Renamo: four decades on the losing side

2013-10-23 12:43
Renamo fighter. (Jinty Jackson, AFP)

Renamo fighter. (Jinty Jackson, AFP)

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Maputo - Renamo, which declared Mozambique's hard-won peace deal over, was formed in 1976 as an anti-Communist rebel group backed by neighbouring white-minority regimes and fought the ruling Frelimo.

In the latest attack to fuel fears of a return to the dark days of civil war, gunmen attacked a police station on Tuesday, hours after Renamo declared the death of the 1992 peace pact in retaliation for a military raid on its bush camp.

Renamo has failed to seize power in 15 years of war and two decades of peace but analysts say the group is too weak now to take another shot at toppling its arch-foe through warfare.

Founded a year after Mozambique's 1975 independence from Portugal, Renamo (the Mozambican National Resistance Movement) boasts a bloody history of resistance to communist rule during the Cold War era.

It opposed the newly formed Marxist-leaning government led by the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) with its guerrillas engaging in deadly sabotage activities, attacking villages and blowing up infrastructure.

Tensions between Frelimo and Renamo escalated into a civil war fought between 1977 and 1992.

Backed by colonial Rhodesia, Renamo was used to destabilise the Frelimo government, which supported the Zimbabwe liberation fighters.

Following Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, Renamo formed alliances with South Africa's apartheid regime, which supplied it with arms.

Dwindling political support

More than a million people were killed during the 16-year bush war.

A Rome peace accord signed in 1992 ended the war and paved the way for multi-party elections held in 1994. Renamo lost and became the official opposition.

In the 2009 poll it garnered only 16.5 percent of the vote, losing to President Armando Guebuza and prompting Renamo's dejected leader Afonso Dhlakama to threaten fresh civil strife.

Facing dwindling political support, Dhlakama in October 2012 set up camp in the Gorongosa mountains and undertook fresh training for former guerrilla fighters numbering no more than a thousand.

In November, he told AFP he was willing to "destroy Mozambique" if Renamo did not get a bigger slice of the country's growing wealth.

The rebel group-turned-opposition has repeatedly pushed for greater inclusion in the Frelimo government, calling for the overhaul of electoral laws.

In 2012, it demanded that the government renegotiate the terms of the 1992 peace accord, a plea Frelimo rejected.

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