Africa-Press – Mozambique. The leader of the self-styled Renamo Military Junta, Mariano Nhongo, died on Monday in an exchange of fire with a unit of the Mozambican Defence and Security forces in Cheringoma district in the central Mozambican province of Sofala.
Addressing a media briefing, the General Commander of the Mozambican police force, Bernadino Rafael, said Nhongo died in combat, at about 07:30 minutes, in the bush of the Njovo area, along with one of his closest lieutenants, whom Rafael named as Wulawucama.
Rafael said it was Nhongo and his men who began the clash, opening fire against the patrol unit. He added that Nhongo’s death was not the desired end, because the Mozambican forces had hoped to take him alive, so that he could be held accountable for the crimes he had committed in Sofala and the neighbouring province of Manica.
“There have been repeated calls for Nhongo to join the Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR) of the Renamo militia which is currently under way”, said Rafael. “But he unfortunately declined the offer and continued to fight”.
He added that Defence and Security forces are doing all within their powers to collect the mortal remains of Nhongo and his ally to deliver them to their families.
The Defence forces had struck on Monday last week against Nhongo’s hideout in the Zove hamlet deep in Inhaminga district, where they seized food, kitchen utensils and other items used by the Junta leader.
Following this incident, President Filipe Nyusi on Friday told graduates from a police Special Forces training course it was unacceptable that the country should be fighting two wars, and urged the Defence and Security Forces to “neutralize” Nhongo.
“I have already given Nhongo the opportunity to surrender voluntarily”, said Nyusi. “I’m not going to speak much about this. I demand that you end this dossier”.
Nhongo split from Renamo in mid-2019, and formed the “Military Junta”. He denounced Renamo leader Ossufo Momade, who had been elected leader of Renamo at a party congress in January of that year, as “a traitor”, and refused to recognize the peace agreement signed by Nyusi and Momade in August 2019.
Nhongo declared that he was now the real leader of Renamo, and appointed himself to the rank of general.
Throughout 2020, Nhongo’s men staged ambushes on the main roads in Manica and Sofala. He demanded that Nyusi tear up his agreement with Momade and negotiate a new one with him. The government said the only option open to him was to join the Renamo demobilization. There would be no new peace agreement.
Over the past few months, members of the junta have been surrendering, including some of Nhongo’s close aides, and have applied for demobilization pay.
There is no obvious successor to Nhongo, and so his death may signal the end of the Military Junta.