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Mozambique - History

Mozambique's first inhabitants were San [Bushmen] hunter and gatherers, ancestors of the Khoisani peoples. Between 200-300 AD, the Bantu, a group with different ethnic traits but with similar characteristics, migrated from the Great Lake to the North and pushed the local people into the poorer areas in the South. Between the first and fourth 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.

Towards the end of the VI century, the Swahili-Arabs established trading posts to trade for gold, copper and iron. The Portuguese reached Mozambique in the XV century, with the arrival of Pero Covilha on the coast and the landing of Vasco da Gama on the Ilha de Mocambique (Island of Mozambique).

When Portuguese explorers reached Mozambique in 1498, Arab trading settlements had existed along the coast and outlying islands for several centuries. From 1502 up until the middle of the XVIII century, Portuguese interests in Mozambique were controlled by the Portuguese India administration. From about 1500, Portuguese trading posts and forts became regular ports of call on the new route to the East. Later, traders and prospectors penetrated the interior regions, seeking gold and slaves. Although Portuguese influence gradually expanded, its power was limited and exercised through individual settlers who were granted extensive autonomy. As a result, investment lagged while Lisbon devoted itself to the more lucrative trade with India and the Far East and to the colonization of Brazil.

Right from the outset, the Portuguese built "feitorias", or trading posts. These were followed by the fort of Sofala built in 1505 on the coast, and the fort on Ilha de Mozambique built in 1507. Only years later, in an attempt to take over the gold producing areas, did they venture inland and establish new trading posts. These trading posts were succeeded, at the end of the XVII century in the Vale do Zambeze, by "prazos" or privately owned agricultural estates. These lands were either donated or conquered, as the case maybe. This period can be considered as the beginning of Portuguese colonization in Mozambique.

The "prazos" were discontinued in 1832, by royal decree, and the emergence of fiefdoms initiated the slave trade, which continued up to, and even after, the abolition of slavery in the Colonies in 1869. The division of Africa between the European powers, determined in the Berlin Conference of 1884/1885, compelled the Portuguese to maintain permanent occupation of the territories assigned to them.

Financial and military difficulties made it impossible for Portugal to maintain its occupation, consequently large areas of land were leased to private companies who became notorious for forced labor practices. By the early 20th century the Portuguese had shifted the administration of much of the country to large private companies, controlled and financed mostly by the British, which established railroad lines to neighboring countries and supplied cheap--often forced--African labor to the mines and plantations of the nearby British colonies and South Africa. Because policies were designed to benefit white settlers and the Portuguese homeland, little attention was paid to Mozambique's national integration, its economic infrastructure, or the skills of its population.

These companies controlled the agricultural resources as well as manual labor up until the 1930s. After World War II, while many European nations were granting independence to their colonies, Portugal clung to the concept that Mozambique and other Portuguese possessions were overseas provinces of the mother country, and emigration to the colonies soared.

Colonial occupation was never a peaceful process. Various tribal chiefs such as Mawewe, Ngungunhana and Komala showed strong resistance right into the XX century. Just as had happened with the other Portuguese colonies, Mozambique also rose up against Portuguese colonial rule. On the 25 September 1964, armed fighting broke out led by FRELIMO - The Mozambique Liberation Front - This party was a joint force of three movements that had organized themselves in exile.

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. The first leader of the movement was Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane and after his death on the 3rd of February 1969, Samora Moises Machel assumed leadership.

From the mid-1970s, Mozambique's history reflected political developments elsewhere in the 20th century. Following the April 1974 coup in Lisbon, Portuguese colonialism collapsed. In Mozambique, the military decision to withdraw occurred within the context of a decade of armed anti-colonial struggle, initially led by American-educated Eduardo Mondlane, who was assassinated in 1969.

After 10 years of sporadic warfare and major political changes in Portugal, Mozambique became independent on June 25, 1975. Mozambique's Portuguese population at the time of independence was about 250,000.

Samora Moises Machel became the first President of the Republic of Mozambique on the 25th of June 1975. When independence was achieved in 1975, the leaders of Frelimo's military campaign rapidly established a one-party state allied to the Soviet bloc and outlawed rival political activity. Frelimo eliminated political pluralism, religious educational institutions, and the role of traditional authorities.

In 1977, civil war broke out, between FRELIMO and RENAMO (National Resistance Party of Mozambique) and lasted for 15 years, until 1992, when a peace accord was finally signed by both parties. The new government gave shelter and support to South African (ANC) and Zimbabwean (ZANU) liberation movements while the governments of first Rhodesia and later apartheid South Africa fostered and financed an armed rebel movement in central Mozambique called the Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo). Civil war, sabotage from neighboring states, and economic collapse characterized the first decade of Mozambican independence. Also marking this period were the mass exodus of Portuguese nationals, weak infrastructure, nationalization, and economic mismanagement. During most of the civil war, the government was unable to exercise effective control outside of urban areas, many of which were cut off from the capital.

An estimated 1 million Mozambicans perished during the civil war, 1.7 million took refuge in neighboring states, and several million more were internally displaced. In the third Frelimo party congress in 1983, President Samora Machel conceded the failure of socialism and the need for major political and economic reforms. He died, along with several advisers, in a 1986 plane crash which was the subject of many conspiracy theories. A South African commission with an international membership and with access to the plane's black box found gross crew error to be the cause.

His successor, Joaquim Chissano, continued the reforms and began peace talks with Renamo. Chissano assumed the presidency of Mozambique at a very difficult time in the history of the country. South African threats of military aggression against Mozambique continued. South African-sponsored MNR bandits caused havoc to the economy of Mozambique, destroying schools, factories, farms, bridges, transport lines, settlements, road and rail network valued at over $5 billion. The bandits had also murdered more than 150,000 Mozam- bicans, most of them innocent civilians, women, and children.

Chissano had long diplomatic experience. As foreign minister since Mozambique's independence, he had helped to shape the country's foreign policy. As a founder member of Frelimo holding various key posts in the party during the struggle, including that of secretary for security, Chissano had invaluable inside knowledge of the political currents within Frelimo and Mozambique.

The new constitution enacted in 1990 provided for a multi-party political system, market-based economy, and free elections. The civil war ended in October 1992 with the Rome General Peace Accords. Under supervision of the ONUMOZ peacekeeping force of the United Nations, peace returned to Mozambique.

The first elections took place in 1994 and victory was obtained by Presidente Joaquim Alberto Chissano. Mozambique today is a democratic country holding its own elections as foreseen in the Constitution. The elections ran smoothly in December 2004, with Armando Emilio Guebuza, the Frelimo leader elected President.

By mid-1995 the more than 1.7 million Mozambican refugees who had sought asylum in neighboring Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Zambia, Tanzania, and South Africa as a result of war and drought had returned, as part of the largest repatriation witnessed in Sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, a further estimated 4 million internally displaced people returned to their areas of origin.

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Page last modified: 09-05-2017 16:34:57 ZULU