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Published: Friday September 5, 2014 MYT 9:55:05 PM
Updated: Friday September 5, 2014 MYT 9:55:05 PM

Mozambique opposition leader, president ratify peace deal

MAPUTO (Reuters) - Mozambique opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama and President Armando Guebuza ratified a peace deal in the capital on Friday, ending nearly two years of low-level guerrilla insurgency ahead of an Oct. 15 election.

Dhlakama returned to Maputo this week after two years in hiding in the central province of Sofala, during which time armed members of his Renamo party clashed sporadically with government forces.

Gunmen also ambushed vehicles on the southern African nation's main north-south highway, killing several dozen people, disrupting traffic and causing tourist cancellations.

Renamo claimed responsibility for killing police and soldiers and it was not clear who was to blame for other deaths.

Renamo and the Frelimo government signed a peace deal last week, paving the way for Dhlakama's emergence from the bush to personally endorse the agreement and take part in the poll.

Frelimo is expected to win a hefty majority in the election, cementing the grip on power it has held since the end of a 1975-1992 civil war in which a million people are thought to have died.

As they signed the pact in front of diplomats and journalists in the presidential compound, civil war foes Dhlakama and Guebuza promised to bury the hatchet in the national interest.

However, Dhlakama urged Guebuza to ensure that development of the former Portuguese colony's vast coal and off-shore natural gas reserves benefited all the country's 25 million people, rather than just a narrow elite.

"Democracy was and always will be at risk if wealth is not equitably distributed to all Mozambicans," he said. "There is no reason that after two decades of peace we still have the majority of people on the margins."

The constitution bars Guebuza from running for a third term, leaving former Defence Minister Filipe Nyusibut to run as the Frelimo presidential candidate.

Other contenders for the presidency include Mozambique Democratic Movement leader Daviz Simango, who some polls say could push Dhlakama into third place.

Buoyed by foreign investment, mainly in the mining and hydrocarbon sector, Mozambique's economy is forecast to grow around 8 percent this year.

(Reporting by Manuel Mucari; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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