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Mozambique: Peace deal?

Antonio Cascais/dp
August 18, 2016

Tension is rising in Mozambique. The governments and the rebels are locked in negotiatons to hammer out a peace deal, but there are conflicting reports as to whether they have succeeded.

Filipe Nyusi and Afonso Dhlakama.
President Filipe Nyusi (left) and RENAMO leader Afonso Dhlakama.Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Pedro Sa Da Bendeira/Getty ImagesGianluigi Guercia/Montage

When RENAMO's chief negotiator Jose Manteigas faced the press in Mozambique's capital Maputo on Wednesday, he said the government and the former RENAMO rebels had reached an initial agreement which would pave the way for "lasting peace."

Under the deal, RENAMO-appointed governors would take power in six of Mozambique's 11 provinces, which the party claimed it won in elections in 2014, Manteigas maintained.

Both sides had also agreed on the way forward to decentralize power in Mozambique, a key RENAMO demand, he added.

'There is no decision'

"The president's delegation and the the RENAMO delegation agreed to set up a sub-committee tasked with preparing a legislative package to come into force before the next election," Manteigas told reporters.

But only a few hours later, hopes that the simmering conflict between RENAMO and the government would now come an end were dashed.

A grey amoured vehicle belong to Mocambique's army ahead of a convoy of cars.
Tensions have been high in Mozamabique since the October 2014 elections failed to restore peaceImage: DW/B. Jequete

Chief government negotiator José Veloso said "there is no decision at all. And if anyone says that the government has agreed to appoint governors from RENAMO for six provinces that is wrong. It is not true," the news agency LUSA reported.

Yesterday's confusion about the peace deal raises fears of more violence in the former Portuguese colony. A decade-long civil between both sides claimed more than a million lives. It came to an end in 1992. In 2015, RENAMO leader Afonso Dhlakama went into hiding again after he had lost presidential elections to government candidate Filipe Nyusi.

A propaganda war?

The two sides entered into peace talks in early August 2015. They were joined by a mediating team chaired by Botswana's former president Quett Marise. Representatives of the Catholic church, the European Union and South Africa were also present. But while the talking continued, the country was engulfed in a fresh wave of violence.

Shots were fired at civilians, government buildings were set ablaze and roads were blocked. There were attacks on trucks and freight trains. Six people died in a brutal raid on a village in Sofala province in central Mozambique a few days ago. The government blames RENAMO fighters for the lethal attack. A local newspaper said it was the work of government troops.

DW's correspondent in Sofala, Marcelino Mueia says the conflict in Mozambique is being accompanied by a propaganda war.

"The police always tells us that the attackers are RENAMO supporters. But we hear from the population that government troops are behind the attacks. It is difficult to say which version is correct," he said.

A huge crowd of people sitting on the ground in a refugee camp.
Thousands of Mozambicans have fled to Malawi to escape the violence.Image: HRW

Thousands fleeing violence

Many observers are warning that the country is slipping back into civil war with dramatic consequences for the rural population. Thousands of people have fled to neighboring Malawi. According to official government statistics, more than 2,300 people now live in displaced people's camps inside Mozambique.

"Especially teachers, nurses and administrative officers are fleeing certain areas. They are trying to find shelter in safe cities such as Quelimane, Beira or Nampula. They say it's impossible to stay in areas affected [by the conflict]," Mueia said.

DW understands that some areas affected by the fighting have run out of food. Hospitals and schools have closed. In Manica province alone, some 22.000 chilren can no longer attend lessons.

The shell of a burned-out car.
Cars belonging to RENAMO leader Afonso Dhlakama were firebombed in December 2015Image: DW/A. Sebastião

Mozambique's capital Maputo has not been hit by violence and many residents think that the conflict does not affect them. "That's wrong" says Salomao Muchanga from civil society group "Youth Parliament."

Mozambique's economy is suffering because of the conflict, The fighting has severed important transport arteries for consumer goods. Shortages can be expected to lead to rising prices. Coal exports - one of Mozambique's biggest earners - have collapsed following repeated attacks on the rail route to Nacala port.

"All Mozambicans are suffering because of the violence," Muchanga said. "We have to increase the pressure on both parties to the conflict . We do not want the old parties and their representatives to impose a new war on us."

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