A quick (and oversimplified) history, as sketched out by an older Mozambican gentleman who’s a descendent of Portuguese settlers. I realize this is definitely not the complete picture, but it helped me get a sense of how the country developed and why it is where it is today.
Mozambique was a Portuguese colony when, in 1964, a guerilla movement for independence began. The country finally gained its freedom 1975, after a government coup in Portugal led the way for democratic elections, which in turn led to independence for the country’s overseas territories, including Mozambique, in 1975. But keep in mind, by this point, Mozambique had already been in conflict for over a decade.
Now, if you’ll remember, the 1960s and ‘70s were smack dab in the middle of the Cold War. The Mozambican guerillas – known as Frelimo – were backed by the Soviets and were fighting colonialism, which was viewed as an extension of western capitalism. Portugal, on the other hand, was trying to keep its colonies, and was supported by other western nations, especially other colonial governments in Africa.
When Portugal pulled out in 1975, it meant that the government in Mozambique was indigenous – black African. Mozambique’s delightful neighbors, Rhodesia and South Africa, were both dominated by a white minority that saw Mozambique’s new status as a threat. Guerilla movements in those two countries found a refuge in Mozambique, a place where they could stage their own revolutions. So Rhodesia and South Africa sponsored the foundation of an opposing party – Renamo – aimed at undermining the Mozambican government.
Not surprisingly, a civil war begins. The fighting took place throughout the country – landmines everywhere, destruction of railways, factories, bridges. Renamo was particularly brutal – at one point, the US had considered backing them but the human rights abuses were too great. By 1992, when the war ended, more than a million had died, five million displaced, and the economy was in complete shambles.
To this day, Mozambique remains one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries. And while its economy is improving, it’s heavily dependent on the extraction of natural resources – gemstones, gold, forestry, oil, gas and coal.