Mozambique faces uncertainty as Renamo ends 1992 peace pact

Reuters

* Move follows government capture of Renamo jungle base

* Renamo leader Dhlakama in undisclosed location - spokesman

* Fighting ahead of election raises fear of more conflict

* Mozambique coal, gas discoveries have drawn investors

By Manuel Mucari

MAPUTO, Oct 21 (Reuters) - Mozambique's Renamo oppositionmovement said on Monday it was abandoning its 1992 peace accordwith the ruling Frelimo party that ended the country's civilwar, raising fears of a renewal of conflict in the buddingAfrican energy producer.

Renamo, which entered representative politics through thepeace pact that terminated the brutal 1975-1992 war, said ittook the decision because of the capture on Monday by governmentforces of a jungle base where its leader Afonso Dhlakama wasstaying. Dhlakama escaped into the surrounding mountains.

"Peace is over in the country ... The responsibility lieswith the Frelimo government because they didn't want to listento Renamo's grievances," Renamo spokesman Fernando Mazanga toldReuters.

Mazanga said the Renamo party, which has 51 parliamentariansin the current Frelimo-dominated national assembly, would bemeeting to decide its strategy. He did not immediately spell outwhether the opposition movement would be taking up arms again ona national level.

There was no immediate reaction from the government ofPresident Armando Guebuza.

It earlier confirmed that government troops had taken overthe Renamo base in the Gorongosa region of Sofala province, some600 km (375 miles) north of the capital Maputo. This followedclashes in the area between the army and Renamo.

Renamo's unilateral annulment of the peace accord wascertain to alarm foreign donor governments and investors, whohave been backing economic development in one of Africa'sfastest-growing economies. Big coal and offshore gas discoverieshave drawn multi-billion dollar investments to Mozambique.

The fighting in the thickly forested Gorongosa regionbetween the old civil war foes occurred just a month beforemunicipal elections that Renamo had promised to boycott anddisrupt because it accuses the ruling Frelimo party ofmonopolising political power.

Guebuza's government in turn accuses Renamo of trying todestabilise Mozambique and drag it back to war. It has sentextra troops into Sofala to protect rail and road trafficagainst ambushes.

LEADER IN HIDING

Mozambique's military moved against Dhlakama's base aftersuspected Renamo guerrillas killed seven Mozambican soldiers inan ambush last week.

Renamo raids in April and June in Sofala had already raisedfears for stability in Mozambique. They killed at least 11soldiers and police and six civilians and forced a temporarysuspension of coal exports sent by rail to the coast. Roadtraffic and the tourist trade were also affected.

Renamo spokesman Mazanga said government soldiers bombardedRenamo's Sathunjira base with heavy weapons before occupying iton Monday.

He said Dhlakama, who had returned to the former Renamocivil war stronghold a year ago with a force of armed bodyguardsbecause he feared for his safety, managed to escape to anundisclosed location in the surrounding Gorongosa mountains.

"He's called me and says that he's in good health," he said.

Renamo was formed as an anti-communist rebel group in the1970s by the secret service of a then white-ruled neighbour,Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe, and has been the main oppositionto Frelimo, a former Marxist movement, since the end of the war.

Renamo was later adopted by the apartheid-era South Africanmilitary but abandoned the war in the 1992 pact to become theleading opposition party in Mozambique, which gainedindependence from Portugal in 1975.

Renamo has lost every election to Frelimo since the peacedeal, and has challenged these vote outcomes as fraudulent. Itaccuses Guebuza and his ruling party of hogging political andeconomic power through a one-sided electoral system and byharassing its opponents.

Frelimo was expected to dominate November's municipalelections and a nationwide vote in just over a year. There areconcerns the renewed fighting could derail the resourcesinvestment bonanza in a country where most of the populationstill remains desperately poor.

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