Renamo 'a spent force of ageing fighters'
24 October 2013, 10:18
Maputo – Mozambique's ex-rebellion is too weak to force a
new civil war and its recent return to arms is a desperate bid to grab a share
of the energy bonanza reshaping the country, analysts said.
Renamo's announcement this week that its peace deal with the
ruling Frelimo was dead came amid a spate of tit-for-tat skirmishes that marked
one of the worst flare-ups since the 1992 end of a 16-year civil conflict.
Mozambique's main opposition group is demanding more
political and military representation but Joseph Hanlon of Britain's Open
University argued "the current dispute has money at its base".
Renamo lost the war to Frelimo, lost again in peacetime
elections and is now afraid of missing out on the windfall from some of the
world's largest untapped coal and gas reserves.
"Renamo and its military men see the Frelimo leadership
with big cars, expensive houses, and businesses," Hanlon said.
"As the gap between rich and poor increases in a way
that could not be imagined at the time of the peace accord in 1992, key Renamo
figures want to be on the side of the wealthy."
With Brazilian, Australian and Indian energy giants setting
up shop in a country long reeling from a war that killed around one million
people, Mozambique's growth rate is now among Africa's highest at around 7
"So now the temptation is to link mineral deposits and
international interest in Mozambique, the growing economy, as having triggered
the reaction from Renamo," said Trevor Maisiri, of the International
Crisis Group think tank.
The ex-Communist ruling party's leaders have capitalised on
the new riches, but "Frelimo is seen as unwilling to share the growing
cake," said Hanlon.
In November 2012 Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama returned to
his erstwhile base camp in the central Gorongosa mountains and retrained some
of his veterans.
Over the past six months his militants have attacked police
posts and civilian vehicles on the main north-south highway.
Officially Renamo is demanding changes to the electoral law
and its fighters' absorption into the government forces, but over 20 rounds of
peace talks since December have collapsed.
Renamo is a spent force
While Renamo has legitimate concerns, like Frelimo's
politicisation of the state bodies and biased electoral system, Dhlakama lacks
"clear vision of what he hopes to accomplish", said Hanlon.
With talks floundering and violence simmering, the
government chose to limit the risk of an escalation by seizing Dhlakama's base
on Monday, according to Charles Laurie from Maplecroft risk analysts.
Frelimo wanted to "contain the capability of Renamo of
engaging in violence and then suppressing that capacity while trying to seek a
broad solution at the bargaining table," he told AFP.
Renamo has made inflammatory statements in the past, but
Monday's declaration that peace was over followed the dramatic government raid
on the rebel's sanctum.
"One by action, the other through a press conference
said 'we're back in 1992'," said Elisabete Azevedo-Harman, from UK-based
think tank Chatham House.
Both denied wanting to return to war through a negotiator's
comments Tuesday, but there is still suspense over what will happen next.
Analysts agree Renamo is a spent force of ageing fighters
not thought to stretch far beyond Dhlakama's personal armed guard of under 500
men, though political support remains strong in the north.
"Renamo retains the capacity to undertake isolated
guerilla-style attacks but it doesn't possess the military capability or indeed
the social support to undertake any kind of broader offensive," said
Rather, it seems the movement might target key
infrastructure in central Mozambique's Sofala province to embarrass the
government with international investors.
"The peace agreement annulment could impact coal and
cargo shipments to Beira Port or along the Sena railway line," said Robert
Besseling, Africa analyst at IHS Country Risk.
Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto and Brazil's Vale use the railway
to export coal from Tete in the northwest. It was rebuilt only recently after
Renamo blew up the line in the civil war.
Meanwhile attacks on the main highway would threaten
passenger and cargo transport, added Besseling.
Gas fields off the shore of northernmost Cabo Delgado
province should be safe, according to Chatham's Azevedo-Harman.
"Renamo support never was really very strong in the
area where the gas is," she said.
The latest flare-up has caused alarm among foreign diplomats
but observers are split as to whether the investment pouring into Mozambique
will take a hit.