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Mozambique opposition warns of instability

By on May 7, 2015

Mozambique’s main opposition party has warned of a growing risk of instability in the energy-rich nation after parliament rejected a bill that would have given it autonomous powers in regions where it has strong support.

Renamo, which lost fractious national elections in October, put a bill before parliament last week that would have given it rights to elect its own governors in six oil, gas and coal rich districts where it scored a majority at the polls.

However, the ruling Frelimo party voted against the measure, while the small opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement abstained, consigning Renamo to a resounding defeat.

In power since Mozambique won independence from Portugal in 1975, Frelimo dismissed suggestions that rejection of the bill would ignite violence.

President Nyusi agreed to debate decentralisation after Renamo parliamentarians had refused to take up their seats following the 2014 election, but signs of cracks in the fragile detente between the two main parties have begun to surface.

The tensions threaten to disrupt plans by the southern African nation to revive its economy through its untapped natural gas reserves, some of the biggest in the world. The main energy hub is in the north of the country around Beira, Mozambique’s second largest city.

In the two years leading up to the 2014 elections, Dhlakama’s armed Renamo partisans clashed sporadically with government troops and police.

Robert Besseling, an analyst at IHS Country Risk, believes Renamo is losing control over its armed forces and said calls for autonomy were a way to secure benefits for its veteran fighters, many of whom felt excluded from post-war development.

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