* Recent deadly attacks blamed on Renamo former guerrillas
* Group has threatened to paralyse key road, rail arteries
* Violence could dim investor enthusiasm in resource boom
* Calls for Frelimo government to improve electoral process
By Marina Lopes and Pascal Fletcher
MAPUTO/JOHANNESBURG, June 20 An economic
take-off in Mozambique driven by bumper coal and gas discoveries
two decades after the end of a civil war is facing disruption
from disgruntled former guerrillas who feel they have not
benefited from the post-conflict dividend.
A public threat by the ex-rebel Renamo opposition party to
paralyse central rail and road links has put the Frelimo
government on alert and alarmed diplomats and investors.
A slide back into the kind of all-out war that crippled the
former Portuguese southern African colony between 1975 and 1992
Nevertheless, Mozambique's rebirth as an attractive tourism
and investment destination could lose some of its momentum after
armed attacks in the last two months blamed on Renamo.
The raids in central Sofala province killed at least 11
soldiers and police and three civilians and came after Renamo
leader Afonso Dhlakama returned with his civil war comrades to
the Gorongosa jungle base where they operated in the 1980s.
"It does bring back all those fears of the war," said Joseph
Hanlon, a senior lecturer at Britain's Open University and an
expert on Mozambique.
Renamo, which signed a peace pact in 1992 with its former
Marxist foe Frelimo, denied that it carried out a raid on an
arms depot on Monday that killed seven soldiers. But on
Wednesday it threatened to paralyse the main road through Sofala
and the railway carrying coal exports to port.
There was no evidence by late Thursday that it had carried
out the threat. Witness reports from Chimoio and Dondo on the
Beira corridor railroad link indicated no immediate disruption.
"Everything here is absolutely tranquil. It is a normal
day," Arnaldo Neves, Director of Production for Portuguese
construction company Mota-Engil which is rehabilitating the
railroad, told Reuters from Dondo railway terminal in Sofala.
Mozambican state railways spokesman Alves Cumbe said
operations were continuing as normal on Thursday.
The Sena line to Beira port is used mainly by Brazil's Vale
and London-listed Rio Tinto, which are among
companies that have been developing Mozambique's coal deposits
and offshore gas fields.
Vale, which is investing $4 billion in its Moatize coal
mines near Tete and is the main user of the Sena line, declined
President Armando Guebuza's government said it was taking
the Renamo threat seriously but insisted it would keep the
country's strategic transport corridors open. Officials declined
to detail specific measures taken to counter Renamo actions.
Renamo had claimed an earlier attack that killed four
policemen in Sofala in April.
COMPLAINTS OF EXCLUSION
Renamo, originally founded with the help of white-ruled
Rhodesia's intelligence services and then backed by apartheid
South Africa, accuses Frelimo of maintaining a stranglehold over
politics and the economy and stacking the election commission to
ensure victory in a presidential vote next year.
"Renamo and its followers think that the political system is
not inclusive enough," said Ozias Tungwarara, head of the Africa
Governance, Monitoring and Advocacy Project at the Open Society
pro-democracy network founded by financier George Soros.
Resentment at Frelimo's dominance of politics and elections
since the end of the war has also been accompanied by opposition
allegations that the party's leaders are hogging the spoils of
the coal and gas bonanza.
"There is a feeling that an elite is getting rich and
becoming wealthy, and that others are not," Hanlon said.
He saw Renamo's old military chiefs leading a campaign for
Frelimo to cede to its former war foes a greater share of the
national wealth, whether in state jobs or business patronage.
Hanlon said Dhlakama and his fighters - which some estimates
put at around 1,000-strong - could certainly create a security
problem for the government army from their Gorongosa jungle base
by raiding and sabotaging nearby road and rail corridors.
"That central area is quite heavily forested. It's good
guerrilla country. It's easy to attack traffic," he said.
But he believed neither Renamo nor Frelimo had the military
capacity to go back to fighting an all-out conflict of the kind
that left Mozambique in ruins two decades ago.
Hanlon saw "zero popular support" for war from a Mozambican
population of 23 million which had come to appreciate an
existence of peace but still remained among the poorest in the
world, scraping by on an average wage of only $400 a year.
CALL FOR "GIVE AND TAKE"
But there are fears that even sporadic attacks could badly
undermine recent economic gains.
"It might start as a small fire now ... but a small group of
determined, disgruntled people with some military training could
still cause havoc and suffering," Tungwarara said, pointing to
other debilitating insurgencies in Somalia and Mali.
Held up as a post-conflict success story, Mozambique has
emerged as one of the brightest stars in the "Africa Rising"
narrative, enjoying growth rates of more than 7 percent.
Attacks and disruption to key coal exports and transport
corridors could badly choke the enthusiasm of investors,
Hanlon said that if Renamo's "generals without soldiers"
failed to make good on their threats to paralyse the country's
logistics then the group's credibility was likely to suffer.
But both believed Guebuza's government should try to defuse
tensions by opening up economic and political opportunities for
Renamo, for example by addressing its demands for a more
independent and representative electoral authority.
"The danger is that we will see increased polarization as we
move towards the 2014 elections," said Tungwarara. "There is
time to step back, but it requires genuine give and take".