Mozambique - language, government, economy, cities, history, tourism, people, education, religion, agriculture, climate

Read about Mozambique: language, government, economy, cities, history, tourism, people, education, religion, agriculture, climate ...



Mozambique, officially Republic of Mozambique, country located on the southeastern coast of Africa. An ethnically and linguistically diverse nation bisected by the powerful Zambezi River, Mozambique was colonized by Portugal during the 16th and 17th centuries. As a Portuguese colony, Mozambique was a major source of slaves for European colonies in the Americas. After achieving independence in 1975, Mozambique suffered a devastating civil war between the socialist government and an anticommunist rebel movement, in which more than 1 million people died. After a peace agreement ended the war in 1992, Mozambique experienced rapid economic growth.


Mozambique lies along the Indian Ocean and is bordered by Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west, and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest. At its widest point, Mozambique measures about 1,100 km (700 mi) from east to west; at its narrowest, less than 100 km (60 mi). The distance between its farthest northern and southern points is about 1,900 km (1,200 mi). The country’s total land area is 799,380 sq km (308,642 sq mi).

Mozambique’s 2,470 km (1,535 mi) of coastline occupies about one-third of the seaboard of eastern Africa. Most of Mozambique’s coastline is low-lying, consisting of swamps or sandy beaches, and backed by thin forest and grassland, which cover about two-fifths of the country. Farther inland are several mountainous regions formed by the edge of the southern African plateau that extends into Mozambique from the west. The mountainous regions are the Lebombo Mountains in the south; the Manica and Gorongosa highlands along the Zimbabwe border, home to Mount Binga, Mozambique’s highest peak at 2,436 m (7,992 ft); the Angonia Highlands and the Namuli Peaks in the north; and another mountainous region in the north along Lake Malawi (Lake Nyasa).

Rivers and Lakes in Mozambique

From the mountains and uplands, many rivers spring forth and flow east to the sea. Central Mozambique is dominated by the valley of the Zambezi, one of the world’s largest rivers and the fourth longest in Africa. In its lower reaches the Zambezi is as wide as 3 km (2 mi) and enters the sea through a delta 80 km (50 mi) wide. To the north, the Ruvuma and Lugenda rivers are sources of water and irrigation, while south of the Zambezi, the Pungwe, Save (Sabi), Limpopo, and Komati rivers are important resources. Most of Mozambique’s rivers fluctuate wildly in volume between the wet and dry seasons, and continually shift their shallow channels. Only the Zambezi is navigable for more than a short distance from the coast.

During colonial times the Portuguese built several projects to make the rivers more reliable for commerce. On the Limpopo, they erected a dam to deepen the river, control its flow, and provide irrigation for the valley’s farms. Other hydroelectric projects were built in the Manica highlands, and in 1969 work began on the enormous Cabora Bassa Dam on the Zambezi—one of Africa’s largest hydroelectric projects. The dam was completed in 1974. Another important source of water and transportation is Lake Malawi, of which 13,000 sq km (5,000 sq mi) lies within Mozambique.

Plant and Animal Life in Mozambique

The vegetation of lowland Mozambique is predominantly light forest and grassland, while on the coast mangroves grow in the swamps and palms line the beaches. Tropical rain forests once stood south of the Zambezi Delta, but they have all been cut down. Forests become denser in the higher elevations, particularly along the border with Zimbabwe.

Until recent times, Mozambique supported a large and varied animal population. Elephants, water buffaloes, hippopotamuses, crocodiles, baboons, giraffes, lions, cobras, adders, flamingos, herons, buzzards, and other animals thrived throughout much of the region. However, much of the country’s animal habitat has been destroyed by decades of human encroachment and by civil warfare. The reserves and game parks established by the Portuguese suffered nearly complete losses of habitat during the civil war in the 1980s. The coasts, however, were less affected and remain relatively unpolluted, and the islands offshore continue to shelter a rich variety of marine life.

