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Moz rebels inch toward deal on joining army

18 April 2014, 07:53

Maputo - Mozambican rebel group Renamo said on Thursday it had reached an understanding with the government to integrate its fighters into the national army and police under the supervision of international observers.

Renamo spokesperson Adriano Muchunga said international military experts would help identify eligible guerillas to join the security forces in a bid to end fighting that has flared up again two decades after the end of the country's 16-year civil war.

"Whoever is of the right age and has the physical ability and know-how will join the police," Muchunga told AFP.

He called the agreement a "big step forward" but said a final deal had not yet been signed.

He added that the rebels had not reached an agreement to lay down their arms.

In 2012, Renamo fighters returned to the bush in central Mozambique, often staging deadly attacks.

The rebels' revival raised fears the country was tilting back toward war 20 years after Renamo signed a peace deal with the government.

"The only way to stop us using weapons is to integrate our men into institutions that use weapons. In Mozambique that is the police and army," said Muchunga.

The rebel group-turned-opposition party wants its men to be integrated into the army and police at "all levels" to make up half of the total security forces.

It also wants pensions for fighters who are too old for active duty.

International observers to work on the integration process are expected to come from the US, Britain, Italy, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

Founded a year after Mozambique gained independence from Portugal in 1975, Renamo (the Mozambican National Resistance Movement) boasts a bloody history of resistance to communist rule during the Cold War era.

It fought a bitter civil war against the government that ended in 1992. Conflict flared again in late 2013 leading to ongoing military skirmishes, largely in the central province of Sofala.

Renamo and the government - led since independence by the formerly Marxist-Leninist Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) - have been engaged in peace talks to end the violence.

Central to Renamo's demands is greater inclusion in the government and the overhaul of electoral laws.

Negotiations between the government and Renamo are set to resume on Monday.



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