July 31, 2019 / 2:14 PM / 24 days ago

Mozambique government, opposition to sign formal peace treaty: president

FILE PHOTO: Mozambique's President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi arrives for the inauguration of Cyril Ramaphosa as South African president, at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria, South Africa May 25, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

MAPUTO (Reuters) - Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi will sign a peace agreement on Thursday to put a formal end to military hostilities with the main opposition party, Renamo, almost three decades after the end of a civil war.

Renamo and Nyusi’s ruling party fought on opposing sides of the 16-year conflict that killed an estimated 1 million people before a peace accord ended the fighting in 1992, although violence has flared up sporadically in the years since.

Nyusi, keen to sign a final peace treaty before presidential, parliamentary and provincial elections in October, has hailed progress toward peace, but at the same time infighting within Renamo and an Islamic insurgency in the north continue to threaten the country’s security.

“Thursday’s agreement provides for a formal end to the clashes between the Mozambican Defence and Security Forces and the armed wing of the opposition,” Nyusi said, while delivering a state of the union address in the country’s parliament on Wednesday.

Nyusi said he would sign the agreement with Renamo’s leader, Ossufo Momade, in the Gorongosa mountain range - Renamo’s stronghold and the location of its headquarters and numerous bases.

Momade replaced Renamo’s long-time leader Afonso Dhlakama after his death last year, but does not command the same popularity across both the party’s political and military wings.

A group of fighters recently publicly denounced him and said they would not hand over their weapons while he remains in charge.

The government intends to disarm Renamo fighters and reintegrate some back into the army or police. Previous clashes with the party have been sparked by disputed election results, such as after the last presidential election in 2014.

Renamo accused the ruling party, Frelimo, of fraud in municipal elections last year and suspended its participation in the peace process as a result.

Reporting by Manuel Mucari; Writing by Emma Rumney; Editing by Alison Williams

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