Natural Resources of Mozambique

Mozambique has few mineral resources that are easily exploitable. A coal deposit in the Zambezi Valley has been successfully mined since colonial times, and gold and bauxite are mined in small quantities in the mountains. Forests cover 24 percent of Mozambique, and only 6 percent of the land is arable.

Climate in Mozambique

The Indian monsoon influences the climate of the northern two-thirds of Mozambique. Rains arrive with the monsoon winds from the Indian Ocean in October and linger through March, while a dry season prevails during the rest of the year, when the winds blow in the opposite direction. The southern third of the country is generally drier. Rainfall can be as high as 1,400 mm (56 in) a year near the Zambezi Delta and as low as 300 mm (12 in) a year in the lowlands of the southern interior. Mozambique is prone to severe droughts, and when droughts are relieved by heavy rains, flash floods often result. Severe flooding ravaged Mozambique in 2000, displacing thousands of people and wiping out crops and livestock.

Average temperatures along the coast are as low as 18°C (65°F) in the extreme south, while in the hot season most parts of the coast average 27° to 28°C (80° to 82°F). The hottest region is the interior Zambezi Valley, with average summer temperatures of 32°C (90°F). The coldest temperatures are usually recorded in one of the western mountain ranges, where frosts are common in the winter. The average January temperature in Maputo, the capital, is 26°C (78°F), while the average July temperature is 18°C (65°F).

Environmental Issues in Mozambique

Several national parks were created in Mozambique during the colonial era. Since the end of the civil war, several large national parks and reserves have been established in areas that were formerly battlefields. Protected areas cover 7 percent (2007) of Mozambique’s total land area.


Mozambique had an estimated population of 21,669,278 in 2009, giving the country an average density of 28 persons per sq km (71 per sq mi). Many people fled to cities during the country’s civil war, but the population of Mozambique remains overwhelmingly rural.

Principal Cities of Mozambique

Most of Mozambique’s major cities are found along the coast. The capital, Maputo, lies in the extreme south and is the country’s major industrial center. Beira, south of the Zambezi Delta, is the main city of central Mozambique. Badly damaged during the civil war, Beira had started only in the late 1990s to reclaim its status as the major port of entry for goods carried by rail to Zimbabwe. The industrial city of Chimoio lies inland on the Beira railway. In the south the ports of Inhambane and Xai-Xai are important urban centers, and north of the Zambezi the main towns are Nampula, Nacala, Quelimane, and Pemba.

Language, Ethnicity, and Religion in Mozambique

The people of Mozambique generally speak at least one of eight indigenous languages, which in turn partially defines their ethnicity. Most of the languages are Bantu in origin. In the extreme north are the Makonde people, who are related to the population of southern Tanzania. Their neighbors are the Yao, who live along the shore of Lake Malawi. Most of Nampula Province in north central Mozambique is inhabited by Makua speakers, who are the largest single linguistic group in the country. The Zambezi Valley has been a meeting place of many different peoples over the centuries, and its linguistic makeup reflects this history. People north of the river speak languages related to those of Malawi and Zambia, often referred to as the Maravi language group. South of the Zambezi as far as the Save River are groups who speak languages related to Shona. South of the Shona-speaking peoples are Tonga speakers, consisting of ethnic Tonga people and ethnic Chopi, a distinct group near the coast. In the extreme south and in areas near the Malawi border are Nguni speakers whose ancestors migrated from South Africa in the 19th century. Because there are so many different languages, Portuguese, the colonial language, has remained the country’s official language.

Few if any of Mozambique’s linguistic groupings are unified; rather, they are subdivided into numerous ethnic identities that have been fashioned by external cultural influences. Near the northern coast are Muslims who share many cultural traits with the coastal Swahili peoples of Tanzania and Kenya. For centuries these groups were heavily influenced by Arab trade and customs. In the central Zambezi Valley, the identities of the many fragmented groups were shaped by Portuguese settlement. Roman Catholicism, which enjoyed a privileged status under the Portuguese, claims a significant number of adherents in the valley, as well as in the southern part of the country. Various forms of Protestantism also are practiced. About half of Mozambique’s population adheres to traditional, animist religions. Because Mozambique’s population is divided into numerous small ethnic subgroups, there is no dominant ethnic group. Ethnicity generally has not been a major factor in Mozambican politics or social status.

