Following the seizure of Renamo’s Sathunjira base on Monday 21 October, and Renamo’s leader Afonso Dhlakama fleeing from the attack, the group has officially withdrawn from its 1992 peace agreement with Frelimo, thus ending 21 years of negotiated peace between the two parties.
On 22 October, just one day after the withdrawal from the agreement, Renamo fighters attacked a police station at Maringue (roughly 35km from Dhlakama’s former base), causing no casualties but resulting in many locals fleeing the fighting. According to eyewitnesses, a large group of armed men opened fire on the police station and maintained fighting for over an hour. There has been no indication that the intention was to seize the station so much as fire upon it, however.
The seizure of the Sathunjira base was preceded by heavy arms fire, according to Renamo spokesman Fernando Mazanga, implying heavy-handedness by the Mozambican government forces. Upon the cancelation of the peace treaty, Mazanga declared that “peace was over” between Frelimo and Renamo.
Although the withdrawal from the 1992 peace agreement has created concern over the relationship between Frelimo and Renamo, the 51 Renamo members of parliament have not yet withdrawn from government. While this is a positive sign, the speed with which Renamo fighters retaliated against government security officials indicates a willingness to resort to violence.
The majority of Renamo’s armed members were integrated into the Mozambican security services, but Dhlakama has maintained a personal “bodyguard” of over 800 armed men in his Sathunjira base, itself a possible justification for the government raid mounted against it on 21 October. These 800 members, although unconfirmed, were likely involved at least in part with the 22 October Maringue attack.
Fears of a resumption of the civil war pervade, but there is very real scepticism over the actual capabilities of Renamo to resume full scale war against Frelimo. The real threat may now be sporadic attacks on government installations and transport infrastructure. While the attack on the Maringue police station was alarming, the Renamo attackers did not inflict any casualties nor seize any state buildings. Beyond this, the fleeing of Dhlakama and uncertainty over the leadership and direction of Renamo indicates that there is not yet any major strategy in place in the wake of the Sathunjira attack.
Indications are that the seizure of the base was no surprise to Renamo as it was virtually empty when security forces arrived at the base. Although the police station attack indicates a readiness to resort to armed retaliation against government security forces, the ability to continue doing so over a protracted period is unlikely.