from ARIMANDO DOMINGOS in Maputo, Mozambique
MAPUTO – THE recent assassination of a senior member of the opposition Mozambican National Resistance’s (Renamo’s) negotiation team and relentless militant attacks by the militants of the party is further hindering efforts to regain peace and stability in the Southern African nation.
The civil strife is putting paid to prospects of Mozambique fulfilling its potential as economic power-house in the continent as it teems with vast natural resources as crude oil, gas, coal minerals and hydro electric-power generated from abundance of water flow.
The Southern African region, in dire need of energy to boost their struggling economy, is thus indirectly suffering from the problems afflicting Mozambique that was tipped to be an economic success story particularly in recent years with the discovery of natural gas.
Efforts to regain peace suffered a tragic setback this past weekend with killing of Renamo negotiator, James Pondeca, who was shot dead by unknown gunmen at a beach in the capital Maputo.
The assassination coincided with the lengthy negotiations with the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) scheduled to resume on Monday this week, but aborted to an unconfirmed date.
The negotiations by the Joint Commission have subsequently been shelved, a further setback considering nothing had come out of the mediation led by former Tanzanian president, Jakaya Kikwete, Italian envoy Mario Raffaelli, and former Botswana president Quett Masire.
This week, the European Commission (EU) appealed for calm in the former Portuguese colony of over 25 million people.
“All Mozambican parties wish for peace for Mozambique, and must stay committed to the peace negotiations and refrain from any action that endangers a process supported by the Mozambican people,” a spokesperson said.
Interior Minister, Basilio Monteiro, said police would ensure Pondeca’s assailants are brought to book.
“Every effort will be made so the perpetrators are found and brought to justice,” Monteiro said in Maputo this week.
Pondeca’s murder coincided with suspected Renamo gunmen carrying out a series of attacks.
Last Thursday, they attacked a train belonging to the coal mining company, Vale-Mozambique, in the northern province of Nampula.
Provincial police spokesman, Zacarias Nacute, confirmed attacks were unleashed in Mutuali in Malema districts.
“Police are on the spot working to assess the circumstances of the attack, and discover the whereabouts of those carrying out armed attacks in our province, so that they may be taken to justice,” Nacute said.
Suspected Renamo militants also attacked a goods train plying the route between Cuamba and Nampula cities.
The bone of contention is the general election held in 2004 when Frelimo, in power since independence in 1975, retained control.
Renamo, led by Alfonso Dhlakama, claimed the polls were rigged.
The party is demanding autonomy rule in six mineral rich provinces of Manica, Nampula, Niassa, Sofala, Tete and Zambezia, where it claims to have won.
President Felipe Nyusi and Frelimo have resisted moves for autonomy rule.
In defiance, Renamo has unleashed the reign of terror killing scores of civilians and sent more than 100 000 refugees scurrying for safety in neighbouring countries facing drought and economic challenges.
Among these countries are Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
Nyusi has condemned the recurrent violence that has left the country on the brink of civil war reminiscent of the war that claimed the lives of over 1 million people between 1977 and 1992.
“At a time when the government of Mozambique has chosen the path of dialogue to end the war of destabilisation brought about by Renamo, we embody the will of the Mozambican people to find ways to resolve our differences,” said Nyusi.
He remained confident of peace.
“The Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in Rome (Italy, in 1992) showed the will of the government and the people to open a new development agenda, because peace is the most important condition for the pursuit of economic and social development,” said Nyusi.
Political analyst, Domingues Machaisse, also blamed Renamo for the crisis.
“I strongly believe RENAMO is not interested whatsoever in solution finding, and that they (dissidents) are being backed by a third force to cause mayhem,” said Machaisse.
Maputo businessman, Reginaldo Telinho, pointed out the upheaval was stunting economic growth.
This, coupled with drought and receding commodity prices, saw foreign direct investment falling by 20 percent, exports declining by 14 percent and economic growth decelerating by over 6 percent in 2015, the lowest levels since the global recession in 2009.
Renamo this week pledged commitment to dialogue despite the killing of Pondeca.
“The most important thing is to continue the journey,” said spokesperson Antonio Muchanga.
– CAJ News / APA