Convoy system suspended following truce

Maputo (AIM) – The Mozambican authorities have suspended the system of convoys under armed escort along particularly dangerous stretches of road in the centre of the country, so that motorists are now free to drive along these roads at any time they choose.

renamo222According to the Mozambican police, the restrictions on road transport were lifted on 28 December, the second day of the truce declared by Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the rebel movement Renamo.

There was no public announcement of the suspension of the convoys, and Dhlakama himself seemed unaware of it, for in his press conference on Tuesday he called for an end to the convoys, even though there had been none for the previous six days.

“The police and the armed forces want to continue the escorts”, he claimed. “And the people are asking – why, if there is a truce? Why do the police and the army still want to enter the truck”.

Dhlakama claimed that in his Monday phone conversation with President Filipe Nyusi “I said it would be best to order a stop to the convoys. We don’t want convoys. If there are no attacks, what are the convoys for?”

But the spokesperson for the general command of the Mozambican police, Inacio Dina, told reporters that the restrictions on transport were lifted on 28 December.

“As you know, this is a matter that is being dealt with at the political level”, said Dina. “But we in the police praise the measure. It ensures that people can move around freely and in peace”.

Convoys had operated throughout most of 2016 on three stretches of road where attacks by Renamo gunmen had been particularly frequent. Two of these were parts of the main north-south highway as it passed through the central province of Sofala – between the Save river and the small town of Muxungue, and between Nhamapadza and Caia, on the south bank of the Zambezi. The third stretch was between Vanduzi and Changara on the road from the port of Beira to Tete, and then on to Zambia and Malawi.

Long distance truck drivers demanded an end to the convoy system immediately Dhlakama declared the truce. One of hem Ferrao Anacleto, cited by the independent television station STV, said it now took him just one day to make the journey between Beira and Malawi. But when he had to queue up to join a convoy the trip had taken two, or event three days.

Speeding up journeys through the centre of the country could result in significant savings for road haulage and long distance bus companies.

At his Tuesday press briefing, Dina declined to comment on claims made by Dhlakama that government forces had violated the truce twice during its first week, in Gorongosa district, near the Renamo military headquarters.

“We think it is not opportune to comment in depth on a matter which is politically on the right tracks”, he said.

One of the incidents that Dhlakama alleged was a “provocation” by the armed forces was a robbery at Tondo, in the Gorongosa administrative post of Canda. A group of soldiers had supposedly gone to some stalls in a local market burnt them down, stolen goods and left.

The second incident was an alleged attack against the house of a Renamo member in the Mucota area. “They broke into the house, stole everything, then burnt it down”, Dhlakama said. There is no independent confirmation of either of these claims.

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