Afonso Dhlakama: Renamo rebel 1953-2018
● 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 He had already withdrawn from Maputo for Gorongosa in 2012, with sporadic fighting later breaking out.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.
Renamo leader General Afonso Dhlakama in the 1980s. He had been set to run against Frelimo leader President Filipe Nyusi again next year.