Mozambique opposition chief registers for October vote, says wants peace

VUNDUZI, Mozambique Thu May 8, 2014 11:56am EDT

Afonso Dhlakama, head of Mozambique's opposition party Renamo, addresses an election rally in Matola, near Maputo, on the last day of campaigning October 25, 2009. REUTERS/Grant Lee Neuenburg

Afonso Dhlakama, head of Mozambique's opposition party Renamo, addresses an election rally in Matola, near Maputo, on the last day of campaigning October 25, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Grant Lee Neuenburg

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VUNDUZI, Mozambique (Reuters) - Mozambique's Renamo opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama on Thursday registered as a voter for an October presidential election, a move that would legally allow him to run as a candidate.

Dhlakama, who has lived in the bush for more than a year to escape what he said was government persecution, said he was interested in finalizing a deal with President Armando Guebuza's Frelimo administration to end a low-level Renamo insurgency.

"I am interested in maintaining peace in the country," he told reporters at Vunduzi in Sofala province in central Mozambique, where Renamo guerrillas have battled the army and police and ambushed road and rail convoys over the last year.

Dhlakama, who led the former rebel movement against the ruling Frelimo party in Mozambique's 1975-1992 civil war, said a Renamo congress would decide whether he would be the opposition party's candidate in the October 15 election.

His registration was likely to raise hopes for a peaceful run-up to the vote in the southern African state, one of the world's poorest countries where huge coal and offshore gas discoveries have attracted major international investors.

Frelimo, which has ruled since independence from Portugal in 1975, has won every election since the end of the civil war.

Dhlakama has long accused Guebuza and the ruling party of hogging political and economic power. Under the constitution, Guebuza cannot stand for another term but one of his political allies is running as the Frelimo presidential candidate.

The Renamo leader registered to vote just a day before the expiry of the deadline for registration. The government had agreed to extend the deadline to Friday from April 29 after the election commission found that bad weather, logistics and political reasons had hampered the process.

(Reporting by Rodrigues Luis and Manuel Mucari; Writing by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by David Dolan)

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