The latest edition of Mozambique Politics & Security highlights the heightening tensions in Mozambique between the government and the opposition party/rebel group Renamo. President Filipe Nyusi’s presidency began with attempts resolve issues with Renamo and its leader Afonso Dhlakama through conciliation and negotiation, but in recent months it appears that a military solution is increasingly being favoured by the ruling Frelimo over a negotiated one. Mozambique Politics & Security points out that this means that Renamo have increasingly less to lose and may, like Frelimo, favour more violence.

One theory doing the rounds, which increasingly seems to hold water, as to why negotiation has given way to violence in government thinking is that President Nyusi and his allies in power were granted control of the economy, while his predecessor Armando Guebuza and his remaining loyalists in government kept control of the security apparatus. Nyusi’s reaching out to Dhlakama at the start of the year violated that tacit agreement – and although he managed to dislodge Guebuza from the top of Frelimo (see Mozambique Politics & Security – 08.04.15), his predecessor has not given up on his side of the bargain.

Nyusi had clearly originally wanted a negotiated agreement. Whether he is now too distracted by the parlous state of the economy, or has been persuaded by Dhlakama’s recent refusal to meet with him that negotiation is not the way out, those seeking a military solution to the Renamo question are increasingly acting unimpeded. The theory that the military and police’s current strategy of disarming Renamo by force has been conducted without Nyusi’s blessing (see Mozambique Politics & Security – 21.10.15 and Mozambique Politics & Security – 07.10.15) is losing credibility.

The hard line being adopted by the government is leading to a hardening on the Renamo side, too. Dhlakama’s whereabouts are again unknown, and it may be that he and his generals are hunkering down in preparation for a counter-attack. If they believe that Frelimo’s tactic is to wait until Renamo is disarmed before they return to the negotiating table, what does Renamo have to lose in launching an offensive while it still has the means?