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Mozambique's Sixteen-Year Bloody Civil War

Mozambique's Sixteen-Year Bloody Civil War


AUTHOR Major Lance S. Young, USAF


CSC 1991









THESIS: Our exploration of the background and development of Mozambique,

including the current status of its brutal Civil War, demonstrates that it is in our

national interest economically and militarily to continue to support the nation's




I. Profile of Mozambique


A. Geography


B. People


C. Economy


D. Colonialism/Nationalism


II. Development of the Civil War


A. Mozambique's Liberation Front (Frelimo)


B. Mozambique's National Resistance (Renamo)


III. Current status of the Civil War


A. Political situation


B. Civilian/Refugee dilemma


C. Constitutional Reform


D. South African nations' involvement


IV. Mozambique's Foreign Relations


A. USSR and Mozambique Relations


B. U.S. and Mozambique Relations


V. Mozambique Bilateral Improvements





I. Purpose: To help determine if it is in our national interest economically and

militarily to continue our current support to Mozambique by examining its

background and development, including the current status of its sixteen-year Civil



II. Background: Although the United States is currently one of the largest

economic contributors to Mozambique, we are also increasing our military influence.

Our interests in Mozambique are not widely understood or accepted in the political

or military communities. Acceptance of a strong viable bilateral agreement requires

a new review of Mozambique's internal situation and its progress towards



III. Data: Famine and dismal conditions in Mozambique began centuries ago

when foreign inhabitants exploited the country. Plagued with a high illiteracy rate

and its people forcibly removed for slavery and sold as cheap labor, a slow but

understandable resistance movement began to surface. Sentiment for Mozambique's

own national independence developed and the Front for Liberation of Mozambique

(FRELIMO) was born. This organization fought its Portugese foe for ten years to

finally win an agreement to transfer power to FRELIMO. The struggle continued,

but this time it was against an internal resistance movement known as the

Mozambique Resistance Movement (RENAMO). With U.S. encouragement, the

FRELIMO government initiated contact with RENAMO and direct peace talks

began. This past December a partial cease fire was achieved. U. S. policy of

constructive relations with the government of Mozambique has moved their

government towards a more genuine pursuit for internal political and economic



IV. Conclusion: I feel we should continue our economic and military support

to Mozambique contingent on a continued cease fire and their continued effort

towards democracy. The long term payoff would be a stable country in Southern

Africa friendly to the U.S., one which would promote peaceful regional initiatives.

Militarily, it is useful as a strategic access to secure lines of communications as well as

the strategic minerals it possesses. It would be beneficial to our nation while

providing the basis for Mozambique to rebuild itself.





Since December 1990, Mozambique has enjoyed a partial cease fire from its


16-year devastating Civil War. This war has torn the nation apart and has caused


widespread economic misery and famine. Few Americans are familiar with


Mozambique; therefore, a review of its background and development, including the


current status of its brutal Civil War, will help determine if it is in our national


interest economically and militarily to continue our current involvement.




Mozambique is located on the Indian Ocean in southern Africa. Its 2,000-mile


coastline and three major ports of Maputo, Beira, and Nacala are all ideally suited


for naval bases and have long been coveted by the superpowers. These ports, from


which a great power could interdict, or at least disrupt, Indian Ocean commerce and


alter the balance of power in Southern Africa, also offer international gateways to


the landlocked countries of the region.(5:1) Maputo, the capital, is the economic,


political, and cultural center of Mozambique.




The nation's strategic importance, however, transcends its geographic position.


Mozambique, according to Business International, "Mozambique: On the Road to


Reconstruction and Development? (Geneva, 1980), has enormous mineral potential.


