Maputo — Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi and the leader of the main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, Ossufo Momade, on Sunday announced in the central city of Chimoio that they have agreed to sign a definitive peace agreement by early August.
The announcement came at the end of a meeting between the two men held to assess the implementation of decisions taken at their two previous meetings, held in Maputo on 27 February and 7 March.
The signing of an agreement does not mean the end of dialogue between the government and Renamo. Nyusi and Momade agreed that dialogue should continue as a confidence-building measure.
Speaking at a press conference at the end of the meeting, Nyusi said the most important result from their talks "is that we decided that a definitive cessation of hostilities, or the definitive peace agreement, must be signed by early August at the latest".
The long-awaited demobilisation and disarmament of the Renamo militia (referred to delicately as the Renamo "residual forces") should begin in June, alongside the integration of the militia members into the defence and security forces, or back into civilian life.
Renamo has never revealed how many men it has under arms or the location of their various camps. But they will now have to be brought together in order for the demobilisation to run smoothly.
Nyusi said legal aspects must be taken into consideration, especially a new Amnesty Law. Such a law must be passed, he warned, "because when people are disarmed, they must be certain that they will not be harassed here and here".
Disarmament, demobilisation and particularly reintegration will involve heavy costs, Nyusi said, which the Mozambican government is in no condition to pay. The debt-burdened Mozambican economy was struck another heavy blow when two major cyclones hit the country in March and April.
The government and Renamo have thus agreed to organise an international conference to mobilise resources to ensure the reinsertion and livelihoods for Renamo's "residual forces".
This would be the second donor conference within the space of a few months. The first was held on Friday and Saturday in Beira to raise money for reconstruction in the wake of the two cyclones. 1.2 billion US dollars was pledged - but reconstruction needs, over a five year period, are put at 3.2 billion dollars.
As for Momade himself, Nyusi said the Renamo leader could not live indefinitely in the Renamo military headquarters in Gorongosa district. The government and Renamo would discuss this issue in June and July, the President continued, to ensure that Momade can leave the Gorongosa bush and undertake normal political activity.
Momade echoed Nyusi's words, declaring "we reached a consensus that we have to advance and we have to integrate the Renamo residual forces".
The government and Renamo have already set up a group to deal with demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration "and it will have to start its work", said Momade.
But would the Renamo forces be demobilised before the general elections scheduled for 15 October? Momade replied that this all depends on the political will of the two sides.
"It's enough to have the will on both sides for us to hold the elections without having the forces of Renamo in the bush", he said. "We shall demobilise, and part of our forces will go into the police".
Currently there is a truce between the government forces and Renamo. Momade's predecessor, Afonso Dhlakama, declared the truce in late December 2016. It has held since then with no serious violations. There have been no further Renamo attacks on military or civilian targets and no more Renamo ambushes on the roads of central Mozambique.
If a peace accord is indeed signed in August, it will be the third such agreement signed by Renamo. The first was the General Peace Agreement signed in Rome by Dhlakama and the then President Joaquim Chissano on 4 October 1992.
Renamo violated this agreement by failing to demobilise all its forces. A significant number were held back, becoming the origin of today's "residual forces".
Renamo went back to war in 2013, but an agreement on a cessation of hostilities was signed in September 2014 between Dhlakama and Chissano's successor, Armando Guebuza. This agreement contained clauses on disarmament and demobilisation which Renamo never implemented.