MAPUTO, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Mozambique’s Renamo opposition party will cease all military operations against government forces for the next seven days to allow the public to enjoy New Year festivities, its leader Afonso Dhlakama said on Tuesday.
Rights groups estimate that dozens of people have been killed this year in tit-for-tat attacks between Renamo fighters and the ruling Frelimo government.
Renamo and Frelimo fought on opposing sides in a civil war from 1976 to 1992 in which a million people died.
Mozambique is on the verge of developing huge offshore gas reserves which could transform one of the world’s poorest countries into a middle-income state. Competition to control this newfound wealth could stir unrest, analysts say.
“I announce the provisional cessation of military hostilities across the country as from midnight Tuesday,” Dhlakama, who is in hiding, told reporters by telephone.
“I took the initiative, I called the President of the Republic, Filipe Nyusi, and gave him the possibility to offer this provisional truce.”
Mediated peace talks collapsed earlier this month but Dhlakama said that he was willing to continue to dialogue with Nyusi following Monday’s productive telephone call.
Nyusi told reporters on Monday that he was “encouraged” by the conversation with Dhlakama and he described the provisional ceasefire as a “sign of hope for the whole country”.
Renamo has retained a militia since the end of the war and violence has intensified since Frelimo won a disputed election in 2014.
Renamo is demanding that it control six provinces where it won the most votes and the inclusion of its militia in the army and police. Frelimo has said that Renamo must disarm before any agreements can be reached. (Reporting by Manuel Mucari; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)