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Monday, 10 December, 2001, 15:11 GMT
No third term for Chissano
Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano
Chissano wants to retire at 65
By Jose Tembe in Maputo

Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano has announced that he will not run for a third term as head of state in elections due in 2004.

There had been speculation that he may be tempted to follow some of his southern African counterparts - Namibia's Sam Nujoma, Zambia's Frederick Chiluba and Malawi's Bakili Muluzi - and attempt to stay in power.


People have the right to retire at the age of 65

Joaquim Chissano

The ruling Frelimo party last night accepted his decision, according to a statement issued by the Central Committee.

The statement called Mr Chissano's decision a gesture of great dignity and political wisdom, the gesture of a statesman with a vision of the future for his people and for the country.

President Chissano said he had never planned to stay in power for long. "People have the right to retire at the age of 65."

Heated debate

However, there was pressure from within Frelimo for Mr Chissano to change his mind, expressed strongly at the Frelimo National Cadre Conference held in the port city of Beira in September.

The president, at the time, said he needed time to find out whether a substantial majority of the population, not just of Frelimo, wanted him to run again.

Graca Machel and Nelson Mandela
Graca Machel is being tipped to replace Chissano

This provoked a hot debate, with analysts saying that Chissano should leave the race and give room to new blood in the leadership of the nation.

With a rise in organised crime and corruption in the country, observers believed that the president had lost popularity among the people and risked defeat if he ran for another term in office.

Successor

The Central Committee meeting has put an end to this debate and the Frelimo congress planned for next June will have to decide the party's candidate for the 2004 general elections.

Murdered journalist Carlos Cardoso
Journalist Carlos Cardoso was killed after exposing corruption

Names that have been echoed as possible successors include Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi, the former Mozambican first lady, Graca Machel and the governor of central Sofala province, Felicio Zacarias, who has been praised for his governorship skills and the courage to fight against crime and corruption.

Mr Chissano has ruled Mozambique since 1986, when he became Frelimo leader after the death of Samora Machel in a plane crash.

He was voted into office in 1992 in elections following Mozambique's brutal 16-year civil war.

See also:

27 Nov 01 | Business
Mozambique's gas windfall
21 Dec 00 | Africa
Mozambique leadership truce
20 Dec 00 | Africa
Mozambique's leaders talk
07 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Mozambique
15 Jan 00 | Africa
Mozambique president sworn in
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