Maputo - Mozambique's revived rebel movement Renamo on
Tuesday spurned the government's invite for high level face-to-face talks to
end destabilising military skirmishes.
The Frelimo-led government had called on its civil war foe
Afonso Dhlakama to travel to Maputo on 8 November to discuss his grievances
personally with President Armando Guebuza.
But just hours later Renamo rejected the invitation outright
Renamo spokesperson Fernando Mazanga branded the offer
"a political propaganda campaign without minimal respect for ethics".
Supporters of Dhlakama - a rebel leader in Mozambique's
brutal civil war - have been involved in a series of deadly attacks and are
demanding a share of the country's resource wealth.
For many Mozambicans the crisis has uncomfortable echoes of
a 16-year civil war between Renamo and the ruling Frelimo party that resulted
in the deaths of around one million people.
Amid nearly a year of simmering tensions and sporadic
attacks on police and civilians, the Mozambique army raided Dhlakama's bush
camp on 21 October.
He has been in hiding since then, "trying to escape
attack", according to Mazanga.
The factions signed a peace deal in 1992 and Renamo
subsequently became the main opposition party, but has since seen its support
"The solution is dialogue"
Guebuza said he wanted to hold talks "out of respect
for the strong wishes of the Mozambican people", his office said in a
statement reported by the state news agency.
Renamo accused the government of planning fresh assaults in
the movement's strongholds in central Mozambique.
A face-to-face meeting between the two leaders is seen as
the only way of ending the impasse after months of dialogue between Renamo and
the government failed to yield results.
Gunmen, reportedly from Renamo, have attacked civilian
vehicles almost daily on the main north-south highway in central Mozambique
since the fall of Dhlakama's bush camp.
Last week Guebuza told AFP in an exclusive interview
"the solution is dialogue. It is not a military solution", a day
after government forces attacked another Renamo camp.
Both sides have said they want peace, although the
tit-for-tat clashes continue.
Asked whether Renamo was preparing to act against the
alleged assault by government forces, Mazanga replied "defence is an
animal instinct. Any animal's first reaction is to defend itself and
Renamo has in the past called for Guebuza to travel to the
central Sofala province for talks, where Dhlakama has strong support.
It says the leader would be in danger of attacks if he
travelled to Maputo.
Peace and stability
Renamo earlier threatened to disrupt local elections slated
for 20 November unless the government gives in to its demands. Campaigning
officially started on Tuesday, but the movement has refused to register.
Elections may be postponed in some restive areas, according
to local media.
The prospect of a new war, along with a series of ransom
kidnappings, has drawn strong reactions from Mozambicans, and thousands marched
for peace and stability across the country on Thursday.
The authorities say at least 14 people - most wealthy
Mozambicans of Asian origin - were kidnapped between 2011 and 2012.
But a renewed wave of kidnappings hit over the past three
weeks. A teen in central city Beira was murdered in October when his family
could not pay the fee.
On Tuesday morning two more women were abducted. One of the
victims was a Portuguese citizen, the other the wife of an employee of aid
agency Save the Children.
"A Portuguese citizen who was working for a company was
kidnapped by four armed men," Portugal's consul Goncalo Gomes told AFP
after the incident in Matola, a city that neighbours Maputo.
Save the Children country director John Grabowski confirmed
via email that "the wife of our programme operation's director Paulo
Chicupa was taken hostage by four armed gunmen this morning at their home where
she was alone".
Analysts say the kidnappings stem from the instability in
the country and are not related to Renamo's uprising.