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Mozambique opposition head says 'stop shooting' before vote

10 July 2014, 21:31

Maputo - Mozambique's opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama hinted today his party would take part in October elections without signing a full accord with the government if there is a halt to fighting.

The Renamo leader spoke via satellite phone to journalists in Maputo from his hideout in the remote Gorongosa mountains, where he has been holed up since fighting broke out between his forces and government troops late last year.

With just three months to go before the vote, talks aimed at easing tensions have stalled over Renamo's demand for equality in the armed forces and the government's insistence that the opposition give up its weapons.

"The problem is not the agreement. What worries me most is the shooting," Dhlakama said when asked whether Renamo would take part in the October 15 presidential election.

"Even if we do not reach a 100 percent agreement, (if) there is an understanding that we stop the shooting and a guarantee that in the future these things will be sorted out, the elections would not be affected," Dhlakama said.

The Renamo leader had said previously he would only come out of hiding to ink a deal before beginning his campaign.

Dhlakama condemned the arrest of his spokesman, Antonio Muchanga, while leaving a meeting at the presidency on Monday as an attempt to "provoke" him but the opposition chief said he would not retaliate.

Muchanga, who was charged with "inciting violence", is being held in a maximum security prison in Maputo.

"We will have patience. We will not retaliate militarily. It is not necessary. We have already proven our strength," he said.

Renamo forces have waged a low-level insurgency since Dhlakama quit the capital and returned to the bush in 2012, two decades after he signed a peace accord with the government led by the ruling Frelimo party.

Dhlakama, 61, who has lost every presidential election since Mozambique's first democratic poll in 1994, has often accused Frelimo of stealing the vote.

He says he is determined to run again this year, but complains he is surrounded by heavily armed government forces who want him dead.

When asked whether he intended to take up President Armando Guebuza's invitation of one-on-one talks in Maputo, Dhlakama said he was afraid he would meet with the same fate as his spokesman.

Guebuza, who is touring the country, was free to come to him, Dhlakama added.

"He is here, a few kilometres from Beira. Why doesn't he say, 'Brother, let's meet in Gorongosa?'" he said.



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