Education in Mozambique

Although the Portuguese invested heavily in education in the last decade of their rule, for centuries before that they actively suppressed African education. As a result, 90 percent of Mozambicans were believed to be illiterate at independence in 1975. The first Mozambican government mounted a campaign for literacy and made education compulsory for children from ages 6 to 12, or for a total of 7 years. Schooling, however, was disrupted by the civil war, continuing only in the towns that escaped the fighting. By 2007 only 44 percent of the population was literate. In 2006 an estimated 76 percent of primary-school-aged children attended school, and only 16 percent of secondary-school-aged children were enrolled. The country’s institutions of higher education enrolled just 28,298 students. Eduardo Mondlane University (founded in 1962) in Maputo is Mozambique’s largest university.

Way of Life in Mozambique

During the 20th century, the coastal cities attracted large Indian, European, and mixed-race populations, creating a melting pot of customs, languages, and cuisines. Many foreigners and people with foreign connections fled the country during the civil war, but the mix of cultures slowly revived in the late 1990s. The civil war also forced a large number of refugees from the countryside into the cities. South of the Zambezi, migrant laborers returning from South Africa have brought home Western goods and ideas, while north of the Zambezi, cultural traditions are typically more conservative. Patrilineal societies, that is, those that trace their heritage and descent through the father’s line, dominate south of the Zambezi River. North of the river, all of the ethnic groups except the Nguni are matrilineal, tracing their family through the mother’s line. Throughout urban and rural Mozambique, soccer is by far the most popular sport.


Many of the cultural traditions of the Mozambican people survived centuries of colonialism. The Makonde in the north are renowned for their ebony sculptures and masks. The Chopi of the south central coast are famous for their complex musical arrangements and dance. Mozambique’s tradition of visual art has produced several modern artists who have achieved international renown. One of the most famous Mozambican artists is Malangatana, whose paintings portray the sufferings of the colonial period and the civil war.

Many of the country’s museums, libraries, and other cultural institutions were destroyed in the civil war. Among those that survived were the national archives in Maputo, which were enlarged and reorganized after independence.

A portion of Mozambique’s historic architecture survived the civil war intact. Many of the coastal towns, especially in the north, feature buildings with Islamic arches and columns. The island town of Moçambique, also in the north, has several Portuguese-style churches and military and public buildings dating to the earliest colonial days.


Under Portuguese rule Mozambique was a major exporter of sugar, copra (the meaty lining of coconuts), cotton, rice, tea, and cashews. Mozambique also exported labor in enormous quantities, as the colonial government received compensation for the hundreds of thousands of Mozambicans who traveled to work in the mines of South Africa and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Railroads, ports, and tourism also provided significant income and made services an important part of the country’s economy before independence.

In 1975 the first government of independent Mozambique established a Marxist state, in which most economic production was controlled by the government. Plantations and businesses that had been owned by Portuguese firms were collectivized, and the government made large investments to boost productivity. Western investors, especially the Portuguese, were antagonized by these and other changes, and vital foreign investment in the young republic dried up. Output soon stagnated and with the onset of the civil war in 1980 the economy quickly collapsed. For a decade, all economic life effectively came to a standstill. Railroads and industrial installations were destroyed, export trade stopped, and more than one million people died. Infusions of foreign aid staved off complete economic decimation.

In the late 1980s the government loosened its controls on what was left of the economy—it dismantled collective farms, encouraged foreign investment, and cut government subsidies. After a peace accord ended the civil war in 1992, the United Nations (UN) coordinated a large program to restore the economy; the program’s priorities were the resettling of refugees and reopening of ports and communication facilities. Reconstruction efforts, fueled by foreign aid, continued into the 21st century. In 2007 Mozambique’s gross domestic product (GDP) was $7.8 billion. Mozambique’s per capita income was estimated to be about $364.50 per year, making Mozambique one of the world’s poorest countries. Agriculture accounted for 28 percent of the economy. Industry, including mining, manufacturing, and construction, generated 26 percent of the GDP. The broad services category, which includes trade, produced 47 percent of the GDP in 2007.

