Peace talks with Mozambique's opposition leader called off

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Afonso Dhlakama (Picture: AFP)
Afonso Dhlakama (Picture: AFP)

Maputo - Peace talks between Mozambique's opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama and mediators were called off at the weekend after fighting broke out between the military and ex-rebel fighters, local media reported on Wednesday.

The meeting was part of negotiations that opened in May to end a simmering conflict between the government and the former Renamo rebel group.

"We had agreed (with President Filipe Nyusi) that two mediators would come... to meet me," Dhlakama told the independent weekly Canal de Mocambique.

But Dhlakama, who has been holed-up in the central Gorongosa mountains for a year now, said the military increased its presence near the venue of the meeting on the morning of the talks.

"There was a violent shootout. I even heard the explosions from here," Dhlakama said.

"So I called (chief mediator Mario) Raffaelli to tell him that armed forces had come to ambush me."

He said he was "convinced" that the ruling Frelimo party "wanted to capture me during the meeting".

New round of peace talks 

"It is obvious they have a plan to kill me," he added.

Raffaelli, the European Union-appointed mediator, declined to comment when contacted by AFP.

An EU diplomat, who asked not to be named, confirmed to AFP that two mediators had gone to Gorongosa for a meeting with Dhlakama.

"[But] Dhlakama told them to turn back at the very last moment," said the diplomat.

A new round of peace talks resumed last week after they had been halted following the killing of the opposition negotiators.

While both sides have agreed in principle to changing the constitution to allow Renamo figures to be appointed as provincial governors, the talks have yet to result in a ceasefire.

Renamo, which previously waged a 16-year civil war that ended in 1992, has refused to accept the results of 2014 elections when it was beaten once more by the ruling Frelimo party - in power since the former Portuguese colony's independence 40 years ago.

Renamo's armed wing has in recent years staged a string of deadly attacks in central Mozambique as it fights to make its voice heard and to secure a greater share of power.

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