Mozambique's Renamo ends peace deal

Rebels claim government attempted “to kill its leader" Afonso Dhlakama

Mozambique's Renamo rebels have ended a 1992 peace deal after government forces attacked the base of their leader Afonso Dhlakama in Sathunjira, central Mozambique, on 21 October.

Dhlakama managed to escape however it has been reported that his “right-hand man”, prominent Renamo figure Armindo Milaco, was killed.

Renamo says the government's “attempt to assassinate” Dhlakama left it no option but to abandon the so-called Rome General Peace Accord. Signed in October 1992, the agreement between the Frelimo government and the Renamo rebels put an end to Mozambique's civil war, a 16-year conflict in which around one million people died between 1977 and 1992.

The peace negotiations were brokered by a team of four mediators: two members of Rome charity Communità di S. Egidio – including the organisation's founder and former Italian minister for international cooperation Andrea Riccardi; a bishop, and an Italian government representative.

The Frelimo delegation was led by Armando Guebuza – incumbent Mozambican president – while the accord was signed on behalf of Renamo by its leader Dhlakama. More than two decades later both men are central figures in the escalating political situation which has prompted fears of a return to civil war between Renamo rebels and government forces.

Mozambique's economy has been booming since the civil war ended, fueled mainly by foreign investment in the coal and gas sector. Renamo, which has retained a force of about 300 rebel soldiers since the peace deal was signed, claims it has "missed out" on this wealth.

The rebel opposition movement accuses Frelimo, which has governed Mozambique since independence from Portugal in 1975, of monopolising political and economic power in a nation where more than half the population still lives in poverty, despite being one of Africa's fastest-growing ecomonies.

The collapse of the peace deal as well as a number of subsequent Renamo attacks has prompted the UN, Portugal, the Catholic Church and the US to call on both sides to negotiate their differences and avoid a return to war.

The current political tension forms the backdrop to the upcoming local elections across 53 Mozambican municipalities, scheduled for 20 November, and the presidential elections next year.