News / Africa

Police Killings, Ambushes Put Mozambique Peace on Edge

FILE - Fighters of the former Mozambican rebel movement "Renamo" receiving military training, Nov. 8, 2012FILE - Fighters of the former Mozambican rebel movement "Renamo" receiving military training, Nov. 8, 2012
FILE - Fighters of the former Mozambican rebel movement "Renamo" receiving military training, Nov. 8, 2012
FILE - Fighters of the former Mozambican rebel movement "Renamo" receiving military training, Nov. 8, 2012
The deadliest attacks in Mozambique in more than a decade by suspected opposition gunmen have rekindled memories of a 1975-1992 civil war and put pressure on the ruling party to rethink the marginalization of its main political foe.
Four policemen and three civilians were killed in ambushes of a truck and two buses at the weekend - a tactic widely used by guerrillas in the 1980s - raising fears that the mineral-rich southern African nation's two-decade peace may be under threat.
Renamo, the guerrilla movement founded around independence in 1975 with the backing of white-ruled Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa to take on the Marxist Frelimo party which has ruled the country ever since, has denied it attacked civilians.
But the group - which has seats in parliament but is effectively excluded from power in what is a de facto one-party state - is widely suspected. Military chief Paulino Macaringue was quoted as saying the army was awaiting orders from President Armando Guebuza to strike back.
However, several newspaper editorials said that instead of a military clamp-down, Guebuza should offer an olive branch to Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, who has been pushed into the political wilderness by Frelimo's stranglehold on politics and the economy since the war ended with a shaky truce.
“The president of the republic has a vast array of options, that he doesn't use, to come to an agreement with the leader of Renamo and make Renamo feel included in the democratic process,” the Magazine Independente said.
Analysts say Renamo is in no shape to launch widespread attacks, with at most 1,000 veteran guerrillas at its disposal and popular support that amounted to only 16 percent of the vote in 2009 elections.
“It is seriously doubtful that these people could actually wage a war,” said Joseph Hanlon, a Mozambique analyst at Britain's Open University.
But many Mozambicans are worried that even the slightest violence could upset the relative political stability that has underpinned an unprecedented economic boom based on massive foreign investment in coal mining and natural gas exploration.
The off-shore Rovuma field is believed to hold enough gas to supply Germany, Britain, France and Italy for 15 years, and mining giants Vale and Rio Tinto have invested nearly $10 billion in mines in Tete province, home to some of the world's largest untapped coal deposits.
Election Threat
The source of the fiercest Frelimo-Renamo tension in over a decade stems from preparations for next year's presidential election and Renamo's thwarted attempts to reduce Frelimo's control of the National Election Commission.
Foreign observers criticized the former Portuguese colony's last two elections as not fair and lacking transparency.
Dhlakama retreated to the Renamo stronghold, the remote Gorongosa Mountains, in October, threatening to open guerrilla training camps.
Renamo leaders vowed to sabotage the polls after their electoral reform drive in parliament failed. Although the presidential election is not until October 2014, voter registration starts next month and municipal polls are due in November.
The security forces responded to those threats last week when police raided Renamo headquarters in the central town of Muxungue, arresting 15 people and tear-gassing bystanders.
The next day, Renamo gunmen killed four policemen and one of their own members died in an assault on the Muxungue police station. Two days later gunmen shot up a gasoline truck and two buses in the same district, killing three people.
Renamo security chief Osufo Madate said the party had finally got fed up with being brushed aside by Frelimo, which controls 191 of the 250 seats in parliament and dominates nearly every aspect of public life in the nation of 23 million.
“If we continue with our peaceful behavior, it will mean the end of us. From now on, whenever we are attacked, we will retaliate adequately,” he said.
Speaking to reporters this week in the Gorongosa Mountains, Dhlakama said he had talked to President Guebuza by telephone but turned down a face-to-face meeting because it “would not result in anything”.
Since the ambushes, police have deployed armed escorts for vehicle convoys on the highway near Muxungue - an alarming echo of the civil war on the main road running down the spine of the country.
South African bus company Intercape, one of whose vehicles was attacked, said it had suspended its service along the route.
Worryingly for the mining companies in the northern province of Tete, the Sena line - the only rail link from the coal fields to the Indian Ocean - runs through former Renamo strongholds and was frequently attacked and blown up during the war.
“This is not how the country will attract new investment,” Mozambican analyst Fernando Lima said. “It is not possible for the country to maintain this spiral of growth and foreign investment and have this type of news of armed conflict and photographs of people bleeding.”

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs