Maputo – The leader of an armed dissident faction of Mozambique’s main opposition party was killed on Monday in clashes with security forces, the head of police said.
Mariano Nhongo headed a splinter group of the Renamo party, the Renamo Military Junta, formed in opposition to a 2019 peace agreement with the ruling Frelimo party.
General police commander Bernardino Rafael said Nhongo was killed in a battle with defence and security forces in the eastern Sofala province on Monday morning.
“The Military Junta first attacked the patrol and this exchange of fire resulted in the death of Mariano Nhongo,” Rafael said in a televised address, adding the intention had been to arrest and convict him.
“This was not the expected end,” he said, adding that one of Nhongo’s “closest followers” was also killed in the process.
Mozambique’s government accuses the Renamo junta of carrying out several attacks and killing civilians in the central part of the southern African country.
The unrest has hindered a peace and disarmament pact between President Filipe Nyusi and Renamo leader Ossufo Momade, signed in 2019 after decades of hostilities.
Former rebel group Renamo fought a brutal civil war against the Frelimo government between 1975 and 1992, after which it was allowed to enter politics as part of a peace agreement.
But Renamo retained an armed wing, and its forces clashed again with government soldiers between 2013 and 2016.
Nhongo had continued to stoke violence, refusing to set weapons aside even after the two sides made peace again.
The United Nations on Monday said his death was “an unfortunate end to the situation”.
“For more than two years we have been seeking to establish relationships with Nhongo,” UN Mozambique envoy Mirko Manzoni said in a statement, lauding the government’s peace building efforts.
“Opportunities to use dialogue instead of violence have been repeatedly opened up,” he noted. “However, they proved fruitless.”
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