Cautious optimism has greeted the signing of an agreement to cease hostilities between Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi and the Opposition Renamo party leader Ossufo Momade.
The optimists money is on the agreement laying the foundation for peace and stability which would unlock new investments in the now natural gas rich country and drag majority of the country's 24 million people out of poverty.
The reticent are pointing to the past where a peace agreement signed in 1991 was discarded in 2013 after the government attacked a Renamo military base, plunging the country into chaos that have over the past two years been exploited by jihadists to the north of the country.
Among the optimists is President Nyusi who said the agreement secures a Mozambiques future founded on peace, national reconciliation, social and economic development; a hope echoed by Mr Momade.
"Today's final cessation of hostilities ceremony in Gorongosa is an important stepping stone for peaceful settlement," Chatham House's research director Alex Vines was quoted by AFP saying.
Even before legal procedures of the accord are finalised in Maputo on Tuesday, a couple of attacks by disgruntled members of Renamo opposed to Mr Momade's leadership were reported, undermining his pledges.
"We want to assure our people and the world that we have buried the mindset of using violence as a way of resolving our differences," Mr Momade said.
The opposition leader dismissed those opposed to the agreement as indisciplined fugitives but analysts warn that this points to the task of demobilisation ahead even as 5,200 Renamo guerillas started surrendering their weapons on Tuesday in readiness for the agreement and demobilisation.
Question marks also remain on the integration of Renamo men in the State Security and Intelligence organ as well as neutralising the rebels within Renamo who had threatened to kill Mr Momade if he remained at the party's helm.
Critics of the agreement, however, say it was "elitist" as it was not attractive to ordinary Renamo guerillas.
"The simple Renamo guerilla force remains in part unstructured and autonomous. The demobilisation agreement is bound to fail just like the previous three agreements,"University of South Africa's international law professor emeritus Andre Thomashausen said.
He accused Mr Momade, his generals and commanders of seeking "retirement comforts" through the accord while offering "nothing" to the soldiers.
Most of the negotiation for the agreement, however, was done by the late Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama who died in May last year
President Nyusi told Parliament on Tuesday that the agreement would enable government forces move to crash jihadists to the north of the country who have since 2017 run roughshod over farming communities and businessmen, killing 250.
Gas and reconstruction
The agreement could also help the government and aid agencies get humanitarian and reconstruction support to parts of the country which could not be accessed because of insecurity following the devastation of cyclones Idai and Kenneth between March and April.
The cyclones killed 648 people and affected 1.8 million people in Sofala, Cabo Delgado and Nampula provinces in the central and northern parts of the country. As of July 18, more than half a million people were living in damaged homes and 70,000 others were in resettlement sites and emergency accommodation.
"Many of these locations are unsafe, inadequately prepared, and lack access to fundamental basic goods and services," the International Organisation for Migration said.
The organisation said reconstruction and interventions were urgent with the rainy season expected in November 2019 and the next harvest in March 2020.
Only about a third of the $52 million the organisation appealed for has been raised.
Long-term prosperity for Mozambique is increasing tied to prudent exploitation of five trillion cubic meters of natural gas deposits discovered in Cabo Delgado province that is now under threat from insurgents.
US-based Anadarko Petroleum Corporation estimates more than half of the natural gas deposits - 2.8 trillion cubic meters - is within its concession off the north-eastern coast.
Last month, the Mozambique government said Anadarko plans to invest $25 billion in developing the offshore gas reserves.
The Dolphin Tuna natural gas project would start production in 2024 with an estimated annual output of 12 million tonnes.
Elections and Pope Francis
The agreement comes just months before general elections on October 15 in which the ruling Frelimo party's President Nyusi will contest against a fragmented opposition featuring Momade, Daviz Simango of MDM and Mário Albino of AMOSI candidate will be fourth and last candidate in the ballot.
On Thursday the country's constitutional court rejected the candidatures of Eugénio Estevão, Hélder Mendonça of Podemos Party, Alice Mabota of CAD Coalition and others on legal grounds.
Ms Mabota, a human rights crusader, would have become the first woman to vie for the presidency in the country.
Approaching the elections without hostilities between leading political parties and candidates is a major dividend of the accord which is expected to be reinforced when Pope Francis visits the country in September.
Soon after Mozambique gained its independence from Portugal in 1975, Renamo fought a brutal 16-year civil war against the Frelimo government.
After a peace pact was signed in Rome in 1992, Renamo became a political party but retained its armed wing, leading to multiparty elections in 1994.
A period of peace was disrupted in 2013 when government forces attacked a Renamo bush camp.
Mozambique is ranked among the ten poorest countries in the world.
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