History of Mozambique

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Mozambique was a Portuguese colony, overseas province and later a member state of Portugal. It gained independence from Portugal in 1975.

Pre-colonial history[edit]

Stone age Mozambique[edit]

In 2007 Julio Mercader, of the University of Calgary, recovered dozens of 100,000-year-old stone tools from a deep limestone cave near Lake Niassa in Mozambique showing that wild sorghum, the ancestor of the chief cereal consumed today in sub-Saharan Africa for flours, breads, porridges and alcoholic beverages, was being consumed by Homo sapiens along with African wine palm, the false banana, pigeon peas, wild oranges and the African "potato." This is the earliest direct evidence of humans using pre-domesticated cereals anywhere in the world.[1]

Ancient history[edit]

The first inhabitants of what is now Mozambique were the San hunters and gatherers, ancestors of the Khoisani peoples. Between the 1st and 5th centuries AD, waves of Bantu-speaking peoples migrated from the north through the Zambezi River valley and then gradually into the plateau and coastal areas. The Bantu were farmers and ironworkers.

Intercultural Contact[edit]

When Vasco da Gama, exploring for Portugal, reached the coast of Mozambique in 1498, Arab trading settlements had existed along the coast and outlying islands for several centuries, and political control of the coast was in the hands of a string of local sultans. Muslims had actually lived in the region for quite some time; the famous Arab historian and geographer, Al-Masudi, reported Muslims amongst Africans in the land of Sofa in 947 (modern day Mozambique, itself a derivative of the name of the Arab Shiekh who ruled the area at the time when the Portuguese arrived, Musa bin Ba'ik).[2] Most of the local people had embraced Islam. The region lay at the southernmost end of a traditional trading world that encompassed the Red Sea, the Hadhramaut coast of Arabia and the Indian coast, described in the 1st-century coasting guide that is called the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.

Independence (1975)[edit]

After World War II, while many European nations were granting independence to their colonies, Portugal's Estado Novo regime headed by António de Oliveira Salazar issued a decree officially renaming Mozambique and other Portuguese possessions as overseas provinces of the mother country, and emigration to the colonies soared (Mozambique's ethnic Portuguese resident population was about 300,000 in 1973, which excludes the Portuguese military sent from the mainland and mulatto population). The drive for Mozambican independence developed apace, and in 1962 several anti-colonial political groups formed the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), which initiated an armed campaign against Portuguese colonial rule in September 1964. This conflict, along with the two others already initiated in the other Portuguese colonies of Angola and Portuguese Guinea, became part of the so-called Portuguese Colonial War.

Mozambique became independent after ten years of sporadic warfare and Portugal's return to democracy through a leftist military coup in Lisbon on 25 April 1974 (partially as a result of the expenses from the wars in the overseas territories in Africa). FRELIMO took complete control of the territory after a transition period, as agreed in the Lusaka Accord which recognized Mozambique's right to independence and the terms of the transfer of power. Within a year of the Portuguese coup, almost all Portuguese population had left the African territory – some expelled by the new government of independent Mozambique, some fleeing in fear. Mozambique became independent from Portugal on June 25, 1975.

The Portuguese population's rapid exodus left the Mozambican economy in disarray. In addition, after independence day on June 25, 1975, the eruption of the Mozambican Civil War (1977–1992) destroyed the remaining wealth and left the former Portuguese Overseas Province in a state of absolute disrepair. In any event, as late as 2001, the economic outcome could still be seen in cities like Beira. Once a thriving vacation city on the coast, it is still the second largest city in Mozambique, with a population of 300,000. Many of these people live as squatters in unfinished 1970s era luxury hotels facing the Indian Ocean.

FRELIMO responded to their lack of resources and the Cold War politics of the mid-1970s by moving into alignment with the Soviet Union and its allies. FRELIMO established a one-party Socialist state, and quickly received substantial international aid from Cuba and the Eastern Bloc nations.