The world's largest reserve of columbotantalite, which is used to make nuclear


reactors and aircraft and missile parts, is located in Zambezia Province in central


Mozambique. The country is the second most important producer of beryllium,


another highly desired strategic mineral.(5:1)




Mozambique's social structure merits attention because of its diversity. There


are 10 major ethnic groups that are divided into subgroups with their own languages,


dialects, cultures, and history; the largest are the Makua and Tsonga. The north


central Provinces of Zambezia and Nampula are the most populous, comprising


about 50% of the population. However, between 1986 and 1988, hundreds of


thousands of Mozambicans fled conflict-torn areas of central Mozambique to


neighboring countries or secure areas within the country.(1:3) By far, they are


probably the lucky few because if caught by the rebels they could have been killed,


used as forced labor, or systematically raped or beaten. More than 2 million


Mozambiquens have fled their homes and found sanctuary, either in secure camps in


their own country or across the border in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and South


Africa. An additional 100,000 to 200,000 have died at the hands of what may be


today's most brutal rebel army.(7:45)




During the colonial regime, educational opportunities for black Mozambicans


were limited and 93% of the population was illiterate. Since independence, the


government has placed a high priority on expanding education, reducing the illiteracy


rate to 86%. The continuing insurgency, however, has disrupted education in many


of the rural areas.(1:3) The illiteracy rate has added to the continued internal


problem of the economy.




Agriculture is the most important sector of the economy, employing


approximately 85 percent of the labor force. Mozambique historically has been a


major world supplier of cashew nuts. Other agricultural exports include sugar, tea,


cotton and copra.(10:4) Mozambique has a small industrial sector to include food


processing, fisheries, textile plants, mining (large deposits remaining), and assorted


transportation factories.




To understand the enormous economic, social, and political difficulties of


Mozambique, we must examine its


past history. Impoverishment and inequality, rooted at least as far back as the


sixteenth century, dramatically increased as a direct consequence of Portugal's


imposition of colonial-capitalism during the early years of this century. By the middle


of the eighteenth century, Mozambique had become to Portugal little more than a


backwater malarial zone of minimal value in comparison to Lisbon's holdings in Asia,


Brazil, and even Angola.(5:15)




During the 19th century the slave trade had far-reaching economic and social


effects on the colony. It is likely that more than 1 million Mozambicans were forcibly


removed from their homelands and sold as cheap bound labor.(5:18) This destroyed


entire villages and compelled survivors to flee to inaccessible, unproductive locations


to avoid slave raiders. The violent disruption of much of the rural economy and the


export of many of the most productive members of the indigenous Mozambican


societies ensured continuing of underdevelopment and impoverishment.




In the early 20th century, the Portuguese shifted the administration of much of


the country to large private companies (controlled and financed mostly by the


British), which made lucrative profits by establishing railroad lines with neighboring


countries and by supplying cheap (often forced) African labor to the mines and


plantations of the nearby colonies. Because policies were designed to benefit white


settlers and the Portuguese homeland, little attention was paid to developing


Mozambique's economic infrastructure or the skills of its population.(7:45) After


World War II many European nations were granting independence to their colonies,


but Portugal decided to hold on to its overseas provinces.




Mozambican resistance began to surface, as people eventually concluded that


decades of exploitation, oppression and neglect by Portugal's colonial expansion was


the cause of their misery. Sentiment for Mozambique's own national independence


developed and on 25 June 1962 several Mozambican anti-Portuguese political groups


formed the Front for Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO).


FRELIMO's first president was Eduardo Mondlane whose first objective was


to forge a broad based insurgent coalition that could effectively challenge the


colonial regime. Mondlane had been a professor of anthropology at Syracuse


University in New York prior to his heading a national liberation front and a guerrilla


movement. He was a man of iron will, who became a hard-core revolutionary of


radical thought.(4:171) In FRELIMO's struggle, Mondlane sought to forge as wide a


coalition of nations against Portugal as possible. Pragmatically, he reasoned that aid


and diplomatic supports from the West were as useful as that from the East. The


United States gave no overt assistance to FRELIMO, but its Agency for


International Development provided a few scholarships for Mozambicans to study in


