Mozambique`s Frelimo protests suspected rebel attacks

Activists of Mozambique`s ruling Frelimo party staged nationwide marches to protest against deadly armed attacks that rocked the country.

Updated: Jun 22, 2013, 23:45 PM IST

Manputo: Activists of Mozambique`s ruling Frelimo party staged nationwide marches on Saturday to protest against deadly armed attacks that rocked the country the day before and raised fears of heightened political unrest.

Two people were killed in three separate attacks on Friday.

The main opposition and former rebel movement Renamo is suspected to have carried out the attacks.

Police said three vehicles were shot up along the EN1 road in central Sofala province. The attacks came just days after Renamo vowed to block the highway and cripple a vital rail link to the country`s main coal fields.
The Frelimo party leadership organised Saturday`s so-called "no to war" demonstrations.

"With peace we can do everything we want. War means going backwards," Frelimo`s secretary general, Felipe Paunde, told around 400 supporters who turned up for the march along a main avenue in the centre of the capital Maputo.

Similar marches took place in other towns, notably the southern Xai Xai and Chimoio, but not in the central region threatened by Renamo attacks.

Prime Minister Alberto Vaquina described the attacks as "regrettable."

Until 1992, Renamo, which was founded as an anti-communist group, and the Frelimo-led government fought a brutal 16-year civil war, which resulted in the deaths of around a million Mozambicans.
Renamo`s support base has since ebbed away, while its leaders have been kept away from the spoils of the country`s economic boom.

Six rounds of talks with the communist-rooted Frelimo government about Renamo`s demands for more representation in the armed forces and a cut of coal and gas revenues have failed, raising tensions further.

But the government`s chief negotiator in the talks with Renamo that have been on going since May, Jose Pacheco, said the latest attacks would not weaken its resolve to forge ahead with talks.

"We continue to be open to dialogue as government. We will be present for talks," he told Radio Mozambique. The negotiations are due to resume on Monday.

He nonetheless lashed out at Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama as someone who had "abandoned democracy". He said Renamo was "born violent and grew up violent. We want peace."

Despite a climate of fear and uncertainty over whether the attacks will continue, President Armando Guebuza continued on the campaign trail Saturday, drumming up support for Frelimo in the remote northern Niassa province ahead of municipal polls scheduled for November.

Police were Saturday still holding Jeronimo Malagueta, a senior Renamo official who on Wednesday had issued the warning to launch attacks on the highway and rail link.

Renamo`s previous threats of violence had largely been discounted as a strategy to extract concessions from the Frelimo government.

But since Dhlakama set up a military base in the Mozambican bush in October 2012, threats have been matched by a series of attacks.