Monday, December 30, 2013

(NEWZIMBABWE, 'AGENCIES') Sekeramayi: Army ready for Mozambique fallout
03/11/2013 00:00:00
by Staff Reporter I Agencies

ZIMBABWE has not deployed soldiers in Mozambique but the army is on high alert for any fall-out from the increasingly delicate situation in the country’s eastern neighbour, defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi has said.

“There is not a single Zimbabwean soldier who has been deployed in Mozambique as we speak,” Sekeramayi said last week as he denied reports the army had deployed in Mozambique to support the Maputo government. “In the event that we decide to deploy our troops there, we will inform the nation.”

Tensions have been building between militants of the former Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo) rebel group and the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) government since last April, with several attacks and counter attacks reported.

During the Cold War Renamo and Frelimo fought a brutal civil war, which by the time it ended in 1992 had killed around one million people.

On 21 October, Renamo accused the ruling party of having broken their 21-year peace deal after soldiers took over its main base in the country’s central Gorongosa mountains.

Mozambique provides key access to the sea for landlocked Zimbabwe and, in the 1980s, the country was forced to intervene and back the Frelimo regime in a bid to protect its crucial road and rail trade routes.

President Armando Guebuza recently admitted that peace was under threat in Mozambique and any further escalation in hostilities would be of grave concern in Harare.

Sekeramayi said the government was closely monitoring the situation.

“We are closely monitoring the situation in Mozambique because we do not want the escalation of hostilities in that country between the government and Renamo,” he said.

“We continue to monitor the situation. We share the same border with Mozambique and we are closely monitoring the situation at our border.

“Our main concern is the security of our railway and pipe lines, so we do not want any instability in Mozambique.”
The Frelimo government has not yet approached the SADC regional grouping for help, Sekeramayi added.

“The (Maputo) government has so far not yet brought their problems to the Sadc forum so that we discuss appropriate action to take. Maybe, they will inform Sadc if hostilities continue to escalate,’’ he said.

Renamo, whose leader Afonso Dhlakama is in hiding, has insisted that it does not want to return to civil war, following the devastation of the previous 16-year conflict.

"We know the consequences of conflict. If we respond with violence we might plunge the country back in war," a spokesman for the group said recently.

"We are open for talks, but demand that the head of state and commander of the armed forces withdraw his troops from our base."

Dhlakama returned to bush last November and started retraining soldiers for a "revolution", without making clear his intentions.

Over the last six months Renamo militants have clashed sporadically with government forces and attacked civilian vehicles on the main north-south highway.
Renamo took up arms against the then-communist government of Frelimo after independence from Portugal in 1975.

The group became the country’s official opposition party after the 1992 peace agreement, but has lost every national election ever since.

Officially Renamo is demanding a bigger role in electoral bodies and its fighters' integration into the government forces.

But more than 20 rounds of talks with Frelimo over the past 10 months have stalled with little progress.
The party is boycotting upcoming local polls on November 20 after refusing to register until electoral reforms are passed.

It failed to table its suggestions in parliament, saying Frelimo's overwhelming majority meant they would probably be voted down.

It has been highly critical of the Frelimo government, which it accuses of politicising the state and stealing the impoverished, yet coal-and-gas rich country's resources.

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