Bots to lead Moza peace monitoring force
Gaborone – Botswana is set to lead a team of 23 foreign military observers, who will monitor the implementation of the peace accord between the opposition Renamo and ruling Frelimo in Mozambique ahead of a crucial election.
Reports indicate that an International Observer Military Team for the Cessation of Military Hostilities in Mozambique has been put in place and will be headed by a brigadier from Botswana, assisted by four colonels – a Zimbabwean, an Italian and two Mozambicans.
The Mozambican government and the rebel group, Renamo, signed a ceasefire agreement last month ‑ ending two years of armed conflict ‑ and clearing the way for elections, which are expected on October 15.
Meanwhile, Afonso Dhlakama, the long-time leader of Renamo, came out of hiding recently to prepare for the election.
Media in the east African country are awash with Reports that diplomatic representatives from Botswana, the United States, Portugal and Italy would provide international safety assurances for Dhlakama who has been hiding in the leafy Gorogonsa region since late last year.
Several media houses, including AFP, also quoted Renamo as saying the former rebel leader had requested international cover as he emerges from hiding to journey to Maputo.
On September 12, Dhlakama intends to meet with current president, Armando Guebuza, hold peace talks and sign his name on the race for the presidential elections which are scheduled for October 15.
“The international community will guarantee Dhlakama’s safety while he travels to Maputo,” Renamo Member of Parliament, Ivone Soares, was quoted as saying. “I will go there with them, we will fetch the president and bring him back here.”
Dhlakama’s return to rebel warfare in the last two years ended a peace deal brokered after a bitter 17-year civil war between Renamo and Guebuza’s Frelimo party.
Although the main civil war was fought from 1977 until democratic elections in 1994, insurgency activities have intensified in the last year, with Dhlakama fleeing to a hideout after government forces routed his positions.
Frelimo has ruled Mozambique since independence in 1975 and Dhlakama has lost all his bids at snatching the presidency since first participating in 1994.
On September 8, Botswana’s High Commissioner to Mozambique, Thuso Ramodimoosi denied that the country had been requested to escort Dhlakama out of his hideout. “We are not part of that and we have not been invited to help,” he told Botswana’s Mmegi newspaper from Maputo.
“There will be a role for Botswana but it cannot be publicised at the moment. It has not been agreed even as we speak and it is under discussion. Once that has been finalised, there will be a Press statement about it.”