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Mozambique: Renamo Attacks Bridge – Zimbabwe Ready for Fallout of Tensions

Staff Writer

Renamo gunmen attacked a truck on Sunday morning at a bridge over the Pungue river, 15 kilometres outside Gorngosa town in the central province of Sofala.  The independent television station, STV, reported that the truck driver was injured when he lost control of the vehicle and it overturned. 

Further south in Sofala, there were Renamo attacks on convoys on the main south road, on the stretch between the Save river and the small town of Muxungue on both Thursday and Friday, 31 October and 1 November.  Despite the military escort accompanying the convoys vehicles were hit on both occasions, and three people were killed.  STV, which has a crew accompanying the convoys, reported that on Saturday the road was quiet, and none of the four convoys (two in each direction) came under attack.

In the Sofala provincial capital of Beira, army and police units on Friday morning, 1 November, raided the Renamo provincial office and a house belonging to Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama. The raid came as a surprise, since Beira has been entirely peaceful.  The police found one AK-47 assault rifle, about 500 rounds for assorted firearms, some uniforms and assorted items. 

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi strongly denied that Zimbabwe has deployed any soldiers in Mozambique, but stated that the army is on ‘high alert’ for any fall-out from the increasingly delicate situation in the eastern neighbour.  Sekeramayi responded to reports the army had deployed in Mozambique to support the Maputo government and pledged that the government would inform the people of Zimbabwe if it should decide to deploy.

Mozambique provides key access to the sea for landlocked Zimbabwe and, in the 1980s, the country was forced to intervene and back the Frelimo regime in a bid to protect its crucial road and rail trade routes.  Zimbabwe’s key concern is the security of the railway and pipe lines that supply Zimbabwe’s critical needs.

Maoputo has not yet approached the SADC regional grouping for help, Sekeramayi added, which is where, according to him, the situation and appropriate action to take would be discussed. 

claimed to have captured three hilltop positions from the rebels, who were now confined to the hills of Runyoni, Mbuzi and Tshanzu.  Despite the caesefire call the FARDC continued its assault on Sunday and Monday, 4 November, with heavy artillery fire heard 20 km away.

South African military and defence analyst Helmoed Römer Heitman wrote in South Africa's Sunday Independent newspaper and warned against being too optimistic about the latest developments.  He pointed out that the M23 effectively pulled out of their positions as government forces approached, instead of being driven out in direct combat.  This means that the rebels retained most of its capabilities and still remains a credible fighting force.

The Congolese army has up to recently generally been described as weak, ill-disciplined and lacking resources.  However, the successes over the last few weeks have given the FARDC new confidence, even if they were backed by the FIB in their campaign.  The FARDC forces deployed against M23 since August are a far cry from the disorganised, demoralised and poorly-trained soldiers that were so easily swept aside when Goma was captured in November last year.

According to regional analysts most credit for the improvement must go to the new commander of North Kivu’s 8th Military Region, Maj. Gen. Bahuma Ambamba, and his subordinate unit commanders. Following the embarrassing loss of Goma last year, and the subsequent mass rape committed by FARDC units, President Joseph Kabila recalled most of the 8th Military Region’s commanders to Kinshasa and replaced them with a trusted team led by Maj. Gen. Ambamba.

 

 

 

*Pic: AFP