Mozambique’s last rebel fighters finally lay down their arms

GORONGOSA NATIONAL PARK, Mozambique (AP) — Mozambique’s President and the leader of the Renamo opposition signed a peace accord yesterday to end years of hostilities that followed a 15-year civil war.

The former rebel group’s remaining fighters are disarming just weeks before a visit by Pope Francis and a national election that will test the now-political rivals’ new resolve.

The permanent cease-fire is the culmination of years of negotiations to end fighting that has flared several times in the more than 25 years since the end of the civil war in which an estimated one million people died.

President Filipe Nyusi and Renamo leader Ossufo Momade signed, shook hands and embraced at Gorongosa National Park, near the Renamo headquarters where the group has maintained an armed base for more than 40 years. Of the more than 5,200 fighters who are disarming, some 800 are coming down from their camp on Mount Gorongosa and register for employment at the wildlife park.

The accord will be followed by another agreement to be signed in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, on August 6 pledging peace in the October 15 national elections. Previous elections have been marked by violence and Renamo allegations that the ruling Frelimo party rigged the results.

Renamo, which is the Portuguese acronym for National Resistance of Mozambique, became an opposition party after the civil war but had never fully disarmed until now.

“This agreement has historic significance because up ‘til now Mozambique has had an opposition party in Parliament that also has armed fighters in the countryside. Now there can be peace,” said Neha Sanghrajka, a negotiator of the deal. Unlike in previous peace efforts the important issues have been implemented before the signing, she said.

Renamo leader Ossufo Momade, centre, performs a dance with locals upon his arrival for a peace accord signing ceremony at Gorongosa National Park. – AP