short-term, that it is contained and restricted to one area.

“I don’t think there is a problem in the medium and long term and we are doing our best to stop it as soon as possible,” he said, speaking in the central- western town Chimoio.

Mr Guebuza went on to say the authorities had taken all the steps necessary to secure a key railway line used to move coal to the central port of Beira.