Renamo leader may run for president

Dhlakama seeks security before entering presidential race

Mozambique's Renamo opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama says he intends to run as a candidate in the 15 October presidential election but first he has demanded safety guarantees from the government.

Dhlakama has been hiding in the mountainous central Mozambican district of Gorongosa since government forces ambushed his Renamo military base last October, prompting the immediate cessation of a 1992 peace deal, two decades after the end of the nation's brutal civil war (1975-1992).

Speaking to reporters in Maputo by telephone on 23 May, Dhlakama claimed that he was unable to leave his current location because he is allegedly surrounded by government security forces.

For over a year armed supporters loyal to Dhlakama have been engaged in guerilla-style attacks mainly in the central Sofala province. The rebels have clashed with police and military, killing several dozen people, attacking civilian vehicles, and disrupting the country's tourism and mining industries.

The incumbent president Armando Guebuza of the ruling Frelimo party is forbidden by law from seeking a third term of office. The Frelimo presidential candidate in the upcoming election will be former defence minister Filipe Nyusibut.

Other contenders include Daviz Simango, the leader of the other main opposition party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM). Simango founded the MDM in 2009 after leaving Frelimo.

Guebuza won the last election in 2009 with 75 per cent of the vote and his Frelimo party increased its majority to 191 seats in the 250-member legislature. Renamo took 16.5 percent of the vote in 2009 while MDM came third with 8.6.

Mozambique's economy has been booming since the civil war ended, fueled mainly by foreign investment in the coal and gas sector. Renamo claims it has "missed out" on this wealth and alleges that electoral laws in Mozambique benefit Frelimo.

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.

Whoever wins this year's election is expected to preside over the major coal and offshore gas projects with potential to generate billions of dollars for Mozambique. In addition to electing a new president, there will also be parliamentary and regional assembly votes on 15 October, while Mozambicans living abroad can cast their votes three days earlier on 12 October.

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