Mozambican Civil War
Learn more about Mozambican Civil War
The Mozambican Civil War started in Mozambique during the 1970s following independence in 1975. The ruling party Front for Liberation of Mozambique, Frelimo, was violently opposed from 1977 by the Rhodesian and later South African funded Mozambique Resistance Movement, Renamo. Over five million civilians were displaced, 900,000 are thought to have died in fighting and from starvation and many were made amputees by landmines, a legacy from the war that continues to plague Mozambique. Fighting wound up in 1992 and the country's first free elections were held in 1994.
Mozambican resistance began to surface, as people eventually concluded that decades of exploitation, oppression and neglect by Portugal's colonial expansion was the cause of their misery. Sentiment for Mozambique's own national independence developed and on 25 June 1962 several Mozambican anti-Portuguese political groups formed the Front for Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.
Frelimo's first president was Eduardo Mondlane whose first objective was to forge a broad based insurgent coalition that could effectively challenge the colonial regime. Anonymous private contributors, many of them friends of Mondlane, financed or secured money for Frelimo's health, publicity, and educational projects, while military equipment and training came from Algeria, Russia and China.
On September 25, 1964, Frelimo solders, with logistical assistance from the surrounding population, attacked the administrative post at Chai in the province of Cabo Delgado . This raid marked the beginning of the armed struggle against the colonial regime. Frelimo militants were able to evade pursuit and surveillance by employing classic guerrilla tactics: ambushing patrols, sabotaging communication and railroad lines, and making hit-and-run attacks against colonial outposts before rapidly fading into accessible backwater areas. At the war's outset, Frelimo had little hope for a military victory; its hope lay in a war of attrition to compel a negotiated independence from Lisbon. Portugal fought its own version of protracted warfare. Had the military succeeded with a minimum of expenditure and casualties, the war could have remained undecided for much longer. But the expense in blood and treasure, not military defeat, cost Lisbon the war; its army was never destroyed on the battlefield, although some of its officers were converted to Frelimo's revolutionary social goals for Portugal.
On 24 April 1974 the authoritarian regime of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar had been overthrown in Lisbon, a move that was supported by workers and peasants. The Armed Forces Movement in Portugal pledged a return to civil liberties and an end to the fighting in all colonies. The rapid chain of events within Portugal caught Frelimo, which had anticipated a protracted guerrilla campaign, by surprise. It responded quickly to the new situation and on 7 September 1974 won an agreement from the Armed Forces Movement to transfer power to Frelimo within a year. On June 25, 1975 Mozambique gained independence from Portugal. At the independence celebration, now President, Samora Machel warned that although the first phase in the struggle had been won, the young country still had to overcome illiteracy, disease, poverty, and economic dependence, which were the legacies of colonialism.
 Civil war begins
In 1977 a new resistance movement was formed by the name of Renamo, the Mozambique Resistance Movement. This force was formed to counter the Frelimo government and to disrupt the logistical flow of goods to neighboring Zimbabwe. Once Zimbabwe became independent, South Africa then became Renamo's chief sponsor. Renamo was led by Afonso Dhlakama.
The Gersony report, Summary of Mozambican Refugee Accounts of Principally Conflict-Related Experience in Mozambique, 'written by Robert Gersony for the U.S. State Department submitted on April 1988, reported that refugees provided eyewitness or other credible accounts about killings (from Renamo) which included shooting executions, knife/axe/bayonet killings, burning alive, beating to death, forced asphyxiation, forced starvation, and random shooting at civilians in villages during attacks. Mozambican civilians were Renamo's principal targets in the war, although they also attacked government installations and the economic infrastructure. Renamo were notorious for their use of child soldiers.
The Frelimo administration, led by President Machel, was economically ruined by Renamo's rebels. The military and diplomatic entente with the Soviet Union could not alleviate the nation's economic misery and famine. As a result, a reluctant President Machel signed a non-aggression pact with South Africa, known as the Nkomati Accord. In return, Pretoria promised to sever economic assistance in exchange for Frelimo's commitment to prevent the African National Congress (ANC) from using Mozambique as a sanctuary to pursue its campaign to overthrow white minority rule in South Africa. The volume of direct South African government support for Renamo diminished after the Nkomati accord, but documents discovered during the capture of Renamo headquarters at Gorongosa in central Mozambique in August 1985 revealed continuing South African government communications along with military support for Renamo.
On 19 October 1986, Mozambique's first president, Samora Machel died when his presidential aircraft crashed near South Africa's border. An international investigation determined that the crash was caused by errors made by the flight crew. Machel's successor was Joaquim Alberto Chissano, who had served as foreign minister from 1975 until Machel's death. Chissano continued Machel's policies of expanding Mozambique's international ties, particularly the country's links with the West, and pursuing internal reforms.
In 1990, with apartheid crumbling in South Africa, and support for Renamo drying up in South Africa as well as the United States, the first direct talks between the Frelimo government and Renamo were held. Frelimo's draft constitution in July 1989 paved the way for a multiparty system and in November 1990 a new constitution was adopted. Mozambique was now a multiparty state, with periodic elections, and guaranteed democratic rights. On the 4th of October 1992, the Rome General Peace Accords, negotiated by the Community of Sant'Egidio with the support of the UN, were signed in Rome between President Chissano and Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, which formally took effect on the October 15 1992. A UN peacekeeping force (ONUMOZ) of 7,500 arrived in Mozambique and oversaw a two year transition to democracy. 2,400 international observers also entered the country to supervise the elections held on October 27-28, 1994. The last ONUMOZ contingents departed in early 1995.
- Young, Lance S. 1991. Mozambique's Sixteen-Year Bloody Civil War. United States Air Force
- Juergensen, Olaf Tataryn. 1994. Angonia: Why RENAMO?. Southern Africa Report Archive