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Mozambiquemarker was a Portuguese colony, overseas provincemarker and then a member state of Portugalmarker. It became independent from Portugal in 1975.

Pre-colonial History

The first inhabitants of what is now Mozambique were the San 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 Rivermarker valley and then gradually into the plateau and coastal areas. The Bantu were farmers and ironworkers.

When Vasco da Gama, exploring for Portugalmarker, reached the coast of Mozambique in 1498, Arab trading settlements had existed along the coast and outlying islands for several centuries, and political control of the coast was in the hands of a string of local sultans. Muslims had actually lived in the region for quite some time; the famous Arab historian and geographer, Al-Masudi, reported Muslims amongst Africans in the land of Sofa in 947 (modern day Mozambique, itself a derivative of the name of the Arab Shiekh who ruled the area at the time when the Portuguese arrived, Musa bin Ba'ik). Most of the local people had embraced Islam. The region lay at the southernmost end of a traditional trading world that encompassed the Red Seamarker, the Hadhramaut coast of Arabia and the Indian coast, described in the 1st-century coasting guide that is called the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.

Colonial History

From about 1500, Portuguese trading posts and forts became regular ports of call on the new route to the east. "Mozambiquemarker" first described a small coral island at the mouth of Mossuril Bay, then the fort and town on that island, São Sebastião de Moçambique, and later extended to the whole of the Portuguese colonies on the east coast of Africa. The square fort at the northern extremity of the island was built in 1510 entirely of ballast stone brought from Portugal.

With the decline of Portuguese power, especially during the period when the crown of Portugal was combined with the crown of Spain (1580-1640), the Portuguese coastal settlements were ignored and fell into a ruinous condition. Afterwards, investment lagged while Lisbon devoted itself to the more lucrative trade with Indiamarker and the Far East and to the colonization of Brazilmarker. Into the 19th century, a system prevailed of dividing the land into prazos (large agricultural estates) which the natives cultivated for the benefit of the European leaseholders, who were also tax-collector for each district and claimed the tax either in labour or produce, a system that kept the sharecropping farmers in a state of serfdom. Direct Portuguese influence was limited. On the coast between several native ports of call and Madagascar a large surreptitious trade in slaves was carried on until 1877, supplying slaves for Arabia and the Ottomans. European traders and prospectors barely penetrated the interior regions, until the Transvaal gold rush. The commercial and political importance of Mozambique was eclipsed by Lourenço Marques.

In 1891 the Portuguese shifted the administration of much of the country to a large private company, under a charter granting sovereign rights for 50 years to the Companhia de Moçambique, which, though it had its headquarters at Beira, was controlled and financed mostly by the British. The 'Mozambique Company' issued postage stamps and established railroad lines to neighboring countries. It supplied cheap – and often forced – African labor to the goldmines 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 the integration of Mozambique's indigenous population, its economic infrastructure, or the skills of its indigenous rural population. However, the period between the 1920s and the independence in 1975, was marked by a gradual promotion of several economic and social developments in the Portugal-administered territory, which included a great expansion of commercial, industrial, agricultural, educational, transportation, and health care infrastructure, that generated notable growth rates in the entire territory.


After World War II, while many European nations were granting independence to their colonies, Portugal's Estado Novomarker regime headed by António de Oliveira Salazar issued a decree officially renaming Mozambiquemarker and other Portuguese possessions as overseas provinces of the mother country, and emigration to the colonies soared (Mozambique's ethnic Portuguese resident population was about 300,000 in 1973, which excludes the Portuguese military sent from the mainland and mulatto population). 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. This conflict, along with the two others already initiated in the other Portuguese colonies of Angolamarker and Portuguese Guineamarker, became part of the so-called Portuguese Colonial War.

Mozambique became independent after ten years of sporadic warfare in Mozambique and Portugal's return to democracy through a leftist military coup in Lisbon on 25 April 1974 (partially as a result of the expenses from the wars in the overseas territories in Africa). FRELIMO took complete control of the territory after a transition period, as agreed in the Lusaka Accord which recognized Mozambique's right to independence and the terms of the transfer of power. Within a year of the Portuguese coup, almost all Portuguese population had left the African territory – some expelled by the new government of independent Mozambique, some fleeing in fear. Mozambique became independent from Portugal on June 25, 1975.

