Mozambique’s opposition movement said a 21-year-old peace deal with the ruling party is over following an attack by army troops on its headquarters and that it may retaliate.
The army yesterday attacked the base of the former rebel Mozambique National Resistance party, known as Renamo, in Satunjira in the central Sofala province, Fernando Mazanga, a spokesman for the group, told reporters. Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama was forced to take refuge in the nearby Gorongosa mountains, he said.
“President Dhlakama did not order any response yet, but you have to remember that it’s human nature that when we are being attacked, we have to strike back,” Mazanga said today in a telephone interview from Maputo, the capital. “The president is losing control of the situation, including of his troops, and it’s unpredictable what the situation will be in the next few hours.”
Renamo, once backed by the white-minority governments of Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe, and South Africa, fought a 17-year civil war against the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, or Frelimo, until signing a peace agreement in Rome in 1992. It has served as the main opposition party for two decades. Government forces clashed with the former guerrilla group over the past four days after blaming Renamo for attacks that disrupted coal shipments from mines operated by Rio Tinto Plc and Vale SA.
“The attack definitely puts to an end the Rome peace agreement and from now on we cannot assure what will happen,” Mazanga said yesterday. “Dhlakama is alive and in good health despite that attack.”
Government forces used heavy artillery in the attack, Mazanga said. Cristovao Chume, a spokesman for Mozambique’s Defense Ministry, told a separate press conference that army troops took over the Renamo base. No one was killed in the clashes, he said.
Mazanga said Renamo advocates peace and urges Mozambicans to remain calm.
Dhlakama plans to give a speech tomorrow if Renamo can find a secure venue to hold a press conference, party General Secretary Manuel Bissopo said by phone today. While declining to disclose their exact location, Bissopo said he and Dhlakama were in a safe place.
Talks between Frelimo and Renamo on electoral reform have repeatedly failed, and elections are due next year.
Mozambique, a former colony of Portugal, is the site of the biggest natural gas discovery in a decade and plans to open a liquefied natural gas terminal in 2018 that will be the second-largest export site in the world after Ras Laffan in Qatar. Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Eni SpA are among companies investing in gas production in the country.