America. Anonymous private contributors, many of them friends of Mondlane,


financed or secured money for FRELIMO's health, publicity, and educational


projects, while military equipment and training came from Algeria, Russia and






On 25 September 1964, FRELIMO solders, with logistical assistance from the


surrounding population, attacked the administrative post at Chai in Cabo Delgado


Province. This raid marked the beginning of the armed struggle against the colonial


regime. FRELIMO militants were able to evade pursuit and surveillance by


employing classic guerrilla tactics: ambushing patrols, sabotaging communication


and railroad lines, and making hit-and-run attacks against colonial outposts before


rapidly fading into accessible backwater areas.(5:84) At the war's outset, FRELIMO


had little hope for a military victory; its hope lay in a war of attrition to compel a


negotiated independence from Lisbon. The goal of FRELIMO was to make the war


so costly that eventually Portugal would withdrawl, a goal made difficult by loans


from the United States and West Germany and arms from NATO to


Portugal.(4: 187) Portugal fought its own version of protracted warfare. Had the


military succeeded with a minimum of expenditure and casualties, the war could have


remained undecided for much longer. But the expense in blood and treasure, not


military defeat, cost Lisbon the war; its army was never destroyed on the battlefield,


although some of its officers were converted to FRELIMO's revolutionary social


goals for Portugal.(4:187&188)




On 24 April 1974 the authoritarian regime had been overthrown in Lisbon, a


move that was supported by workers and peasants. The Armed Forces Movement in


Portugal pledged a return to civil liberties and an end to the fighting in all colonies.


The rapid chain of events within Portugal caught FRELIMO, which had anticipated


a protracted guerrilla campaign, by surprise. It responded quickly to the new


situation and on 7 September 1974 won an agreement from the Armed Forces


Movement to transfer power to FRELIMO within a year. On 25 June 1975


Mozambique became free. At the independence celebration the now President


Samora Machel warned that although the first phase in the struggle had been won,


the young country still had to overcome illiteracy, disease, poverty, and economic


dependence, which were the legacies of colonialism.(5:106&107)


In 1977 a new resistance movement was formed by the name of RENAMO, the


Mozambique Resistance Movement. This force was formed to counter the


FERLIMO government and to disrupt the logistical flow of goods to neighboring


Zimbabwe. Once Zimbabwe became independent, South Africa then became


RENAMO's chief sponsor. RENAMO is a shady organization. It is led by Afonso


Dhlakama, who is 38 years old. What makes this organization remarkable among


insurgencies is not only its level of violence but its total unconcern for politics or


winning popular support. It makes no effort to preach a political program, to


provide services or to set up an alternative government in the 10 percent of


Mozambique it controls. People are compelled to work long hours without pay on


farms, to serve as porters on forced marches without food, and to service the sexual


needs of RENAMO warriors.(7:45) The "Gersony Report" submitted on April 1988,


reported that refugees provided eyewitness or other credible accounts about killings


(from RENAMO) which included shooting executions, knife/axe/bayonet killings,


burning alive, beating to death, forced asphyxiation, forced starvation, and random


shooting at civilians in villages during attacks.(3:21)




RENAMO is estimated to have 15,000 to 20,000 combatants. Mozambican


civilians have been RENAMO's principal targets in the war, although the insurgents


have also attacked government installations and the economic infrastructure.


Between 1986 and mid-1988, some 100,000 civilians are believed to have been


murdered by RENAMO, and about 1 million others fled to neighboring


countries.(1:4) Foreign relief organizations estimate that a total of 3.2 million people


are now totally dependent on food aid, while about the same number require some


assistance.(1:5) Peasants who have fled said they were pleased to be free of the


rebels, to whom each homestead had to donate at least a quart of flour each week.


