Mozambique: Will there be a peace deal?

SHARE   |   Monday, 29 August 2016   |   By Antonio Cascais

Tension is rising in Mozambique. The governments and the rebels are locked in negotiations Chaired by Botswana Former President Ketumile Masire to hammer out a peace deal, but there are conflicting reports as to whether they will succeed. 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. "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. 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. This week’s confusion about the peace deal raises fears of more violence. 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. The two sides entered into peace talks in early August 2015. They were joined by a mediating team chaired by Botswana's former president Sir Ketumile Masire. 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. 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. 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.