Mozambique lies on the east coast of Africa and “looks out” toward Madagascar and the Indian Ocean. It is a member of the Southern African Development Community, a group of nations with a combined population of 250 million people. According to demographics experts this will become almost half a billion in the next 20 years. Mozambique’s ports provide a trade gateway for several sub-Saharan African nations, making it very important in the region from a strategic-commercial point of view.
Until 1975 Mozambique was a Portuguese colony. Even today the official language of the country is Portuguese. They arrived on the coast of Mozambique at the end of the 15th century and settled in the coastal areas during the next century, using the ports as bases for ships bound to and from India and Asia. Portugal maintained a limited control of the territory – especially the interior, which it considered difficult to govern – and often entrusted its government to people of different nationalities.
After the Second World War, during the period of decolonization, independence groups in Mozambique formed the armed movement, “ The Liberation Front of Mozambique” (FRELIMO), which played an important role in the fight for independence. After about 10 years of guerrilla warfare and following the regime change that took place in Portugal with the so-called “Carnation Revolution,” Mozambique obtained full independence and adopted a form of presidential government. The new nation continued to have good relations both politically and commercially with its former colonial ruler.
During the era of President Samora Machel, the longtime leader of FRELIMO, Marxist economic and social reforms meant the plantations were nationalized and schools and hospitals were built for the poor.
Winning independence when the Cold War dominated world politics, Mozambique sided with the Soviet Union and took an anti-imperialist and anti-American position. President Machel also supported the revolutionary forces operating in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa. The governments of these two countries responded to the unwelcome interference of the “Marxist dictator” by actively supporting an anti-government movement called “The Mozambican National Resistance” (RENAMO). This armed dissident group regularly attacked defenseless villages and farmers, committing horrific atrocities, as did its counterpart, FRELIMO. In 15 years of struggle RENAMO came to control vast areas of the country and, starting from the 1990s, it organized itself as a popular political movement.