In Mozambique Rebel leader announces two-month ceasefire

President Filipe Nyusi said on Monday the truce was "productive", according to the private STV television channel.

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Street vendors are seen through a bullet hole in a bus windscreen in the Gorongosa area of Mozambique on May 27, 2016 play

Street vendors are seen through a bullet hole in a bus windscreen in the Gorongosa area of Mozambique on May 27, 2016

(AFP/File)
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Rebels in Mozambique announced Tuesday a two-month extension to a truce with the government, raising hopes for peace after a spike in violence last year that claimed scores of lives.

The country's president said the truce by Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Renamo, which is both an armed insurgent group and an elected opposition party, showed that the two sides were beginning to rebuild confidence in each other.

Worsening clashes between the Frelimo government and Renamo had revived the spectre of Mozambique's civil war that ended more than 20 years ago.

But Dhlakama told reporters: "There have been some minor incidents, but the seven-day truce went well, so I announce the extension of the truce for 60 days, until March 4."

"The truce is intended to build an atmosphere conducive to advancing talks in Maputo in peace and tranquility for both sides."

Dhlakama, who lives in hiding in the Gorongosa mountains in central Mozambique, said Renamo forces would not attack government troops or positions.

Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Renamo, which is both an armed insurgent group and an elected opposition party play

Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Renamo, which is both an armed insurgent group and an elected opposition party

(AFP/File)

Last year saw a sharp escalation in violence, and more than 15,000 people have been forced to flee to government-run camps, relatives' homes or across the border to Malawi and Zimbabwe.

The truce announcement came after tentative moves towards a peace process were suspended indefinitely last year due to setbacks including the killing of a Renamo negotiator.

President Filipe Nyusi said on Monday the truce was "productive", according to the private STV television channel.

Trust "is being created," he said, adding that government forces did not launch offensive attacks on Renamo.

Rebels weakened?

One diplomatic source told AFP that Dhlakama was weakened and had been forced into a truce to try to revive the chance of peace talks, which could be held under international mediation coordinated by the European Union.

"Dhlakama was cornered and it seems that this is the solution he found to save international mediation," the source said.

Mozambique is still recovering from its bloody 1976-1992 civil war play

Mozambique is still recovering from its bloody 1976-1992 civil war

(AFP/File)

The rebel leader announced the truce after a series of telephone calls with the president.

The fighting has often focused on Mozambique's main roads, with Renamo attacking government convoys and civilian vehicles, and soldiers accused of ruthlessly targeting suspected rebels in nearby villagers.

Many displaced people say that government soldiers often treat local villagers in the central region as rebel sympathisers.

The death toll is unknown but scores of people are reported to have been killed in 2016, with both the Frelimo and Renamo parties also suffering assassinations of local politicians by so-called "death squads".

Despite the truce, one Renamo official was gunned down outside his house in Nampula city last week.

Mozambique is still recovering from its bloody 1976-1992 civil war when one million people died during years of sporadic fighting between Frelimo and Renamo.

Tensions have resurfaced since 2013, with Renamo fighters again taking up arms against Frelimo, accusing the ruling party of enriching itself at the expense of the southern African country.

Authorities say 3,100 people now live in government camps after fleeing the conflict, and several thousand more have escaped the conflict zone to stay with relatives elsewhere.

Another 8,600 people have been forced into neighbouring Malawi and Zimbabwe, according to the UN refugee agency.

Renamo refused to accept the results of 2014 elections when it was beaten once more by the ruling Frelimo party -- in power since the former Portuguese colony's independence 40 years ago.

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