"When RENAMO first came (to their village) in 1985, a lot of people wanted to fight


back," said Pinto Simone, 35, father of three. "But they had arms. They were a force


the people could not resist."(8:4)




The FRELIMO administration, led by President Machel, was economically


ruined by RENAMO's rebels. The military and diplomatic entente with the Soviet


Union could not alleviate the nation's economic misery and famine. As a result, a


reluctant President Machel signed a non-aggression pact with South Africa, known as


the Nkomati accord. In return, Pretoria promised to sever economic assistance in


exchange for FRELIMO's commitment to prevent the African National Congress


(ANC) from using Mozambique as a sanctuary to pursue its campaign to overthrow


white minority rule in South Africa.(9:1313) The volume of direct South African


Government support for RENAMO diminished after the Nkomati accord, but


documents discovered during the capture of RENAMO headquarters at Gorongosa


in central Mozambique in August 1985 revealed continuing South African


Government communications along with military support for RENAMO.(1:4)


On 19 October 1986, Mozambique's first president, Samora Machel died when


his presidential aircraft crashed near South Africa's border. An international


investigation determined that the crash was caused by errors made by the flight crew.


Machel's successor was Joaquim Alberto Chissano, who had served as foreign


minister from 1975 until Machel's death. Chissano continued Machel's policies of


expanding Mozambique's international ties, particularly the country's links with the


West, and pursuing internal reforms.(1:4)





Since 1973 the Soviet-Mozambican ties have been strong. The USSR's


interests were brought to light in 1973 when Soviet President Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev


said, "Our aim is to gain control of the two great treasure houses on which the West


depends: the energy treasures of the Persian Gulf, and the mineral treasure house of


central and southern Africa." In the 27th CPSU Congress in March 1986, the Party


Programme stated, "Relations with those countries are based on strict respect for


their independence and equality and that the Soviet Union supports those countries'


struggle against imperialist neocolonialist policies, against the remnants of


colonialism, for peace and universal security. The Soviet-Mozambican economic,


trade, scientific, technical and cultural ties are an example of mutually advantageous


and equitable cooperation between socialist and developing states."(11:49) The


Soviet Union seem to want to "serve the interest" of both countries but the real goal


of the USSR is to secure the strategic minerals in the region.


The fall of communism in Eastern Europe is being felt throughout the Third


world. The Soviet Union with its dismal economy and "new thinking" is shaping a


new foreign policy. Moscow is disenchanted with a strategy that annually pumps well


over $19 billion into the Third World, two-thirds of it in military assistance and much


of it never repaid. The emerging Soviet policy reduced expensive military


commitments in favor of cheaper political solutions, with Moscow exhorting Third


World allies to adopt glasnost and perostroika reforms. "The Third World," says


Andrei Kozyrev, a senior Soviet Foreign Ministry official, "suffers not so much from


capitalism as from a lack of it." What this means for Moscow's Asian, African and


Middle Eastern clients is a drying up of crucial economic and military funds.(12:27)


The current President, Joaquim Chissano, is showing signs of change and has


abandoned the Marxist-Leninist form of government and changed to one for all the


people of his country. He no longer depends on the socialist bloc for military


assistance and announced that he will remove all Soviet military advisors from


Mozambique. The FRELIMO government is looking to find a new source of


assistance and the ties to the West are improving rapidly.




U.S. relations with Mozambique were established 23 September 1975. In 1977,


because of concerns with alleged human rights violations, the U.S. Congress


prohibited the provision of development aid to Mozambique unless the president


certified that such aid would be in the foreign policy interests of the United States.


After that, the Chissano government expelled four members of the U.S. Embassy


staff. At that point, our relations were at their lowest and mutual suspicions were at


their highest. In 1983 reestablishment of cooperative relations between the two


countries began again. The United States has significantly expanded its economic


support to Mozambique and the FRELIMO government. The United States is now


the largest provider of emergency food assistance to Mozambique.(1:7) The U.S.


policy has been to encourage the government of Mozambique to initiate contact with


RENAMO and explore all peace options.




This was successfully accomplished and on 3 November 1990 President


Chissano called for an immediate end to his country's civil war, saying a new


constitution adopted by the legislature had guaranteed the right of all Mozambicans,


including rebels trying to overthrow his government, to organize and compete in


democratic, multi-party elections. The new constitution addresses RENAMO's main


political demands for direct elections by secret ballot in a multi-party democracy, a


free enterprise economy and freedom of religion.(8:4) The following month


RENAMO agreed to a partial cease fire along the Beira and Limpopo corridors. A


ten-nation Joint Verification Commission, which includes the U.S., had been


established in Maputo to monitor that agreement. There have been no violations


reported since 9 January 1991.(6:1)




The U.S. has recognized these recent, positive transitions in Mozambique.


