Mozambique extends stay for foreign military observers

Mozambican Electoral Commission workers load election kit containing ballot boxes and voting material to be shipped out to the countryside at a wharehouse in Maputo on October 13, 2014 (AFP Photo/Gianluigi Guercia)

Maputo (AFP) - Mozambique has extended the mission of foreign military observers deployed across the southern African country since October to ensure post-election peace.

The country's two main parties "have agreed in principal to prolong" the mandate of the mission, Agriculture Minister Jaso Pacheco said at a press conference late Monday.

The soldiers are part of a 90-plus observer mission tasked with helping maintain peace between the Frelimo-led government and opposition party Renamo.

The mission includes 23 military experts from Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Italy, Portugal and Britain. There are also 70 local soldiers headed by a Botswana brigadier.

The agriculture minister, who has been heading Frelimo's discussions with Renamo, said however that the two parties could not agree on a timeframe for the extension of the mission, which was set to expire Monday.

Renamo and Frelimo waged a 16-year war that ended in 1992 and killed an estimated one million people.

After a 20-year hiatus, supporters of Renamo's leader Afonso Dhlakama began a low-level insurgency in late 2012.

A deal was reached last September to end that second, less bloody, conflict.

But after Frelimo won the October election with 57 percent to Renamo's 37 percent, Dhlakama cried foul, boycotting the inauguration of new president Felipe Nyusi and shunning the opening of parliament.

He threatened to form a parallel government in parts of the country where his party came out top in the election.

Two weeks ago, he announced his party would table a bill giving more autonomy to the country's 11 provinces. His party won the majority of votes in five of them during the October election.

Dhlakama, a former rebel leader, has disputed the outcome of every poll since 1990.