Mozambique's main opposition party and former rebel movement Renamo began disarming members of its armed wing on Tuesday as part of a prospective peace deal that will see the fighters re-integrated into the country's armed forces.
In a symbolic ceremony attended by Renamo leader Ossufo Momade, government representatives and international military experts, four fighters turned in their weapons and officially left their base in the central Gorongosa mountains.
The four fighters headed to a special military centre set up to help them prepare to be reintegrated back into society.
Another 46 militia members are expected to hand in their weapons shortly.
All 5 221 Renamo fighters are to surrender their weapons to the government, a condition for the peace deal that is planned to be signed next month.
That would bring an end to a long peace negotiation process initiated by Renamo's historic leader, Afonso Dhlakama, who died in May last year.
In the mid-1970s, Renamo fought a brutal 16-year civil war against the government that left one million people dead before the conflict ended in 1992.
It transformed into a political party but took up arms again in 2013 to challenge the ruling Frelimo party, which has been in power since Mozambique won independence from Portugal in 1975.
Renamo declared a ceasefire in 2016 under Dhlakama, who pursued a peace deal until his death.
"From this historic ceremony of great symbolism, we hope that the values of peace will prevail and we will not make the mistakes of the past again," Momade said at the ceremony, according to the local press.
The disarmament deal will see some of the militias integrated into the army and police force while others will enter civilian life after receiving financial aid to help them set up.
If the peace deal is signed next month as planned, it will be the third between Renamo and the government.
The previous two agreements failed in part because Renamo never surrendered all its weapons and kept some of its men in the woods, accusing the government of not complying with the deal.
The international community is mediating Renamo's disarmament through a military affairs commission, which includes experts from the United Nations and some western countries.
The beginning of disarmament comes two months ahead of a general election and one month before Pope Francis' visit to Mozambique, where he is expected to pray for peace and national reconciliation.
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