Increased humanitarian assistance ($110 million in development and humanitarian


relief in 1990), investments, and political influence along with the dynamic


personality of Ambassador Melissa Wells has netted many improvements for





--A new market-basket economic system that replaced a centrally planned





--Improved railroad systems with new G.E.locomotives ($10 million supplied by


the U.S. for this effort).



--Exploration of the possibilitiy of establishing a small Peace Corps program for


Mozambique centered on providing health care in Maputo and Beira.




And for the first time the U.S. has programed funds for a military education


and training program for Mozambique. Also, in 1990 the Department of Defense


established a position for a Defense Attache Officer to work with the Ambassador in


establishing better relations with Mozambique's military.(6:4) And in 1990 a


delegation from the U.S. EUROPEAN COMMAND, headed by General James P.


McCarthy, DCINCEUR, flew into Maputo to meet with President Chissano. As a


member of this delegation, I witnessed the discussions of many issues concerning


possible military aid, especially in the form of Security Assistance.


It is reasonable to assume that these improvements will support the cease fire


currently in effect. During a recent discussion with Commander Grant J. Caughey


from the African Affairs Division at the Joint Staff, he conveyed that the stability of


the region in Southern Africa would be enhanced by the resolution of Mozambique's


Civil War.(2)




The U.S. should continue its current support to Mozambique. The long term


political payoff would be a stable country in the Southern Africa area friendly to the


U.S., one which would promote peaceful regional initiatives. Militarily, it is very


attractive to have strategic access to a "choke point" such as Capetown point to


secure lines of logistical reinforcement for naval supremacy. Additionally, the


strategic minerals in Mozambique could be useful to the U.S. U.S. support to


Mozambique contingent on a continued cease fire of its civil war would be beneficial


to our nation while providing the basis for Mozambique to rebuild itself.





1. Adams, Juanita. Mozambique. U.S. Department of State Publication 7965.

Bureau of Public Affairs. Washington D.C., May 1989, pp. 3-7.


2. Caughey, Grant J. DOD Africa Affairs Divison of the Joint Staff. Personal

interview about U.S. military involvement in Mozambique. Pentagon,

Washington D.C., 26 February 1991.


3. Gersony, Robert. The Gersony Report. Submitted to the Director, Bureau for

Refugee Programs, U.S. State Department. Washington D.C., April 1988,



4. Henriksen, Thomas H. Mozambique: A History. Southhampton, England. The

Camelot Press, 1978, pp. 171-188.


5. Isaacman, Allen, and Barbara Isaacman. MOZAMBIQUE: From Colonialism to

Revolution, 1900-1982. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1983, pp. 1-



6. Lecocq, Randy. Changes in Mozambique Since 1987. African Affairs Desk

Officer, U.S. State Department. Washington D.C., 1991, pp. 1-4.


7. MacFarquhar, Emily. "The killing fields of Mozambique." U.S. News & World

Report, 104 (2 May 1988), p. 45.


8. Maier, Karl. "Mozambique's Leader Urges Rebels to Take Fight to Ballot Box."

The Washington Post, 4 Nov 1990, Section C, p. 4.


9. Moorcraft, Paul L. "Mozambique's long civil war." International Defense Review,

20 (October 1987), p. 1313.


10. Mozambique American Embassy Maputo. "Foreign Economic Trends and Their

Implications for the United States." U.S. Department of Commerce

Printing, May 1989, p. 4.


11. Shchedrin, Vladimir., Major. "USSR--Mozambique." Soviet Military Review, 8

(25 August 1986), p. 49.


12. Smolowe, Jill. "Don't Call Us, Friend, We'll Call You." Time, 135 (5 March

1990), p. 27.


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