Mozambique History


Mozambique's first inhabitants were Bushmanoid hunters and gatherers, ancestors of the Khoisani peoples. 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. When Portuguese explorers reached Mozambique in 1498, Arab trading settlements had existed along the coast for several centuries. 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 hinterland 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, development lagged while Lisbon devoted itself to the more lucrative trade with India and the Far East and to colonization of Brazil. 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 established railroad lines to neighboring countries and by supplied cheap--often forced--African labor to the mines and plantations of the nearby British colonies. Because policies were designed to benefit white settlers and the Portuguese homeland, little attention was paid until the last years of colonial rule, to the development Mozambique's economic infrastructure or the skills of its population.

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 immigration to the colonies soared. Mozambique's Portuguese population at the time of independence was over 200,000. The drive for Mozambican independence developed apace, and in 1962 several anti-Portuguese political groups formed the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), which initiated an armed campaign against Portuguese colonial rule in September 1964. After 10 years of sporadic warfare and major political changes in Portugal, Mozambique became independent on June 25, 1975. FRELIMO quickly established a one- party Marxist state and outlawed rival political activity. A civil war between the FRELIMO government and the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) began in 1976. RENAMO originally emerged as a creation of the Ian Smith regime in Southern Rhodesia to destabilize the Mozambican government which supported Zimbabwean and South African liberation movements. After Southern Rhodesia became Zimbabwe in 1980, the South African government took over the external sponsorship of RENAMO and began providing the insurgents with logistical support and training. Despite its brutal methods and documented human rights abuses, RENAMO was also able to draw upon strong internal dissatisfaction with FRELIMO to garner some support among local populations.

On March 5, 1984, the Government's of Mozambique and South Africa signed the Nkomati accords, which committed both countries to cease hostilities against the other and to search for ways to increase economic cooperation. Thereafter, Mozambique severely restricted African National Congress (ANC) activities within Mozambique, and the volume of official South African support for RENAMO diminished. Mozambique's first president, Samora Machel, died when his aircraft crashed near Mbunzi on South Africa's border with Mozambique in October 1986. Machel was succeeded by Joaquim Alberto Chissano, who had served as Foreign Minister from 1975 until Machel's death. Despite a reduction in external support to RENAMO, the government was unable to defeat the insurgents. As early as 1980, the war's stalemate had led the two sides to begin peace talks in Rome under the auspices of Italy and the Catholic Church. Not until December 1990, however, did FRELIMO and RENAMO agree to a partial cease-fire covering two of the country's principal transportation arteries: the Limpopo and Beira corridors. The partial cease-fire continued through mid-1992. Though the negotiations only progressed slowly during 1991 and 1992, the parties were able to agree on three protocols regarding the electoral system, political parties, and the structure of the talks. In June 1992, the United States was invited to become an official observer to the talks, and the General Peace Accord was signed in October 1992. A UN Peacekeeping Force (ONUMOZ) successfully oversaw the cease-fire and the two year transition to multiparty elections (see below). The last ONUMOZ contingents departed Mozambique in early 1995.

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

source: U.S. State Department Background Notes 1996

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