Over the last few months Renamo (the opposition party and former rebel movement), has alongside creating instability through small pockets of violence, displayed a more heated rhetoric around its willingness to return to war if its demands around its political participation are not met. This has been marked by the return of party’s leader Afonso Dhlakama to its war-time bush base, in Gorongosa, known as Casa Banana. When a police unit raided a Renamo meeting in April 2013, the resultant clash left eight people, including five policemen, dead.
Since then, there have been a number of further attacks. A Mozambican military post and arms depot was attacked on 17 June 2013, leaving five soldiers dead. The most recent attacks have taken place on the EN1 road, starting on 21 June 2013. Two people were killed and a further four injured, after Renamoshot at two trucks and a bus on the road near the Ripembe River, in the Machanga district. A second attack was reported soon after in Muanza on the road between Dondo and Inhaminga, although there were no fatalities. This second attack took place on 50km south of Muxungue, the site of the incident in April 2013.
Despite a heavy military presence which only permits daylight movements in convoy, another attack occurred on 24 June when gunmen opened fire on the day’s first southbound convoy. Two buses, a car and a lorry were hit, although no casualties have been reported. A second attack was reported at 20:30 that evening.
Renamo has now also announced its intention to cut off rail and road traffic in the centre of the country, where the party finds its stronghold. This will include the transport links used by the Tete coal mines to access the port at Beira, where the passenger service has been suspended on the Sena line from Tete to Beira in response. The party has suggested that it is a creating a “security perimeter” from the Save River to Muxungue, in Sofala province, in order to prevent government security forces from being able to access Casa Banana, a matter which is a key gripe for Dhlakama.
Renamo has requested foreigners to vacate the area, lest they get caught up in any potential crossfire. Foreign governments, such as the Portuguese government, have made similar warnings.
Despite the tensions, talks between Renamo and Mozambique’s ruling party, Frelimo, have yielded no fruit. In fact, Renamohas continued to make use of its tactic of political isolation and has called for international mediation, something to which the government is unlikely to acquiesce. Political processes have continued despite Renamoboycotting them, including the appointment of a new National Electoral Commission.
While Renamo’s threats mostly amount to bluster given its inability to return the country to war, it does appear that the party is intent on making use of increasing small-scale attacks, perhaps as a tactic to leverage the importance of the substantial investments in mineral extraction in the region. For this reason alone government and security forces will be keeping a watchful eye on Renamo and its activities.