“Seemingly Endless War is Strangling Mozambique”
by Sheila Rule,
The New York Times, January 25, 1988.
Mozambique history :
Mozambique came under the control of Portugal beginning in the 16th century. Gold and ivory formed the basis of trade. Until the late 1800s, settlement by Portuguese, however, was sparse but in 1885 enough immigration had taken place to warrant the region's organization into a formal colony called Portuguese East Africa. Portugal kept Mozambique closely tied to it economically but in the 1950s, Portuguese rule began to be protested by the native peoples. Beginning in 1961 and continuing for more than a decade, the Frelimo (Front for the Liberation of Mozambique) rebellion fought a guerilla war. By 1964, the northern part of the country was almost completely in Frelimo hands. Portugal had its own revolution in 1974 and thereafter agreed to support independence for Mozambique. This led to so many Portuguese leaving Mozambique, that much of the country's administrative infrastructure was effectively wrecked. In June 1975, independence was granted and a Marxist Frelimo government was installed. During the 1980s, a movement to overthrow the Frelimo regime was organized and civil war erupted.
The article :
This article is mainly a description of the civil war and its effects on population and the Mozambique’s economy in the late 80s. The civil war pitted the anti-Communist Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo) against the Marxist Government led by President Joaquim A. Chissano.
In 1988, when Sheila Rules write the article, the war has already been going on for 12 years. A group of reporters was led by CARE international to see some of Mozambique’s usually inaccessible sites of despair. This trip revealed the situation to be worse than what reports indicated. The main fact reported by Sheila Rules about the war is the lack of food for the population. The rebels steal as much as they can. In fact, their main targets are food convoy. Besides, in 1988, Mozambique suffered from drought. Rebels were also exploiting villagers, keeping them inside their village, out of reach from any kind of aid. The results are a devastated economy and at least 350,000 Mozambicans fled to neighboring countries.
At the end of the article, Sheila Rule emphasizes the fact that Renamo was created in 1975 by white authorities. Their headquarters was indeed located in Lisbon (Portugal). South Africa gave support to the rebels. The goal probably was to undermine Mozambique’s Soviet-backed Government and this way show that black African rule does not work.
The end of the conflict :
Fundamental changes in Frelimo’s political and economic philosophy began to emerge in 1989, when the party renounced its Marxist-Leninist orientation. In January 1990 draft proposals for a new constitution were published, providing for the direct election of the president and people’s assembly by universal suffrage. Renamo was invited to contest the elections, provided that it abandoned violence and acknowledged the legitimacy of the state. The draft constitution, which was submitted to public debate during 1990, provided for the separation of Frelimo the state, the independence of the judiciary and the right to strike.
The civil war came to an end in 1992 and in 1994, the country's first-ever multiparty elections were held.
Summary by MARIE-CAROLINE KESZLER