Mozambique was ravaged by war for nearly 30 years before it slowly returned to peace at the beginning of the 1990s. First came the war of liberation against the Portuguese (1964–75), only to be ended after the change of government in Portugal that came with the overthrow of the Marcello Caetano dictatorship in April 1974. Following this event, Portugal signaled its readiness to grant independence to its African territories and Mozambique became independent on 25 June 1975. The great majority of the 250,000 Portuguese settlers, who had held most of the administrative and skilled jobs, left the country at independence to present the Frente da Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO)/Mozambique Liberation Front government with formidable problems of reconstruction. Mozambique, by almost any standards, was one of the poorest countries in Africa and the world at this time.
As the fighting against the Portuguese in in both Mozambique and Angola had escalated during the early 1970s, both white-controlled Rhodesia and South Africa had provided Portugal with support in its efforts to hold on to power; however, when the Portuguese finally withdrew in the mid-1970s, Mozambique’s neighbors embarked upon policies of destabilization in order to undermine the new governments which came to power, since both Salisbury and Pretoria saw these as Marxist opponents of white racialism. By 1975, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) was having an increasingly successful impact upon the Smith regime in Rhodesia and it received immediate backing from the new Mozambique government. The head of Rhodesian security, Ken Flower, who ran the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), conceived the idea of fomenting civil war in Mozambique by creating and then supporting a rival movement to FRELIMO. Flower originally advanced his idea during talks with his Portuguese and South African security counterparts during 1971 and 1972. At first his suggestion was not adopted, but in March 1974, Flower visited the director general of Security in Lourenco Marques (Maputo), Major Silva Pais, who agreed with his approach. Flower wanted to launch an African group of Flechas (arrows) who would be responsible for “unconventional, clandestine operations.” In April 1974, prior to the Lisbon coup which toppled Dr. Marcello Caetano, the Rhodesian CIO began to recruit Mozambicans to form an organization to operate inside Mozambique, in theory without external support, although in practice it would depend first upon Rhodesia and then, after 1980, upon South Africa for assistance. The members of this group became known as the Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (RENAMO)/Mozambican National Resistance, which was usually referred to simply as RENAMO. Flower and the CIO had little difficulty in recruiting dissident Mozambicans during 1974/1975 and such a movement made sense to an increasingly beleaguered Rhodesia.
The Civil War: 1975–1984
The huge exodus of the Portuguese was a contributory cause of the developing chaos: of 250,000 Portuguese at independence in 1975, only 15,000 remained by 1978. As colonialists, the Portuguese had reserved all the skilled posts for themselves and when they went, the greater part of the country’s skilled capacity went as well. Moreover, the departing Portuguese carried out wilful acts of destruction of machines and equipment as they left. Once the new FRELIMO government had made plain its political stand—its determination to apply United Nations sanctions against Rhodesia and its declaration of support for the African National Congress (ANC)—it made itself a natural target for Rhodesian and South African hostility. From 1975 onward, both the Rhodesian and South African military were to make periodic cross-border raids into Mozambique, and for them RENAMO was to prove an invaluable ally, or at least an important nuisance factor.
In the period 1975–1980, as RENAMO gradually built up its capacity to harass the new government, Mozambique found itself beset by four basic problems: the loss of Portuguese skills; the deteriorating state of the economy; the presence in Mozambique of both ZANU and ANC guerrillas, which attracted punitive cross-border raids from Rhodesia and South Africa; and growing dissatisfaction among FRELIMO members who had expected quicker “rewards” once the country became independent. It is not possible to pinpoint exactly when RENAMO resistance to the new government became sufficiently important to warrant the description of either dissidence or civil war. The immediate problems concerned Rhodesia rather than South Africa: there were about 10,000 ZANU guerrillas in the country and growing border violence as Rhodesian security forces and ZANU guerrillas raided back and forth in the two territories. Such conditions provided a perfect cover for RENAMO to launch its activities.