Labor in Mozambique

In 2007 the labor force was estimated to be 9.9 million. Of these, 83 percent worked in agriculture, mostly as subsistence farmers. Industry accounted for 8 percent of the workers and services for 9 percent.

Agriculture of Mozambique

The climate and soils of Mozambique are suitable for tropical agriculture. Cotton and cashews are important export earners. In the highlands near the Malawi border, tea is an important crop. Mozambique’s staple crops are corn, sorghum, and cassava (7.3 million metric tons).

Forestry and Fishing in Mozambique

Of the 18 million cubic meters (637 million cubic feet) of timber felled in Mozambique in 2007, only 57,000 cubic meters (2,013,000 cubic feet) was used for lumber production. Most of the rest was burned as firewood. Fishing is important for the coastal populations, and there is an important export market for shellfish.

Industry in Mozambique

Before independence, Mozambique had a growing industrial sector, which was focused primarily on processing sugar, tea, copra, and other products harvested in Mozambique. Another subset of the industrial sector provided the cities with a wide range of consumer goods, from cement and furniture to beer and radios. The only heavy industry was the refining of crude oil for the South African market. Virtually all industry was either destroyed in the civil war or starved of the investment and foreign exchange needed to operate. Initial efforts to revive industry centered on establishing food-processing plants and on factories that make simple manufactured goods for local use. Important manufactured goods include aluminum, cement, textiles, cigarettes, and beverages.

Mining in Mozambique

Mozambique’s mineral reserves are largely unexploited. Mineral processing in Mozambique is confined to small-scale mining of coal, marble, granite, gold, and bauxite.

Energy in Mozambique

Mozambique has vast hydroelectric potential and derives 100 percent (2006) of its electricity needs from hydroelectric plants. The Cabora Bassa Dam on the Zambezi River, completed in 1974, operated far under its optimum generating capacity from the early 1980s to the late 1990s because of damage inflicted by the civil war. In 1998 Cabora Bassa had recovered to the point that Mozambique was once again exporting power to neighboring countries.

Transportation and Communications in Mozambique

The country’s rail system consists of five separate lines penetrating inland from the ports of Maputo, Beira, and Nacala, and from Inhambane and Quelimane. Mozambique’s Beira corridor, connecting Beira with the Zimbabwean capital of Harare, carries most of the exports of southern Africa’s landlocked countries. Much of the mineral production of northern South Africa is shipped through Maputo. Mozambique’s transportation network was badly damaged in the civil war, but efforts in the 1990s to repair damaged rail lines and remove land mines from roads and highways improved shipping and transportation between the inland and the Indian Ocean. However, north-south road and rail connections within Mozambique are poor. Mozambique Airlines is the country’s major air-travel provider. International airports are located in Maputo, Beira, and Nampula.

Mozambique is served by a number of Portuguese-language daily newspapers, numerous other periodicals, many radio stations, and one major television station. The country’s media sources were largely controlled by the government until 1990, when a new constitution guaranteeing freedom of the press was adopted.

Foreign Trade in Mozambique

With independence, Mozambique lost its export markets in Portugal, and remaining export trade plummeted as a result of the war. The country’s trade gap shrank in the early 21st century as the economy rebounded. In 2007 total imports cost $2.96 billion, while total exports earned $2,492 million. Imports were brought mainly from South Africa, Portugal, Australia, the United States, and Pakistan. Exports were sent mainly to Belgium, South Africa, Spain, Zimbabwe, and Japan. Food, petroleum, machinery, and vehicles are Mozambique’s primary imports; major exports include aluminum, shellfish, and textiles.

Currency and Banking of Mozambique

Mozambique’s currency is the metical (plural meticais; 26 meticais equal U.S.$1; 2007 average). The central bank is the Bank of Mozambique.


Mozambique has a multiparty, republican government that operates under a constitution approved in 1990. The 1990 constitution, a first step toward the 1992 accord that ended the civil war, replaced the Marxist-Leninist constitution of 1978.

