MAPUTO. — Mozambique’s three presidential hopefuls kicked off campaigning ahead of October polls yesterday, following a ceasefire deal between the government and revived rebel group Renamo, whose leader remains in hiding. The official campaign season started 45 days ahead of the polls that will almost certainly install the ruling Frelimo’s candidate, former defence minister Felipe Nyussi, as president, since two years of violent clashes with Renamo – the official opposition – seem to come to an end.
Only three candidates gathered the necessary 10 000 nomination signatures to run for president.
Nyussi was due to address crowds in the major northern city of Nampula, while Daviz Simango of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) was also planning an appearance in the densely populated north.
Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama meanwhile still refuses to leave his hiding place in the central Gorongosa mountains, where he fled after government forces overran his base in August last year.
The old civil war commander instead would address rallies via satellite phone as he has done several times in the past months, his party said.
He had been widely expected to emerge and begin campaigning following the signing of a peace deal with the government to end an almost two year low-level conflict in central Sofala province. The conflict reignited after Renamo accused Frelimo of reneging on the 1992-peace deal that ended a crippling 16-year civil war.
His party now says Dhlakama will wait until parliament has ratified terms of the peace deal and until foreign observers have been formally invited to Mozambique to oversee its implementation.
Rather than the president, a more interesting development in the October 15 election may be a new official opposition.
Recent opinion polls, including one by Maputo’s Polytechnic University, suggested the MDM could overtake Renamo as the official opposition.
The poll, conducted in July and published this week, suggested Frelimo Nyussi would win 47 percent of the vote, followed by the MDM’s Simango with 35 percent.
Dhlakama trailed with 10 percent, but his party dismissed the survey as “flawed”.
Outgoing Mozambique President Armando Guebuza won three quarters of the votes in 2009 elections.
Guebuza, finishing up his second term, is constitutionally barred from running for a third term. — Sapa-AFP