Portuguese population's rapid exodus left the Mozambican economy in disarray. In addition, after the independence day on June 25, 1975, the eruption of the Mozambican Civil War (1977-1992) destroyed the remaining wealth and left the former Portuguese Overseas Province in a state of absolute disrepair. In any event, as late as 2001, the economic outcome could still be seen in cities like Beiramarker. Once a thriving vacation city on the coast, it is still the second largest city in Mozambique, with a population of 300,000. Many of these people live as squatters in unfinished 1970s era luxury hotels facing the Indian Ocean.

FRELIMO responded to their lack of resources and the Cold War politics of the mid-1970s by moving into alignment with the Soviet Unionmarker and its allies. FRELIMO established a one-party Socialist state, and quickly received substantial international aid from Cubamarker and the Soviet bloc nations.

Civil War

Formed in 1975, the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO), an anti-communist group sponsored by the Rhodesian Intelligence Service, and sponsored by the apartheid government in South Africa as well as the United Statesmarker after Zimbabwe's independence, launched a series of attacks on transport routes, schools and health clinics, and the country descended into civil war. In 1984, Mozambique negotiated the Nkomati Accord with P. W. Botha and the South African government, in which Mozambique was to expel the African National Congress in exchange for South Africa stopping support of Renamo. At first both sides complied but it soon became evident that infringements were taking place on both sides and the war continued. In 1986, Mozambican President Samora Machel died in an air crash in South African territory. Although unproven, many suspect the South African government of responsibility for his death. Machel was replaced by Joaquim Chissano as president.

In 1990, with apartheid crumbling in South Africa, and support for RENAMO drying up in South Africa and in the United States, the first direct talks between the FRELIMO government and Renamo were held. In November 1990 a new constitution was adopted. Mozambique was now a multiparty state, with periodic elections, and guaranteed democratic rights. On 4 October 1992, the Rome General Peace Accords, negotiated by the Community of Sant'Egidio with the support of the United Nations, were signed in Romemarker between President Chissano and RENAMO leader Afonso Dhlakama, which formally took effect on the October 15, 1992. A UN Peacekeeping Force (ONUMOZ) oversaw a two-year transition to democracy. The last ONUMOZ contingents departed in early 1995.


Mozambique held elections in 1994, which were accepted by most parties as free and fair while still contested by many nationals and observers alike. FRELIMO won, under Joaquim Chissano, while RENAMO, led by Afonso Dhlakama, ran as the official opposition.

In 1995, Mozambique joined the Commonwealth of Nations, becoming the only member nation that was never part of the British Empire.

By mid-1995, over 1.7 million refugees who had sought asylum in neighboring countries had returned to Mozambique, part of the largest repatriation witnessed in sub-Saharan Africa. An additional four million internally displaced persons had returned to their homes.

In December 1999, Mozambique held elections for a second time since the civil war, which were again won by FRELIMO. RENAMO accused FRELIMO of fraud, and threatened to return to civil war, but backed down after taking the matter to the Supreme Court and losing.

Indicating in 2001 that he would not run for a third term, Chissano criticized leaders who stayed on longer than he had, which was generally seen as a reference to Zambianmarker president Frederick Chiluba, who at the time was considering a third term, and Zimbabweanmarker president Robert Mugabe, then in his fourth term. Presidential and National Assembly elections took place on December 1-2, 2004. FRELIMO candidate Armando Guebuza won with 64% of the popular vote. His opponent, Afonso Dhlakama of RENAMO, received 32% of the popular vote. FRELIMO won 160 seats in Parliament. A coalition of RENAMO and several small parties won the 90 remaining seats. Armando Guebuza was inaugurated as the President of Mozambique on February 2, 2005.

In early 2000 a cyclone caused widespread flooding in the country, killing hundreds and devastating the already precarious infrastructure. There were widespread suspicions that foreign aid resources have been diverted by powerful leaders of FRELIMO. Carlos Cardoso, a journalist investigating these allegations, was murdered but his death was not satisfactorily explained.

Much of the economic recovery which has followed the end of the Mozambican Civil War (1977-1992) is being led by investors and tourists from neighbour South Africa and from East Asia. A number of returning Portuguese nationals have also invested in the country as well as some Italian organizations. However, the country remains as one of the poorest in the world.


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