Executive of Mozambique

Under the 1990 constitution, executive power is vested in a president who is both head of state and commander-in-chief. The president oversees the administration and enforcement of legislation, and has the power to call elections, dissolve the legislative body, and declare war. The president is directly elected for a term of five years, and may be reelected for two more terms. All citizens 18 years or older are eligible to vote.

Legislature of Mozambique

The legislative branch consists of the unicameral (single chamber) Assembly of the Republic. The assembly’s 250 members are elected to represent Mozambique’s provinces through a system of proportional representation, in which voters vote for a list of candidates representing individual parties or coalitions of parties. The members serve five-year terms. The assembly has the authority to veto some of the president’s actions, but the president has the authority to dissolve the assembly before the end of its term. A prime minister, appointed by the president, heads a Council of Ministers, which carries out the administration of government affairs. The prime minister also submits government programs, such as the budget, to the assembly.

Judiciary in Mozambique

The judiciary is headed by the Supreme Court, composed of 7 judges appointed by the president and 17 elected by the assembly.

Local Government of Mozambique

The country is divided into ten provinces and the capital city of Maputo, which has provincial status. Each has a governor appointed by the ruling national party, as well as a provincial assembly and a number of lesser district assemblies.

Political Parties of Mozambique

Before 1994 the only legal party was the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo, from Frente de Liberatação de Moçambique), which had come to power with independence in 1975. As part of the civil war peace process, the 1990 constitution provided for a multiparty system. Numerous political parties have participated in subsequent elections. Frelimo and the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo, from Resistência Nacional Moçambicana), which fought against Frelimo in the civil war, are the major political parties in Mozambique.

Defense of Mozambique

Mozambique’s Frelimo-dominated army was disbanded in 1994 as part of the peace process, and a new national army was recruited from Frelimo and Renamo soldiers. In 2006 the army had about 10,000 troops. Mozambique also has a small navy with 200 seamen and an air force with 1,000 persons.

International Organizations in Mozambique

Mozambique is a founding member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). It is also a member of the United Nations (UN), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Commonwealth of Nations, and the African Union (AU).


The first written record of Mozambique dates from the 10th century AD, when Arab writer al-Mas’ūdi mentioned the town of Sofala (south of present-day Beira) and the iron-using people called the Wak Wak who lived there. Long before that time, perhaps as early as the 3rd century AD, Bantu-speaking peoples from central Africa migrated to the region, where they grew crops and raised cattle. Their settlements took on increasing complexity. By the 10th century, settlements featured stone enclosures, and their inhabitants played an important role in intra-African trade to the west. Over the next several centuries, traders from northeastern Africa and later from the Middle East and Asia arrived by sea, prompting ports along the Mozambican coast to flourish. Sofala, among the most prominent ports, developed as a trade center for gold from the interior. Commercial settlements also developed to the north of Sofala at Angoche, Moçambique Island, the Querimba Islands, and the mouth of the Zambezi River. The beads, cloth, and other goods brought by Arab and Asian traders attracted caravans of agrarian-based traders from inland Mozambique. They in turn distributed the goods to the African interior. A struggle for control of this trade developed, and it was soon won by the cattle-owning chiefs of the Karanga in the south and the Makua in the north. Slave trading was also common throughout this period, in both the coastal and interior regions.

Europeans Arrive

In 1498 Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope and stopped in Mozambique en route to becoming the first European to visit India by sea. His arrival initially made little impact on Mozambique, but soon afterward a small stream of European traders began to visit the coast of Mozambique. In 1505 the Portuguese occupied Sofala, establishing a fort and installing a friendly Arab ruler there. However, the gold trade was already in decline and Sofala was ill-suited as a port, so the Portuguese moved their base north to Moçambique Island. Over the ensuing years the island developed as an important seaport and way station on the route to India.

