Fighting between Mozambique’s army and militia loyal to the opposition Mozambique National Resistance party, or Renamo, has led to 58 deaths, a military official said.
The clash at Maringue in central Mozambique resulted in the deaths of 17 soldiers and 41 members of the militia, the official said, asking not to be identified because the death toll hasn’t been released. The government wasn’t aware of any casualties, Manuel Mazuze, deputy national director for defense policy, said at an earlier press conference in Maputo, the capital, yesterday.
“I confirm there were clashes today but no victims to report, at least on our side,” he said.
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. The clashes are the worst since the signing of the peace agreement.
Media Fax, a privately owned publication based in Maputo, also reported a death toll of 58 people, citing sources it described as reliable. State media today reported the clashes, citing the government as saying there were no deaths.
Antonio Muchanga, a senior member of Renamo, today denied that members of his party were killed in Maringue.
“Maringue is a small town and if there had been in fact the deaths that some newspapers are reporting, it wouldn’t be easy to hide, even in the bush,” he said in an interview in Maputo. “This is all military propaganda.”
The army attacked Renamo’s main base on Oct. 21 after a series of attacks on public transport and a government arms depot this year led to the temporary closure of rail lines used by Rio Tinto Plc and Vale SA to export coal. Renamo said the 1992 peace agreement was over following the attack on its base.
Muchanga said Renamo was being blamed for attacks it didn’t sanction.
“It is obvious that there are some groups using Renamo’s name to attack civilian and military positions to blacken the party’s name,” he said. “I believe that some national defense forces can even be involved in those attacks.”
Mozambique, the site of the largest natural gas discovery in the last decade, 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.
“I have to stress this is a very small area of a huge country and the security forces are already deployed there,” said Robert Besseling, senior Africa analyst at IHS Country Risk.