Participants at a rally in Chigubo district in the southern Mozambican province of Gaza have rejected any attempt to divide the country.

President Filipe Nyusi told the crowd at Saturday’s rally here that he remains willing to speak with Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the rebel movement Renamo, to secure a lasting peace for the country.

“I am ready to talk, and I have always been ready to talk,” said the president. “That’s why I met Dhlakama twice to find out what he really wants.”

Those meetings took place in February 2015, and Dhlakama has subsequently refused any further face-to-face meetings with the president. Instead he has moved to a bush camp in the central district of Gorongosa where he is directing a low-level insurrection in the central provinces.

Nyusi recalled that the previous government, headed by his predecessor, President Armando Guebuza, agreed to amend the electoral legislation to accommodate all Renamo’s demands.

“Based on that law, we held elections to elect the President, the parliament and the provincial assemblies,” recalled Nyusi. “But now Dhlakama says he needs to govern six provinces.”

“Can I give them to him?,” Nyusi asked the crowd. “No!”, they shouted back, with some declaring “we didn’t vote to divide Mozambique”.

At Chigubo, and at a rally later in the day in Massingir district, Nyusi said that the war waged by Renamo was increasing the suffering of Mozambicans, particularly at this moment of economic crisis.

“There are a lot of beans in Niassa, maize in Nampula, potatoes in Tete, cattle in Gaza. But these goods cannot be moved from one region to another because of the attacks by our brothers from Renamo. We are obliged to import certain products because we cannot circulate and work freely inside the country,” he noted.

The rally in Massingir ended Nyusi’s visit to Gaza Province, which was also the last stop in his tour of the provinces for this year.