Source: Al Jazeera
Mozambican rebel leader Afonso Dhlakama has come out of hiding and returned to the capital, Maputo, in a symbolic end to a two-year conflict that has rekindled memories of a civil war.
The Renamo leader touched down in the capital on Thursday, flanked by foreign diplomats – ahead of a meeting to cement a peace deal with President Armando Guebuza on Friday.
“I want to thank you for coming here,” Dhlakama told over a thousand followers who had arrived at the airport to catch a glimpse, urging them to vote for him and his party in next month’s elections.
“On October 15, I want this same crowd,” he said. “I want you all to vote Afonso Dhlakama, number one and number 2 Renamo!” he said in reference to the presidential and parliamentary vote.
Dhlakama and his supporters staged a victory lap around the airport before making his way to the Renamo headquarters in Maputo escorted by armed guards.
Dhlakama disappeared from public life in October 2012, relocating to a remote bush camp in central Mozambique and claiming the government had not kept to the terms of a 1992 peace deal.
That accord ended 15 years of the civil war that led to the deaths of an estimated one million people.
The war pitted Amalaka’s Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo) and the initially Marxist Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo), which assumed power after independence from Portugal in 1975.
In late 2013, the Renamo leader went into hiding in the Gorgosaurus mountains as government troops overran his camp and the conflict deepened.
His supporters attacked buses and cars on the main north-south highway, in a low-level but deadly insurgency.
Dhlakama’s return will help pave the way for peaceful elections next month.
The 61-year-old has run in every presidential race since 1994, but saw his support wane to 16 percent in 2009 polls.