Mozambique achieved independence from Portugal in 1975, with the national liberation movement, Frelimo, establishing a marxist one-party state. Two years later, a rebel movement emerged, Renamo, funded and trained from Rhodesia and later South Africa with the aim of overthrowing the communist regime. A civil war would endure for years – one million people died and five million were displaced people as a consequence of the war. A cease-fire was signed in 1992 and the first multi-party elections were held in 1994.

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«I had waited for several months for an arranged visit to the Renamo (Resistência Nacional Moçambicana) guerrillas’ large controlled areas in Mozambique. Renamo has not invited many foreign journalists during their 14 year old civil war. They are, at this time, perhaps Africa’s most feared guerrilla movement and commonly called ‘bloodthirsty bandits’ or ‘Africa’s black Khmers’ by the international press.

However, Renamo’s leader, Afonso Dhlakama, does not look like a bloodthirsty bandit or a killer. He is a soft spoken, chubby man that could have been a civil servant or an accountant if he changed his camouflage uniform and beret into a dark suit. Dhlakama would really like to clean up his rugged reputation and portray himself as a true democrat. His political ideals are among Western Europe’s conservative parties. I am surprised when Dhlakama tells me that the ‘deep blue’ extremely conservative Bavarian politician Franz Josef Straus is his personal best friend and that he visited Munich and Bavaria secretly several times. From Mozambique’s guerrilla war to castles and ski resorts in the Bavarian Alps, I wonder what Dhlakama and Straus talked about.

A few years later, Renamo and the government sign a peace agreement and in the following free election, the guerrilla movement won 38% of the votes. The government keeps the power, but Afonso Dhlakama has suddenly become a respected leader for Mozambique’s biggest and only real opposition party.

Not a bad ending for a man named a bandit and a killer by most of the world»

Peter Strandberg | Gorongosa, Mozambique | 1991