Maputo (AFP) -
Mozambique's government and former rebel movement Renamo have signed a ceasefire ending two years of armed conflict, Renamo said on Sunday.
Chief negotiators from the government and Renamo signed the declaration late Sunday night in the capital Maputo ending a nearly year-long negotiation process. "A ceasefire has been signed," Renamo's chief negotiator at the peace talks with the government, Saimon Macuiane, told AFP adding that the "definitive agreement" was effective as of 10:00 pm (2000 GMT) Sunday.
Renamo forces have waged a low-level insurgency since party leader Afonso Dhlakama returned to the bush in 2012, two decades after he signed a peace accord with the ruling Frelimo party.
Men thought to be members of the former rebel movement have been attacking busses, trucks and cars on the main north-south highway since April last year. Government forces overran the Renamo base camp in the central Gorongosa district a few months later in August. The late night declaration came after the two sides reached a general peace agreement a week ago including consensus over the integration of Renamo's remaining armed forces into state security forces.
Renamo's leader, Dhlakama, who has been hiding in the remote Gorongosa mountains in central Sofala province for close to a year, did not travel to the capital to sign the ceasefire himself, despite previously promising he would do so once his party reached a final agreement with the government. "He mandated me to declare it," Macuiane said but suggested Dhlakama would meet Mozambique's President Armando Guebuza at a later date. "It is obvious that there will be a high level, symbolic meeting later on," he told AFP.
Under terms agreed with the government, Dhlakama expects to keep his personal "security guards" (numbering several hundred) until they can be integrated into state forces, a process that will be overseen by an international force. Similarly, Renamo only expects to hand over its remaining weapons after the integration process has begun. "We have begun a new era for the country," Macuiane said calling the ceasefire an "important step towards national reconciliation … and a durable peace".
Parliament is expected to begin working to create conditions as set out in the peace agreement in the coming week. Despite the ceasefire, Renamo and the government will continue negotiations as not all points have been settled including "economic questions" and the status of Renamo appointees into security structures, Macuiane said.
The date set for presidential and national polls, October 15, remains unchanged, Macuiane indicated. "The election calendar continues as normal," he told AFP.