By the mid-16th century, European settlers had begun to penetrate the Mozambican interior, occasionally encountering stern resistance from inhabitants. In 1561, for example, Gonçalo da Silveira, leader of the first Jesuit mission to eastern Africa, was killed by Shona people whom he had tried to convert. In response, the Portuguese sent a large army, which from 1569 to 1575 attempted to conquer the central African gold-mining region. Most of the soldiers died of disease, and little was achieved beyond the occupation of the lower Zambezi Valley and the establishment of two new bases on the Zambezi at Sena and Tete. Thus by the close of the 16th century, much of Mozambique was still beyond Portuguese control. In fact, despite Portuguese presence along the Zambezi, Maravi chiefs had established the powerful chiefdoms of Karonga, Undi, and Lundu in the region north of the river.

In 1607 and 1608 the Dutch twice tried to seize Moçambique Island from the Portuguese, failing both times. The assaults nonetheless made the Portuguese aware of their precarious hold on Mozambique and prompted them to try again to subdue the interior. This time the Portuguese used locally recruited armies and by 1632, after prolonged warfare, they occupied a wide swath of land from the Mozambican coast to the northern half of present-day Zimbabwe. Portugal maintained control of the region by ceding prazos (land grants) to European colonists. The prazos made their owners virtual lords of African fiefdoms, with nearly complete control over Mozambican labor and resources. In modified form the prazo system lasted until the 1930s. The Portuguese established fortified mining camps in the highlands of western Mozambique and northern Zimbabwe, but Portugal had difficulty attracting European settlers into the area. Partly as a result, the Rozwi chief Changamire was able to lead a revolt in 1693 that succeeded in expelling the Portuguese from most of the highlands (see Rozwi Empire).

Ivory and Slaves

Despite their eviction from the highlands, the Portuguese gradually extended their control up the Zambezi Valley and north and south along the Mozambican coast. In 1727 they founded a trading post at Inhambane, on the southern coast, and in 1781 they permanently occupied Delagoa Bay, an important location farther south on the site of modern Maputo. Dutch and Austrian traders had briefly settled at Delagoa Bay, and English and American traders had hunted whales and traded ivory with the nearby Nguni and Tonga chiefs. From Delagoa Bay, Portugal controlled a prosperous ivory trade, which in turn attracted caravans from the interior.

At roughly the same time as the rise of the ivory trade, climatic changes and the rise of the slave trade had even greater effects on Mozambique. The trade in slaves, which had existed at a low level before the arrival of Europeans, continued throughout the colonial period, under the hand of African and European traders. By the late 1700s, however, demand for slaves had grown markedly in response to European colonization of Mauritius and Réunion. When prolonged droughts started in Mozambique in the 1760s and became endemic from the 1790s, crops failed, cattle suffered, chiefdoms faltered, and traditional patterns of long-distance commerce were disrupted. Banditry and slave raiding increased, and large numbers of slaves were brought to the coast. By 1800 Mozambique had become one of the world’s major slave-trading centers. Hundreds of thousands of Mozambicans were sold to slave traders and sent to the Americas. Until at least the 1870s, no other form of commerce generated as much profit.

The Gaza Empire

In the 1820s, during a period of severe drought, Nguni armies began to invade Mozambique from what is now South Africa. One Nguni chief, Nxaba, established a short-lived kingdom inland from Sofala, but in 1837 he was defeated by Soshangane, a powerful Nguni rival. Soshangane established the Gaza Empire, which at its height in the 1860s covered the whole of Mozambique between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. From this area, Nguni armies invaded the north and established cattle-owning military states along the edges of the Mozambican highlands. Although not within the borders of modern-day Mozambique, these military states nonetheless served as effective bases for raids into Mozambique.

With the prolonged drought, the rise of Gaza, the dominance of the slave trade, and the expansion of Portuguese control in the Zambezi Valley, the once-mighty African chieftaincies of the Zambezi region declined. In their place, valley warlords established fortified strongholds at the confluence of the major rivers, where they raised private armies and raided for slaves in the interior. The most powerful of these warlords was Manuel Antonio de Sousa, a settler from Portuguese India, who by the middle of the 19th century controlled most of the southern Zambezi Valley and a huge swath of land to its south. North of the Zambezi, Islamic slave traders rose to power from their base in Angoche, and the Yao chiefs of the north migrated south to the highlands along the Shire River, where they established their military power.

