Mozambique truce extended by two months
Mozambican opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama on Friday extended a truce between his rebel Renamo group and the government and said peace talks would resume next week.
The move prolongs a truce that Renamo fighters announced unilaterally the day before Christmas last year. It has been observed with only minor breaches, according to Dhlakama.
"We will extend the truce by 60 days to allow us to not only work on the negotiating process, but also to ensure... there will be no more deaths," Dhlakama said during a press conference at his party's headquarters in Maputo, which he addressed by telephone.
Dhlakama, whose Renamo party is the main opposition in Mozambique, retreated in October 2015 to his hideout in the central Gorongosa mountain range with 800 former guerrillas demanding a greater share of power.
In 2013 tensions resurfaced with Renamo fighters again taking up arms against the ruling Frelimo party, accusing its leaders of enriching themselves at the expense of the southern African country.
On the eve of the October 2014 general elections Renamo and the government signed a ceasefire.
But Renamo refused to accept the results of the poll when it was beaten once more at the ballot box by Frelimo, the former Marxist party, which has been in power since the former Portuguese colony's independence 40 years ago.
Friday's truce extension was widely expected by local media and is seen to confirm that Mozambique's political crisis is finally abating.
In February President Filipe Nyusi announced a fresh round of peace talks between the government and Renamo rebels that fought a 16-year civil war that killed a million people and displaced four million before it ended in 1992. He said that the new round of talks would not be mediated by international observers following their failure to secure a breakthrough in earlier negotiations.
"When the mediators left, the Mozambican people and the political observers were desperate and thought that the negotiations were over," said Dhlakama.
"But we reached a new consensus with the president, my brother Filipe Nyusi," he said, crediting a four month-long period of negotiation "which was not easy" for jump-starting the peace process.
The breakthrough was possible because of the "direct line of communication that now exists between Nyusi and Afonso Dhlakama," said Darias Jonker, an analyst at the Eurasia security consultancy.
"It is expected that the new format for the talks... will accelerate the signing of a peace deal," he added.