Ruling Party Lawmakers in Mozambique Urged to Block Autonomy Bid

Mozambican ruling party lawmakers have been urged to vote down a proposal to grant autonomy to six of the country’s 11 provinces, a plan the main opposition has said it will seek to implement by force if it is blocked.

Parliament in the southeast African country’s capital, Maputo, started debating the autonomy bill Thursday. It was drafted by the Mozambique National Resistance, or Renamo, which disputes the result of October presidential elections won by the candidate from the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, or Frelimo, in power since independence from Portugal in 1975.

President Filipe Nyusi agreed that parliament would discuss the proposal following face-to-face meetings with Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama at the end of January. The plan calls for five provinces where Dhlakama polled more votes than Nyusi to be ruled by a governor appointed by the Renamo leader, along with a sixth where his party disputes the official outcome.

Frelimo members of the parliamentary commission for constitutional affairs on Wednesday recommended that the party’s lawmakers, who have an overall majority, vote against the draft law. Renamo’s plan is unconstitutional because it would subordinate existing authorities in cities and towns below a new level of government, a situation not covered by Mozambican law, according to the Frelimo lawmakers.

Dhlakama has been touring the country telling crowds of supporters that Renamo will by May be governing in the six provinces where it polled highest. He has said that his party will take power by force if it is denied in parliament.

A peace accord Renamo signed with the government in September ended 18 months of clashes in the center of the country. Renamo forces had attacked convoys on the main north-south highway, and disrupted rail lines transporting coal mined by Brazil’s Vale SA to the port of Beira.

The violence started in 2013, shattering a ceasefire that had held since the two sides signed a peace deal in Rome in 1992 to end a civil war that began in 1976.

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