Civil War (1977–1992)[edit]

Main article: Mozambican Civil War

Formed in 1975, Mozambican National Resistance, an anti-communist group sponsored by the Rhodesian Intelligence Service, and the apartheid government in South Africa, launched a series of attacks on transport routes, schools and health clinics, and the country descended into civil war. In the United States, the CIA and conservatives lobbied for support to RENAMO, which was strongly resisted by the State Department, which would "not recognize or negotiate with RENAMO".[3][4][5]

In 1984, Mozambique negotiated the Nkomati Accord with P. W. Botha and the South African government, in which Mozambique was to expel the African National Congress in exchange for South Africa stopping support of Renamo. At first both sides complied but it soon became evident that infringements were taking place on both sides and the war continued. In 1986, Mozambican President Samora Machel died in an air crash in South African territory. Although unproven, many suspect the South African government of responsibility for his death. Machel was replaced by Joaquim Chissano as president. The war was marked by huge human rights violations by both RENAMO and FRELIMO.[6][7][8][9]

With support for RENAMO from South Africa drying up, in 1990 the first direct talks between the FRELIMO government and Renamo were held. In November 1990 a new constitution was adopted. Mozambique was now a multiparty state, with periodic elections, and guaranteed democratic rights. On 4 October 1992, the Rome General Peace Accords, negotiated by the Community of Sant'Egidio with the support of the United Nations, were signed in Rome between President Chissano and RENAMO leader Afonso Dhlakama, which formally took effect on the October 15, 1992. A UN Peacekeeping Force (ONUMOZ) oversaw a two-year transition to democracy. The last ONUMOZ contingents departed in early 1995.

Democratic era (1993-)[edit]

Mozambique held elections in 1994, which were accepted by most parties as free and fair while still contested by many nationals and observers alike. FRELIMO won, under Joaquim Chissano, while RENAMO, led by Afonso Dhlakama, ran as the official opposition.

In 1995, Mozambique joined the Commonwealth of Nations, becoming, at the time, the only member nation that had never been part of the British Empire.

By mid-1995, over 1.7 million refugees who had sought asylum in neighboring countries had returned to Mozambique, part of the largest repatriation witnessed in sub-Saharan Africa. An additional four million internally displaced persons had returned to their homes.

In December 1999, Mozambique held elections for a second time since the civil war, which were again won by FRELIMO. RENAMO accused FRELIMO of fraud, and threatened to return to civil war, but backed down after taking the matter to the Supreme Court and losing.

In early 2000 a cyclone caused widespread flooding in the country, killing hundreds and devastating the already precarious infrastructure. There were widespread suspicions that foreign aid resources have been diverted by powerful leaders of FRELIMO. Carlos Cardoso, a journalist investigating these allegations, was murdered but his death was not satisfactorily explained.

Indicating in 2001 that he would not run for a third term, Chissano criticized leaders who stayed on longer than he had, which was generally seen as a reference to Zambian president Frederick Chiluba, who at the time was considering a third term, and Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, then in his fourth term. Presidential and National Assembly elections took place on December 1–2, 2004. FRELIMO candidate Armando Guebuza won with 64% of the popular vote. His opponent, Afonso Dhlakama of RENAMO, received 32% of the popular vote. FRELIMO won 160 seats in Parliament. A coalition of RENAMO and several small parties won the 90 remaining seats. Armando Guebuza was inaugurated as the President of Mozambique on February 2, 2005.

Much of the economic recovery which has followed the end of the Mozambican Civil War (1977–1992) is being led by investors and tourists from neighbour South Africa and from East Asia. A number of returning Portuguese nationals have also invested in the country as well as some Italian organizations. Coal and gas have grown to become large sectors. The income per capita tripled over twenty years since the civil war.[10]

Mozambique was declared to be free of land mines in 2015, following a 22-year effort to remove explosive devices planted during the War of Independence and Civil War.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Stone age pantry: Archaeologist unearths earliest evidence of modern humans using wild grains and tubers for food". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  2. ^ Zahoor, Akram (2000). Muslim History: 570-1950 C.E. Gaithersburg, MD: AZP (ZMD Corporation). p. 79. ISBN 978-0-9702389-0-0. [self-published source?]
  3. ^ Deciding to Intervene, p. 204.
  4. ^ Deciding to Intervene, p. 207.
  5. ^ Africa: The Challenge of Transformation
  6. ^ http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB14.1C.GIF Statistics of Democide: Genocide and Mass Murder since 1900 by Rudolph Rummel, Lit Verlag, 1999
  7. ^ Geoff Hill, "A Crying Field to Remember," The Star (South Africa), November 13, 2007
  8. ^ Hoile, David. MOZAMBIQUE: A NATION IN CRISIS. Lexington, Georgia: The Claridge Press, 1989. p 89, 27-29
  9. ^ Gersony 1988, p.34-36.
  10. ^ "Mozambique: Gas-fired tension". The Economist. 2013-11-09. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  11. ^ Smith, David (17 September 2015). "Flash and a bang as Mozambique is declared free of landmines". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 September 2015. 

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