Mozambique's Opposition Elects Momade Leader in Continuity Bid

(Bloomberg) -- The election of Ossufo Momade as leader of Mozambique’s main opposition party shows members sought continuity and preparing for presidential elections scheduled in October, analysts said.

Afonso Dhlakama had led the guerrilla-movement-turned-opposition Mozambican National Resistance, or Renamo, for nearly four decades until his death in May. Momade took over on an interim basis until his election on Thursday.

Momade secured the support of most of the delegates at a conference held at the party’s base in central Sofala province, according to reports in the state-owned Noticias and closely held O Pais newspapers.

“The delegates were mostly concerned with continuity,” André Thomashausen, a lawyer who has worked with the party for years, said by phone Thursday.

Momade is a Muslim, making him the first leader from the religion to head a major party in the southeast African nation. said. Given an Islamist insurgency in the gas-rich north of the country, a Muslim political leader may help deal with the crisis there, Thomashausen said.

‘Intelligent Strategy’

Domingos do Rosário, professor of political science at Eduardo Mondlane University and a specialist in Renamo affairs, said the result was “an intelligent strategy.” Momade is a member of the majority Makua ethnic group that mainly occupies the provinces of Nampula, Cabo Delgado, Zambezia and Niassa, Do Rosário said by phone.

Momade’s immediate challenges will be finalizing a peace deal with the government ahead of the elections, Thomashausen said. Renamo and the ruling Frelimo party waged a 16-year civil war that ended in 1992, though fighting flared again in 2013.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.