British Influence

In 1856 Scottish explorer David Livingstone reached the mouth of the Zambezi after exploring its upper reaches. Livingstone returned to the Zambezi in 1858, attempting to open a river route into central Africa. Livingstone’s endeavors and, more to the point, the political designs of Britain, troubled Portugal deeply. To fend off British interest in the region, Portugal tried to exert further control over the various Arab and African chieftaincies in Mozambique. In 1861 the Portuguese wrested the slaving port of Angoche from its Arab holders, and then embarked on a string of largely disastrous wars against the interior warlords. Under pressure from Britain, Portugal outlawed the slave trade in Mozambique in 1842, finally abolishing slavery altogether in 1878.

By the 1870s European interest in Africa was focused on raw materials and the labor needed to extract them. Although Mozambique had little mineral wealth compared with diamond-rich land in what would become South Africa, it attracted speculators who wanted to grow sugar, cotton, and oil seeds. The Portuguese welcomed these private companies, which would develop the region’s infrastructure, pay tariffs on exports, and most important, counter the influence of the British. In 1875, when Scottish missionaries established themselves in the Shire highlands, Portugal’s enthusiasm for granting concessions to private companies grew greater still. Several colonial companies were established, the most important of which was started by Paiva de Andrade in 1878 and in 1888 became the Mozambique Company.

In January 1890, with the control of East Africa still unresolved, Britain threatened war against Portugal if its border demands were not met. No match for the British Navy, Portugal conceded to most of Britain’s demands, and in May 1891 the frontiers of modern Mozambique were drawn. Much of the western highlands passed into British hands, but Portugal was left in control of the lengthy coast with its numerous ports and trade stations, as well as the lowlands between the coast and the highlands.

Soon thereafter, Portugal undertook a series of campaigns against the African kingdoms within Mozambique’s borders. Portugal finalized its occupation of the south in a series of rapid strikes against the Gaza Empire, which surrendered in 1895. The final defeat of the warlords along the Zambezi was achieved in 1902, but the entirety of Mozambique was not fully under Portuguese control until the 1920s. In 1902 Portugal established the capital of Mozambique at Lourenço Marques, now Maputo.

Control by the Concessions

In the early 20th century, Portugal continued to allow private concession companies broad control of the colony. A handful of concessions controlled almost all of Mozambique’s production of goods and supply of labor. Workers were often forced to labor under brutal conditions, with extremely low (and sometimes no) wages, and with few political rights. In the south, companies were given the rights to recruit people and send them to work the diamond and gold mines in South Africa. In 1907 the colonial government codified these abuses and established separate labor laws for natives and nonnatives. The growth of the forced labor economy was greatly aided by completion of two railroads in the late 1890s. By the early 20th century, the railroads and the ports to which they were linked became Mozambique’s biggest source of foreign exchange.

In 1916 Portugal entered World War I (1914-1918), and the following year a serious rebellion broke out in the province of Zambezia. The Barue Rising, as it is known, was quelled, but not without great effort. Later that year, in November, German troops further destabilized Mozambique by invading and overrunning most of the region north of the Zambezi River. The German troops were not expelled until near the end of the war in 1918.

After World War I, the Portuguese government continued to allow private companies to exert enormous power over Mozambique society, a condition that changed only after the 1926 coup in Portugal. In 1932 António de Oliveira Salazar began a long dictatorship of Portugal, and under his influence the government established direct rule over Mozambique. Salazar ended the power of the private companies and in their place established a planned economy (a system in which the government controls every aspect of the economy). Such changes, however, often did little to improve life for the people of Mozambique. For example, Mozambican farmers were forced to grow crops such as cotton and rice for export, and very little consideration was given to the crops needed for Mozambique’s subsistence. The government also continued the practice of sending Mozambicans to labor in South African mines. Under Salazar, white settlement was encouraged, especially in the irrigated regions around the Limpopo River. Partly as a result, the number of white settlers in the country grew from a few tens of thousands to nearly 200,000 by 1970.

