Afonso Dh­lakama: Re­n­amo rebel 1953-2018

Sunday Times - - Obituaries | Obituaries -

● Afonso Dh­lakama, the for­mer Mozam­bi­can guer­rilla leader who was set to run for the pres­i­dency next year, has died aged 65. His death was an­nounced this week by the coun­try’s state broad­caster.

The leader of Re­n­amo, the for­mer Mozam­bique Na­tional Re­sis­tance move­ment, was found dead in the cen­tral town of Goron­gosa, a party strong­hold.

Re­n­amo party of­fi­cials said he died af­ter a heart at­tack, while lo­cal me­dia said he suf­fered se­vere di­a­betes.

Dh­lakama, whose fol­low­ers have fought gov­ern­ment forces since he lost a dis­puted elec­tion four years ago, was set to run again against Pres­i­dent Filipe Nyusi next year. Nyusi heads the rul­ing Fre­limo party.

Dh­lakama was born in 1953 in So­fala prov­ince, tak­ing over Re­n­amo at the age of 26 from An­dre Mat­san­gaissa, who had been killed by gov­ern­ment forces. Dh­lakama found back­ing from white-ruled Rhode­sia and later South Africa, adopt­ing a strong po­si­tion against com­mu­nism.

He helped Re­n­amo to take over and con­trol large parts of ru­ral Mozam­bique dur­ing the bush war in which a mil­lion peo­ple are be­lieved to have died. It ended in 1992 un­der a peace ac­cord that gave com­bat­ants a blan­ket amnesty and al­lowed Re­n­amo to re­group as a po­lit­i­cal party, paving the way for elec­tions two years later. Com­plain­ing that Fre­limo had too much con­trol over the na­tional ad­min­is­tra­tion and the army, Re­n­amo was marginalised over the fol­low­ing years.

Dh­lakama lost all the ma­jor elec­tions he con­tested against Fre­limo, although he topped the vote in sev­eral cen­tral and two north­ern prov­inces in 2014. He had al­ready with­drawn from Maputo for Goron­gosa in 2012, with spo­radic fight­ing later break­ing out. Re­n­amo was blamed for at­tacks on trans­port links from 2013 to 2016.

When a peace process be­gan to take shape, Dh­lakama took a cen­tral role in the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion talks. And af­ter con­sti­tu­tional changes were made al­low­ing for some de­cen­tral­i­sa­tion of power, a peace deal was set to be signed in the com­ing months. Dh­lakama’s death now puts that process in ques­tion.

Pic­ture: Times Me­dia

Re­n­amo leader Gen­eral Afonso Dh­lakama in the 1980s. He had been set to run against Fre­limo leader Pres­i­dent Filipe Nyusi again next year.

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