MAPUTO Aug 7 – Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi and the nation’s opposition chief Afonso Dhlakama met Sunday for the first since 2015, a step toward peace after years of instability.
The men spoke in the remote Gorongosa mountains, where Dhlakama retreated in October 2015 with 800 former fighters demanding a greater share of power.
“The two leaders discussed and agreed on the next steps in the peace process, which they hope to be completed by the end of the year,” the presidency said in a statement.
They last got together in 2015, before Dhlakama fled into the mountains where he is awaiting the elections set for 2019.
Dhlakama’s Renamo is an armed insurgent group that led a 16-year rebellion and an opposition political party that took up arms again in 2013.
Clashes between the ruling Frelimo party government and Renamo last year revived the spectre of Mozambique’s civil war that ended more than 20 years ago.
Renamo members, who hold seats in parliament, have called for greater decentralisation of the state and better integration of their people into the police and military.
Dhlakama declared a unilateral ceasefire in 2016, which he prolonged indefinitely in May.
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.
The more recent fighting has often focused on Mozambique’s main roads, with Renamo attacking government convoys and civilian vehicles, and soldiers ruthlessly targeting suspected Renamo rebels in nearby villagers.
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.