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Mozambique Modern History

The former guerrilla movement Frelimo became Mozambique's ruling party after the country's independence from the colonial power of Portugal in 1975. Two years later, Frelimo adopted Marxist-Leninist ideology and a one-party state was formed. The regime was challenged by the armed resistance movement Renamo, supported by the white regime of southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). A prolonged civil war broke out between Frelimo and Renamo around 1980, and Mozambique was largely devastated. The worst drought in over a century contributed to forcing a peace agreement in 1992. Multi-party systems and general elections were introduced in 1994 - elections that Frelimo has so far won.

After more than a decade of war between the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) and the Portuguese colonial power, Mozambique became independent in 1975. The Socialist Frelimo became the country's only political force of importance and its leader Samora Machal became president.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Mozambique. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

The vision of the new rulers was to modernize Mozambique in ten years, but when plantations, industries and banks were to be nationalized, staff were unable to realize the plans.

Most of the corps and well-educated professionals had moved to Portugal or South Africa because of the war. The industry was soon hit by a sharp decline, which had a negative impact on agriculture and other businesses as well.

Contemporary History of MozambiqueFrelimo was initially open to various political views, but came from the late 1960s to be dominated by a Marxist leadership. At the 1977 party congress, Frelimo formally became a Marxist-Leninist party. Extensive purges followed within the party and the military.

Already during the first years of independence, the foundation was laid for the civil war that would eventually destroy the country. To support the UN's sanctions against the white minority regime in southern Rhodesia (today's Zimbabwe), Mozambique in 1976 closed the border between the two countries and cut off coastal South Rhodesia's access to the port of Beira, despite a severe blow to its own economy.

Even before Mozambique's independence, the Zimbabwean Zanu guerrillas had bases on Frelimo's territory and from there made raids into Southern Rhodesia. That business continued after 1975. Southern Rhodesia's white regime responded by forming Mozambique's National Resistance Movement (MNR, later Renamo) in 1977, which consisted of, among other things, Portuguese and defunct supporters of Frelimo. Renamo went into Mozambique to fight Zanu but also to create concern in the country and weaken the Frelimo regime. Renamo attracted groups that had been marginalized by Frelimo. This included traditional leaders and Mozambicans who had been favored by the Portuguese during the colonial era.

Culture and traditions are moving up

In their eagerness to modernize Mozambique, the Frelimo regime tried for a short time to change ancient life patterns. The widespread belief in natural religions was condemned. Local power was taken from traditional chieftains and given to young Frelimo rulers. Up to 1983, almost 1.5 million people were moved to giant villages where education, health care and political influence would be more effective and where state and cooperative farms formed the basis. This laid the foundation for a dissatisfaction that Renamo could exploit.

When the civil war in Southern Rhodesia ended and the independent Zimbabwe was formed in 1980, support for Renamo ceased there. South Africa took over as a financier and guerrillas developed into a greater threat to the Frelimo regime than before. Sabotage was targeted at schools, hospitals, railways and electricity networks. Large rural areas were in chaos, people fled their villages and food production dropped.

Mozambique's central areas were hit in 1982 by severe drought. Heavily pressed by war and famine, the Frelimo government began to change its economic policies and began negotiations with South Africa. In 1984, the two countries signed a non-assault pact. Although Mozambique kept its promise not to give up its territory to the South African ANC guerrillas, however, South Africa continued to support Renamo. In order to protect roads, railways and oil pipelines in Mozambique in their own interest, Zimbabwe sent well-trained soldiers to the support of the Frelimo regime.

The president dies in a plane crash

In 1986, the Frelimo regime faced a total collapse. In October, President Machel was killed in a plane crash in South Africa. Foreign Minister Joaquim Chissano was appointed new president and proved to be more compromising than Machel had been. Peace talks began and in July 1990 Renamo and Frelimo promised in a joint communica- tion to seek lasting peace. Frelimo, who had renounced Marxism-Leninism in 1989, pledged to introduce multi-party systems and hold general elections in 1991, something that Renamo called for. A new democratic constitution entered into force in 1990 and in December of that year an agreement on a limited ceasefire was concluded, which however soon broke. The elections were held in the future, but new parties began to form.

