Dlakama decamps to Mozambique bush

2012-10-19 20:14

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Maputo - A former commander of anti-communist guerrillas in Mozambique's brutal civil war has established a bush camp with former fighters, who are demanding a "new political order" for the country, his party told AFP on Friday.

Twenty years after agreeing to lay down arms as part of a peace agreement with his Marxist Frelimo rivals, Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama has decamped to the foothills of a remote mountain range, allies said.

The camp - thought to house 800 men, some armed - is close to the site of a base which Renamo, backed by white-ruled South Africa, used to fight a bloody 16-year conflict against Frelimo, former rebels against Portuguese colonialism who took over the country on independence in 1974.

"We want a new political order in Mozambique. We have already tried dialogue with Frelimo but they don't take it seriously," Renamo MP Ivone Soares told AFP in the capital Maputo.

Only Dhlakama's personal guard, thought to number about 300, are armed, Soares told AFP.

"We don't want to go back to war. We want Frelimo to give us equal opportunities."

"We have the right to protect ourselves," she said. However, she added. "Our people don't need bazookas. They are prepared to use their own teeth if they are attacked."

Since the signing of the Rome Peace Accord in 1992, ending a war in which more than million people died, Renamo became the country's main opposition.

The party holds 51 out of 250 parliamentary seats, but says it has been left in the cold.

Exchange of fire

Renamo accuses Frelimo leaders of keeping the spoils of the country's new-found mineral wealth for itself.

"Frelimo has cells in every area who watch who supports the opposition and, if you do, you get excluded," Soares complained. "Megaprojects only benefit Frelimo leader and members."

Until two days ago, Dhlakhama had based himself in the northern city of Nampula.

Police raided a makeshift camp around his headquarters in March, killing two people - the first exchange of fire since the civil war ended.

Despite a meeting between Dhlakama and his Frelimo rival, President Armando Guebuza, after the raid, Renamo says its retreat to the bush is retaliation.

"Frelimo started a war when they attacked us in Nampula. We did not respond. President Dhlakhama was patient. We have had 20 years of humiliation in the name of the peace accord. Our position has changed, we want different rules," Soares told AFP.

"We are always ready to talk. We want peace but we cannot accept a sick democracy," Soares said, adding Dhlakama and his men would remain in the bush for an "indeterminate period of time".

Read more on:    frelimo  |  afonso dhlakama  |  armando guebuza  |  sa  |  mozambique  |  southern africa
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