Railway under Siege

The Renamo opposition party, a former guerrilla organisation, threatened on Wednesday to paralyse the only railway line out of Mozambique’s vast coalfields in an effort to hurt the government.

Renamo information chief Jeronimo Malagueta told a news conference in Maputo that disruption of the Sena line connecting the northwest region of Tete to the Indian Ocean port of Beira would last “as long as it takes”. Renamo would “paralyse the movement of trains”, he added.

“From Thursday June 20 we will take action to make the logistics of the country fragile,” he said, without providing details. The line is used predominantly by Brazil’s Vale and London-listed Rio Tinto.

Malaqueta did not clarify the group’s objectives but the threat marks an escalation in its tensions with Frelimo, the former Marxist party that has run Mozambique since the end of a 1975-1992 civil war.

Renamo, founded around independence with the help of white-ruled Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa, accuses Frelimo of exercising a stranglehold over politics and the economy and stacking the election commission to ensure victory in a presidential vote next year.

The Sena line runs through “Renamo country” and skirts the group’s semi-militarised stronghold in the Gorongosa Mountains, where it is believed to have around 1 000 men under arms. The line was frequently blown up during the civil war.

Renamo spokesperson Fernando Mavanga said the group’s plans were “military secrets” and justified action against the coal corridor railway because it serves as an economic lifeline for Frelimo.

Government officials did not respond to requests for comment.

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