Mozambique: Dialogue With Terrorists a Quandary to Mozambique Government

The possibility of the Mozambican government negotiating with perpetrators of the terror attacks north of the country present a dilemma to the administration of President Filipe Nyusi.

While on one front, it is fighting the Islamist sect that has killed an estimated 200 people since 2017, on the other hand, the government is considering the likelihood of negotiating with the same sect the military is fighting.

Nyusi hinted at the option of dialogue with the fearsome group known as the Ansar al-Sunna, as he addressed a rally in the Chiure district of Cabo Delgado Province. The province is the epicentre of terrorism.

"If they show their face, we will go and meet them," the president told supporters of his ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) party.

It is reported the perpetrators of the insurgency usually wear face masks to conceal their identity.

"They close their faces," Nyusi said.

His address came ahead of national elections scheduled for October 15.

The Ansar al-Sunna has emerged among the biggest threats to holding violence-free elections in the Southern African country.

This follows a wave of attacks in Cabo Delgado with the latest such onslaught left at least ten people dead and a similar number kidnapped at the Macomia district.

Analysts, however, expressed opposition to the government negotiating with the perpetrators in a bid to curtail the attacks.

"Any negotiations will backfire badly," said socio-political commentator, Almiro Marcelino.

"This will put the government on a quagmire in that it will have to ease its crackdown on the terrorists. On the other hand, this would embolden the insurgents knowing they can attack at will and still bargain with the government," he said.

Lewis Jamo, another critic, said "The negotiations will not be a win-win situation. They will be a win-lose in favour of Ansar al-Sunna."

However, ruling party devotee, Stefan Guambe, believes negotiating with the insurgents was feasible.

"It's the norm around many parts of the world," Guambe argued.

"The belief is that the attackers have grievances over unequal distribution of wealth following the discovery of natural gas. It is only through talks that they can air their grievances and if they are valid, solutions could be found," Guambe argued.

Nyusi's government has deployed the military in Cabo Delgado to rein in the insurgents but attacks in the natural gas hub have continued.

The attackers have invaded villages, set houses on fire, hacked villagers to death with machetes and looted their food. State security forces have also been killed during ambushes.

Scores of locals and other suspects from outside Mozambique have been arrested on terror charges.

The attacks in recent weeks have overshadowed a milestone agreement reached between FRELIMO and the main opposition Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO).

The rival parties last month signed an agreement on cessation of military hostilities that have been sporadic since the former Portuguese colony attained independence in 1975.

This was anticipated to culminate in peaceful elections next month.

Over 11 million Mozambicans - out of the country's estimated total population of 30 million- are registered to vote.

FRELIMO and RENAMO are again the frontrunners in the electoral race but the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM) and Action of the United Movement for All-Round Salvation (AMUSI) have confirmed their challenge.

The presidential poll will be a contest featuring the incumbent head of state Nyusi (FRELIMO), Ossufo Momade (RENAMO), Daziz Simango (MDM) and Mario Albino (AMUSI) of the respective parties.

Polls come at a time a series of shocks, notably the fall in commodity prices, drought, withdrawal of donor budget support, and Tropical Cyclones Idai and Kenneth hit Mozambique.

The country, however, stands poised to reap significant revenues from natural resource reserves, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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