Mozambique’s opposition extends truce as step to end war

Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi, right, shaking hands with opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama in this February 2015 file photo. (AFP)
Updated 04 May 2017

Mozambique’s opposition extends truce as step to end war

MAPUTO: Mozambique’s opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama on Thursday extended indefinitely a unilateral truce he first announced in December, calling it the “beginning of the end” of the war between his rebels and the government.
“Today I announce an indefinite truce. It is not the end of the war, but it is the beginning of the end,” Dhlakama, whose Renamo party is the main opposition in the country, told journalists.
“This is great news for the people of Mozambique,” he said, speaking from his hideout in central Mozambique at a news briefing transmitted to the media assembled at Renamo headquarters in the capital Maputo.
Dhlakama had retreated in October 2015 to the central Gorongosa mountain range with 800 former fighters demanding a greater share of power.
His former rebel fighters — who waged a bloody 1976-1992 civil war that claimed one million lives — took up arms again in 2013 against the ruling Frelimo party, accusing its leaders of enriching themselves at the expense of the southern African country.
The fighting had often focused on the country’s main roads, with Renamo attacking government convoys and civilian vehicles, and soldiers accused of ruthlessly targeting suspected rebels in nearby villagers.
The violence sent thousands of people fleeing to government-run camps, relatives’ homes or across the border to Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Dhlakama first declared a cease-fire in December, and renewed it twice for two months in January and in March to allow time for peace negotiations with the government.
In February President Filipe Nyusi announced a new round of peace talks, but minus the international mediators who had previously been involved in the process in 2016.
Apart from a few isolated incidents, the truce has generally held since Christmas eve.
Dhlakama on Thursday admitted there was “no political agreement yet” to mark the end of the war.
But he stressed the importance of the truce.
“An open-ended truce means that there is no more shooting, that people can move freely, that investors — if still scared — can return,” he said.
He was optimistic that government would soon pull out its troops from the center of the country where they had been deployed.
“Government is committed to the complete withdrawal from all its military positions in Gorongosa region,” he said, adding that by June all government soldiers would have returned to their base camps.
Dhlakama however did not say when he would return from his hideout.
Renamo and the government had previously signed a cease-fire on the eve of the October 2014 general elections.
But then Renamo refused to accept the results of the poll when it was beaten once again at the ballot box by Frelimo, the ex-Marxist party, which has been in power since the former Portuguese colony’s independence 40 years ago.
Renamo spokesman Antonio Muchanga, said the latest truce would help speed up the negotiations toward a definitive end of the conflict, expressing the hope that “by the end of this year everything will be resolved.”
Mozambique ranks among the eight poorest countries in the world.

Sri Lanka rejects plans for $10m Shariah university

Updated 24 min 20 sec ago

Sri Lanka rejects plans for $10m Shariah university

  • Madrasas to be absorbed by Ministry of Education in wake of Easter Sunday attacks
  • More than 100 arrests have been made following the rioting. A curfew has been lifted and life is returning to normal

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday refused permission for a planned $10 million (SR37.5 million) Shariah university in one of the country’s main cities.

And in the wake of the deadly Easter Sunday terror attacks on hotels and churches, the premier also announced that all madrasas would be brought under the umbrella of Sri Lanka’s Education Ministry.

The latest moves by the Sri Lankan government follow widespread unrest on the island, with anti-Muslim riots having caused damage running into millions of dollars.

Wickremesinghe’s orders came after a fact-finding report into the university compiled by MP Ashu Marasinghe. He recommended that the institution, being constructed at Batticaloa, in the Eastern Province, should be privately operated and titled Batticaloa Technology University. The new education complex is located close to the township of Kattankudy where suspected ringleader of the Easter Sunday suicide bombings, Zahran Hashim, lived and preached his messages of hate and violence.

The Sri Lankan government analyst’s department said on Tuesday that DNA tests proved Hashim died in the attack at the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo.

President’s Counsel, Ali Sabry, a prominent lawyer and political analyst, told Arab News on Tuesday that the premier’s announcement was welcome.

“We don’t need a Shariah university at this juncture when there is a lot of suspicions on various Islamic topics that need to be clarified by Islamic theologians following the suicide attacks by Muslim extremists,” Sabry said. He stressed that the country’s main focus should be on strengthening ways to ensure peaceful coexistence among all communities.

The Sri Lankan University Grants Commission had a set of guidelines to license new universities, and Wickremesinghe’s latest recommendations would also be included among the requirements for a new university, Sabry added.

The prime minister’s ruling on madrasas (Islamic seminaries) would provide more transparency on the activities of the institutions, he said. “Their curriculum and their co-curricular activities should maintain a common standard and these madrasas should prepare the students to make them fit into society instead of just learning Arabic and Islam only.”

M.R.M. Malik, director of the Muslim Affairs Ministry in Colombo, told Arab News that currently all madrasas function under his ministry. “There are 317 madrasas throughout the island with an estimated 25,000 students. In addition to the local teachers, there are 38 Arabic teachers and 85 foreign students,” he said.

Most of the teachers are from Egypt, Pakistan and India, while many of the overseas students studying at the madrasas are from Libya, Pakistan, Jordan and India.

Sri Lanka Muslim Council President N.M. Ameen told Arab News that the local community had never wanted a Shariah university. However, he said the proposed curriculum for the madrasas should be constructed in consultation with Islamic scholars and the Muslim community.

Meanwhile, Western Province Gov. Azath Salley, revealed that damage caused by anti-Muslim riots had reached nearly Rs900 million (SR19.2 million). The governor was speaking to Arab News following a visit to some of the worst-affected villages on the island.

“Speaking to the families of the vandalized properties, it’s clear that an organized gang had attacked these earmarked properties owned by Muslims,” said Salley. “One child, whose father was killed in his presence, is still in a state of utter shock and dismay.” He added that turpentine oil had been poured on the face of the dead carpenter by his killers and set on fire.

The governor urged the authorities to bring the attackers to justice. He added that the government would provide compensation to victims of wrecked properties.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasakera said that more than 100 arrests had been made following the rioting, and that a curfew had been lifted and life was returning to normal.