Mozambique’s president on Monday called for the immediate disarmament of the opposition Renamo’s armed wing in a bid to conclude the peace process initiated before the death of its leader.
The disarmament and integration of Renamo fighters into the regular army and police has been a major sticking point in any peace deal and government would want it finalised before the local government elections which are three months away.
The former rebel group Renamo – which was led by Afonso Dhlakama until his unexpected death in May – operates both as an opposition party and as an armed militant group.
“There is no alternative to disarmament, demobilisation and it should start now,” President Filipe Nyusi said during an address to mark the country’s independence from Portugal.
Renamo accepts disarming its military wing, but differs with the government on the timeline, preferring that demilitarisation takes place shortly after the October elections.
“The dialogue on military issues is progressing positively, with the assurance that the reintegration and integration of our military brothers … would be implemented by October,” said Renamo’s parliamentary leader Ivone Soares.
“The problem is that Frelimo wants demilitarisation now,” she said in a statement.
Renamo fought a bloody 16-year civil war against the ruling Frelimo party until 1992.
Between 2013 and 2016, unrest again erupted as Renamo attacked government and civilian vehicles, while soldiers were accused of ruthlessly targeting suspected rebels.
Face-to-face talks between Nyusi and Dhlakama, began after a truce ended the unrest.
Dhlakama played a key role in advancing the peace process, but his death from a suspected heart attack aged 65 threw the talks into doubt.
Nyusi said the demilitarisation timeline had been agreed to with Dhlakama and that the new Renamo leadership must respect it.
“We call for the serenity of Renamo’s new leadership so that this noble desire for a definitive peace and effective reconciliation among Mozambicans can be achieved as soon as possible,” Nyusi said.
The differences on the disarmament process between the two sides has led to the indefinite postponement of a parliamentary session that should approve the electoral law which will regulate the October 2018 municipal elections.