MACHACAME, MOZAMBIQUE– President Filipe Nyusi has urged Mozambicans to cultivate a spirit of forgiveness and tolerance and to treat members of the Renamo rebel militia as brothers.

Addressing a rally in Machacame in Govuro district, on Thursday, the first day of a tour of the southern province of Inhambane, he appealed to his audience to prepare to receive and forgive Renamo fighters so that, in the near future, they can leave the bush and return to their families.

The Renamo soldiers are our bothers, they are Mozambicans. I ask all Mozambicans to forgive them, integrate them into the community and provide them with the necessary support to resume their lives as civilians. They are people like us, they want to live in peace and to move around freely, Nyusi said.

The government and Renamo are currently negotiating the demilitarisation of Renamo, which involves disarming and disbanding its illegal militia, and incorporating its members either into the Mozambican defence and security forces, or back into civilian life.

Nyusi had been discussing these issues with Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama immediately before his unexpected death on May 3.

The President told the crowd that he has resumed dialogue with the new leadership of Renamo, and I am pleased to say we are in a normal rhythm. He hoped that the discussions could soon be finalised, in order to reach a definitive re-establishment of peace.

Dhlakama declared a truce in December 2016, which effectively ended Renamo’s low-level insurgency in the provinces of central Mozambique. The truce has held, and no significant clash has been reported between Renamo and government forces since then.

However, the Renamo militia still exists, although its exact size is unknown. It is headquartered at the same base in the central district of Gorongosa where Dhlakama died. On the instructions of the Renamo Political Commission, the man appointed to co-ordinate the party in the period before a new leader is elected, Ossufo Momade, has gone to live in the Gorongosa base. This keeps him in close proximity to the Renamo military wing, which he clearly hopes to keep under control.

The Renamo General Secretary, Manuel Bissopo, has confirmed that Momade and Nyusi are in contact. Cited by the independent daily O Pais, during a visit to Zambezia province, Bissopo said the dialogue is flowing, despite the complexity of the military issues under discussion.