Resistance and Independence

Salazar’s Portugal kept tight control over all aspects of African life. Until the late 1960s blacks were routinely denied opportunities in education, employment, and government, and political dissent was met with swift imprisonment or exile. In 1962 a group of exiled Mozambicans led by Eduardo Mondlane met in Tanzania and formed the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo, from Frente de Libertação de Moçambique). Two years later, Frelimo launched a guerrilla war against Portuguese Mozambique. The Portuguese countered the insurrection with arms and, in an attempt to pacify the people of Mozambique, a major development program. Many roads, schools, and hospitals were built, stimulating rapid economic growth. In 1969 work began on the Cabora Bassa Dam, which was to be the showpiece of Portuguese development policies.

These efforts notwithstanding, the war with Frelimo continued, even after Mondlane was assassinated in 1969. By the early 1970s the war reached a stalemate. Only after Portugal underwent a tumultuous revolution in April 1974 did the colonial regime in Mozambique begin to crumble. In July 1975 power was formally transferred to Frelimo, and Mozambique became independent.

Civil War

The Frelimo government introduced far-reaching reforms, including rights for women and the collectivization of agriculture. It also introduced a Marxist-Leninist constitution that brought the economy under the control of the state, and it supported the liberation movements of blacks in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa. In return, Southern Rhodesia and South Africa sponsored an anticommunist Mozambican guerrilla movement seeking the overthrow of the Frelimo government. This guerrilla group became known as the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo, from Resistência Nacional Mocambiçana). Beginning in 1980 Renamo targeted and destroyed government installations, industries, schools, and infrastructure. Within a short time, the government could be certain of control over only a few cities, and travel about the country could be undertaken safely only by air. In time Renamo gained control over much of the country as increasing numbers of Mozambicans grew disaffected with government policies or were intimidated by a wide range of Renamo terror tactics.

In 1984, with his country’s economy in ruins and tens of thousands of his citizens killed, President Samora Moises Machel sought to end South Africa’s logistical and military support for Renamo by signing the Nkomati Accord. Under the accord, Mozambique agreed to end its support for the African National Congress, which was battling South Africa’s rigid policy of racial segregation known as apartheid. In return, South Africa vowed to stop supplying Renamo. Machel also began to move Frelimo away from its outright Marxist orientation that had antagonized Western and internal critics. The war continued nonetheless, and thousands of people died yearly in the fighting or from associated disease and malnutrition. In 1986 President Machel died in an airplane crash, and Joachim Chissano, the foreign minister, was elected to succeed him.

In 1990 the government adopted a new constitution that firmly disavowed Marxism-Leninism, established Mozambique as a multiparty democracy, and guaranteed the freedom of expression. The new constitution paved the way for peace talks between Frelimo and Renamo, and in October 1992 the two groups signed an accord that ended the civil war. In the 1994 elections that followed the accord, Frelimo won by what many observers believed was a surprisingly narrow margin, and Chissano was reelected. Renamo, to the relief of many, agreed to recognize Frelimo’s victory.

Recent Developments

With the help of foreign aid donations, the postwar government led the reconstruction of Mozambique’s railways, ports, factories, and hospitals. The civil war’s most brutal legacy was the hundreds of thousands of unexploded land mines that remained buried throughout rural areas of the country and continued to kill and maim civilians into the 21st century. In the 1990s the United Nations established training programs in Mozambique to help people safely identify, remove, and destroy unexploded land mines.

In December 1999 presidential elections Chissano defeated Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama. Legislative elections held at the same time renewed Frelimo’s hold on the Assembly of the Republic. Dhlakama and Renamo claimed that electoral fraud had tainted the results of both elections, but the Supreme Court of Mozambique disagreed and certified the elections in January 2000. Frelimo dominated December 2004 elections, winning almost two-thirds of the seats in the legislature. Frelimo secretary general Armando Guebuza was elected to succeed Chissano as president.

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