In 1992, southern Africa suffered the worst drought in a hundred years. The enemies were forced back to the negotiating table and in October 1992 a peace agreement was signed after 16 years of war in the presence of President Chissano and Renamol leader Afonso Dhlakama. Under the agreement, the majority of Frelimo's and Renamo's soldiers would be disarmed and 30,000 men from both sides would be gathered in a new government army. In addition, general elections to the National Assembly and the presidency would be held in 1993. The peace process would be overseen by a UN force, Unomoz.
The parties also entered into an agreement on mutual amnesty (impunity). No man has therefore been held accountable for the many human rights violations committed during the war. One million people were killed during the civil war and several million Mozambicans fled to neighboring countries or fled inland.

Free choices

The first free elections in the history of Mozambique were conducted with the help of the UN in October 1994. Frelimo won a majority of seats in Parliament and Joaquim Chissano was elected president. The last UN troops were withdrawn from Mozambique in 1995. A year later, most refugees had returned home.

The 1999 parliamentary and presidential elections were largely a repetition of the 1994 elections. Frelimo won 133 of Parliament's 250 seats. Renamo, which entered into an alliance with a number of small parties, was given other mandates. In the presidential election Chissano again won.

Renamo, who accused Frelimo of electoral fraud, refused to accept the election loss and boycotted Parliament for one year. Foreign election observers found no evidence of "serious irregularities".

After the end of the war, the economy gained momentum. At the same time, crime became a growing problem. In addition to widespread street violence, mafia-like organizations devoted themselves to smuggling, drug trafficking, money laundering and prostitution. Great attention was paid to the murder of the reporter and editor Carlos Cardoso in 2000. When he was shot dead, Cardoso was investigating how the equivalent of SEK 140 million had been embezzled in connection with a sale of a bank. Three years later, six men, including a bank director and a well-known businessman, were sentenced to 29 years in prison each for the murder. During the trial, President Nhympine Chissano's son was identified as the one who would have ordered the murder. The trial testified to the links between the underworld and politically powerful people, as well as the widespread corruption in the police and judiciary. Frelimo's reputation got a real thorn.

Guebuza takes over the presidency

In the December 2004 presidential election, Frelimo's Secretary-General Armando Guebuza won by nearly two-thirds of the votes over the Renama leader Dhlakama. Guebuza succeeded Chissano in the presidential post. Frelimo also won big in the parliamentary elections held at the same time. As before, Renamo made accusations of widespread electoral fraud, but the Election Commission rejected the complaints.

Protests among poor urban residents in Maputo, among other things against increased fares for local traffic, demanded several deaths in 2008. The price increases had been introduced to offset the rising cost of imported fuel, which in turn was due to increased world market prices for oil. Later, the government withdrew decisions on most of the price increases.

In the 2009 elections, President Guebuza and the Free State won once again. Guebuza received three-quarters of the vote in the presidential election, and Frelimo increased his majority in parliament. Renamo returned sharply compared to the 2004 elections. In the presidential election, Dhlakama came in second place but with fewer votes than 2004. Three became Beira's mayor Daviz Simango. He was running for the newly formed Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), which managed to get into Parliament.

In 2010, the economic situation deteriorated, resulting in unemployment, increased poverty and food shortages. The free government was forced to cut subsidies on bread and fuel to reduce state spending. The price increases led to rattles in Maputo and its slums. When police intervened, several people were killed and hundreds injured.

In the end, the government gave in to the protesters' demand for reduced electricity and water charges and for the resumption of subsidies. Wages were also frozen in the government and the public sector. Just a year later, however, the government decided to gradually abolish several subsidies and raise the prices of bread and fuel. At the same time, support measures were promised to the poorest residents.

 
 

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