Maputo – The main contenders for Mozambique’s presidential election come from the country’s two rival parties, Frelimo and Renamo.
Both candidates have spent decades as members of their respective parties, which continue to clash over two decades after a bloody civil war ended.
Incumbent President Filipe Nyusi, 60, is running for a second term in office as the Frelimo party candidate. The mechanical engineer joined Frelimo, the former independence movement that has governed Mozambique since 1975, at the age of 14.
Nyusi held managerial-level posts at the national ports and railways authority before being appointed defence minister in 2008. He won the presidential elections in 2014, taking over from former president Armando Guebuza.
Since Nyusi has been in power, he has been hit by a corruption scandal in which fellow party officials were implicated, an insurgency of terrorist groups in his home province of Cabo Delgado and the issue of how to manage natural gas deposits that could turn the fortunes of the impoverished nation around.
In order to secure investment, Nyusi has had to broker peace between his party and long-time rival Renamo, a former rebel group that’s turned into the main opposition.
The two fought a brutal civil war that ended in 1992, but violent skirmishes between the two have continued.
In response to Renamo’s demand for decentralization of power to the provinces, Nyusi changed electoral law in 2018 and signed the Maputo Peace and National Reconciliation Agreement with the opposition in August.
He has vowed to restore peace to the volatile nation. Analysts, however, say that his party will not give up power without a fight.
Ossufo Momade, 58, took leadership of the Renamo party after long-time leader Afonso Dhlakama died in 2018. This is the first time he is running for president, although he has had a long career in politics.
Renamo started as an anti-communist movement backed by white minority regimes in what was then Rhodesia and South Africa, and waged the 16-year civil war against the initially Marxist Frelimo.
According to Portuguese news agency Lusa, Momade joined the Renamo guerrillas after first serving in the ranks of Frelimo government forces and is one of the party’s best-known generals.
He started a life of politics after the war ended and spent many years as a deputy on the opposition benches in parliament.
Chosen as interim leader in May 2018, he was elected Renamo president at a party congress in January.
He does not enjoy the same popularity of his charismatic predecessor who, according to Luso, contested five elections from 1994 to 2014 and held his party in a firm grip.
Momade has also faced internal resistance from a splinter group that has called for the end of the peace accord and the cancellation of elections.
According to Luso, the election of provincial governors, now allowed by the law change, is an old Renamo aspiration, and the party stands to win at least five of the 11 provinces in Mozambique.