Mozambique has started providing armed security escort for Malawian trucks driving through conflict zones following an escalation of clashes between government soldiers and opposition militias.
Reports have been rife over the past weeks that Mozambique had been declared a war zone following the intensification of the clashes.
The governing Frelimo is fighting against the opposition Renamo militias led by long-time opposition leader Alfonso Dhlakama.
But Malawi High Commissioner to Mozambique Frank Viyazyi has disputed the reports and assured Malawians of protection.
Besides Tanzania and sometimes Zambia, Malawi depends on Mozambique for her imports and exports through both railway and road transport.
Thus, the prevailing armed conflict in Mozambique would have grave implications on the country’s economy.
Already, the conflict, primarily in Tete Province, has displaced at least 12 000 Mozambicans who are currently seeking refuge in Malawi. And the number flocking into Malawi is said to be rising daily.
But speaking in a telephone interview from Maputo, Mozambique on Tuesday, Viyazyi said much as there are continued clashes, the situation was under control.
However, the envoy said he would be giving a comprehensive report to Malawi Government so that Malawians learn the truth about the situation.
He said: “But the fact of the matter is there is no declaration of war. Mozambique has not declared war. What we know is there is a disbarment exercise taking place.
“Government forces are disarming Renamo soldiers and this process has been ongoing. But there are people who are resisting the disbarment and that is the cause of conflict, and the official position of the Mozambican Government.”
In the meantime, he said, Mozambique is providing mandatory security escort to trucks and other vehicles throughout the most vulnerable stretch between Tete and Beira.
Road Transport Operators Association (Rtoa) executive director Chrissy Flao said her office had received reports from some truck drivers about provision of security escort.
She said: “We have got those reports. Some drivers have reported that they are provided with security escort when going to Beira.”
But Flao said some drivers have reported about the rising shooting incidents although none has so far been wounded.
“As of now, no driver has been reported injured or their vehicles damaged due to the shooting. But perhaps there could be some that have not reported to us,” she said.
In April this year, four Malawian men travelling to South Africa were shot dead by unknown gunmen around Catandika in Tete.
And two weeks ago, some Malawian field consultants were caught in a security malaise when a commotion broke out in a hotel they were accommodated in Chimoio due to a shooting occurrence on the back side of their hotel. The people were told to evacuate their rooms for the hotel lobby.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Francis Kasaila said travellers must take precaution by avoiding using the volatile route. n