Mozambique Proposes Constitutional Changes to Secure Peace Agreement

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FILE PHOTO: President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique speaks at a high-level meeting on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants at the United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan, New York, U.S. September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

Mozambique’s president proposes a constitutional change that redistributes power to the country’s provinces, a move aimed at securing a long-term peace agreement with the main opposition party.

Under the proposed bill, President Filipe Nyusi said on Wednesday, political parties that win provincial parliamentary elections will be able to select regional governors, whom the president would need to approve.

The bill is a result of talks Nyusi has been having with Afonso Dhlakama, the leader of the opposition party Renamo.

“The consensus reached up to now is a giant step forward in the search for an effective and definitive peace,” Nyusi said in a televised speech.

Fighters from Renamo and the ruling Frelimo party have clashed sporadically since Renamo challenged the results of a 2014 election. The fighting takes place mostly in the remote interior, making it difficult to gauge its scale and casualties.

Renamo members, who hold seats in parliament, have been calling for rights to elect its own governors in six districts where it scored a majority in the polls three years ago.

Frelimo, a former Marxist liberation movement, fought a 16-year civil war against Renamo and there have been concerns that Mozambique could slip back into conflict after Renamo withdrew from the 1992 peace deal that ended the fighting.

Mozambique is on the verge of developing huge offshore gas reserves which could transform one of the world’s poorest countries into a middle-income state. Competition to control this newfound wealth could stir unrest, analysts have said.