Dh­lakama’s death a ‘game changer’

The Manica Post - - Foreign News/Sport -

THE death of Mozambique’s for­mer rebel supremo turned op­po­si­tion leader Afonso Dh­lakama has piled pres­sure on his Re­n­amo party ahead of lo­cal elec­tions and on­go­ing peace talks with the gov­ern­ment.

Dh­lakama died last week in his hide­out in the Goron­gosa moun­tains aged 65 with­out nom­i­nat­ing a suc­ces­sor.

Two days after his death, the party picked Os­sufo Mo­made, a Re­n­amo gen­eral as its in­terim leader un­til the next party congress whose date has not yet been fixed.

“It’s a pro­vi­sional leader to close the ranks un­til the congress,” said re­searcher Michel Ca­hen. “This choice clearly shows that the gen­er­als are the guardians of power”.

Dh­lakama for 39 years kept a tight grip on Re­n­amo, which waged a 16-year civil war against the for­merly Marx­ist and Soviet-backed Fre­limo rebel group. Fre­limo took power when Mozambique gained in­de­pen­dence from Por­tu­gal in 1975.

The con­flict ended in 1992 after killing an es­ti­mated one mil­lion peo­ple.

The prob­lem for Re­n­amo is that “no po­ten­tial suc­ces­sor has Dh­lakama’s stature,” said Ed Hobey Hamsher, an an­a­lyst with Maple­croft.

Who­ever suc­ceeds him “will strug­gle to unify Re­n­amo’s fac­tions,” Hamsher said. With lo­cal elec­tions due in five months and a gen­eral elec­tion sched­uled next year, Re­n­amo is racing against time.

“His party is sig­nif­i­cantly weak­ened by his death and un­likely able to fully re­cover but needs to try and reach con­sen­sus quickly on a suc­ces­sor, as it will also com­pete in mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions in Oc­to­ber and was ex­pect­ing sig­nif­i­cant gains,” said Chatham House’s an­a­lyst Alex Vines.

“The un­ex­pected death... is a game changer for Mozambique’s pol­i­tics and an al­most-com­pleted peace process,” Vines said.

“The lo­cal elec­tions will be the real test­ing point for ...(Re­n­amo) to what kind of sup­port they have with­out him,” said Jo­hanna Nils­son, an­other ex­pert on Re­n­amo.

The choice of a new leader will also weigh on the fu­ture of the peace talks that had been tak­ing place be­tween Dh­lakama and Pres­i­dent Filipe Nyusi.

After a 20-year hia­tus and fol­low­ing a slew of elec­tion de­feats, Re­n­amo sup­port­ers took up arms again and be­gan a low-level in­sur­gency in late 2013, at­tack­ing buses and cars on the main north-south high­way after gov­ern­ment forces raided Dh­lakama’s bush hide out.

Dh­lakama de­clared a truce in 2016 and opened talks with Pres­i­dent Nyusi that ap­peared close to a suc­cess­ful con­clu­sion.

An agree­ment was an­nounced in Fe­bru­ary to amend the con­sti­tu­tion for re­forms that will al­low vot­ers to di­rectly elect the 10 pro­vin­cial gov­er­nors who at present are ap­pointed by the pres­i­dent, a move that Re­n­amo had re­peat­edly lob­bied for over a num­ber of years.


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