There was to be a state of border war between Mozambique and Rhodesia from 1975 until 1980 when Rhodesia became independent as Zimbabwe. In March 1976, obeying UN sanctions, Mozambique closed its border with Rhodesia. In August of that year, after RENAMO spies had provided the information, the Rhodesian Selous Scouts raided across the border to attack the ZANU base camp at Nyadzonia (Pungwe) where they killed about 1,000 members of ZANU, many of them women and children. During 1977, frequent ZANU incursions across the border into Rhodesia led to retaliatory cross-border raids against the ZANU bases in Mozambique. It was, in any case, easier for the Rhodesians to attack these camps than to find the ZANU guerrillas in the Rhodesian bush. President Samora Machel claimed that between March 1976 and April 1977 there occurred 143 Rhodesian acts of aggression across the 1,140 kilometer border between the two countries, in which a total of 1,432 civilians, of whom 875 were Rhodesian refugees, were murdered. At the same time, however, there was little evidence of any internal opposition to FRELIMO or of RENAMO guerrillas operating against the government.
The acknowledged opposition to FRELIMO at this time—the United Democratic Front of Mozambique—had failed to obtain arms from Europe for a struggle against the government. On the other hand, RENAMO claimed that its guerrillas were then fighting under the command of six former FRELIMO commanders. By 1978, it had become apparent that the poverty-stricken Mozambique economy was heavily dependent upon three aspects of its connection with South Africa: the transit trade through Maputo; remittances from laborers in South Africa, especially in the mines; and payments for power from the Cabora Bassa Dam. Two of these links with South Africa made Mozambique especially vulnerable: both the Cabora Bassa power lines and the transit routes (road and rail) to Maputo and Beira were open to attacks by RENAMO.
By 1979, ZANU was clearly winning the war in Rhodesia and huge new pressures (following the Commonwealth heads of government meeting which was held in Lusaka that August) spelled the coming end to the Smith regime in Salisbury. However, in Mozambique the activities of RENAMO had by then become a serious threat to the government; as a result, it was in Mozambique’s interest that the struggle in Rhodesia should be terminated. Thus, in December 1979, when the ZANU leader, Robert Mugabe, was prepared to abandon the Lancaster House Conference in London and return to the bush, President Machel exerted pressure upon him to come to terms with the British foreign secretary, Lord Carrington.
Once Mugabe had become president of Zimbabwe in April 1980, Flower told him of his CIO role with regard to RENAMO, but Mugabe still kept him in office. In Mozambique the stage was set for an escalation of the civil war, for though independence for Zimbabwe meant the reopening of the joint border and the immediate easing of existing tensions, RENAMO guerrillas were then established in Manica, Sofala, and Tete Provinces. The result was that the government had to deploy substantial forces against the insurgents. Even so, whether RENAMO could really become effective seemed doubtful at that stage: Rhodesia had ceased to be its paymaster and South Africa had to formulate a clear policy in relation to Mozambique. However, Pretoria soon decided upon a policy of maximum economic disruption of its neighbor; it urged RENAMO to attack lines of communication (roads and railways), which served the landlocked countries to its north—Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe and, in particular, to concentrate upon the Beira Corridor. In April 1981, RENAMO attacked the Cabora Bassa hydro-electric power station and cut the power lines. At that time, Cabora Bassa supplied 10 percent of South Africa’s power; the attack demonstrated that South Africa did not control RENAMO. In June 1981, fierce fighting in the north of Mozambique between government forces and RENAMO guerrillas caused hundreds of refugees to flee into Zimbabwe; they complained of ill-treatment from both sides.
The government now constructed fortified villages (similar to the former aldeamentos of the Portuguese) so as to protect and control the rural populations. In July, Machel met with Mugabe to discuss joint security measures. By the end of 1981, RENAMO activities in Manica and Sofala Provinces were sufficiently damaging to lead the government to recall FRELIMO commanders who had been released from service: they were ordered to establish “people’s militias” and arm them. During the liberation struggle, FRELIMO’s main support had come from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), East Germany, and other Communist states; now, however, it felt the need to mobilize support from the West if it was to contain the South African destabilization activities.
During 1982, RENAMO widened the scope of its operations and obtained military equipment from South Africa, while concentrating its attacks upon road and rail links used by the landlocked countries of the interior. In May 1982, the government began a major operation to make the Beira Corridor safe from RENAMO attacks; this included arming civilians living along the Corridor. RENAMO then employed a fresh tactic, that of abducting foreigners who were working in Mozambique in an effort to frighten them into leaving the country. Its efforts paid off when 40 Swedish workers fled to Zimbabwe after two of their number had been killed. Other persons abducted included six Bulgarian workers, while a Portuguese was killed. Fresh strains were added to an already deeply damaged economy when RENAMO attacked the Beira Corridor. In October 1982, Machel was forced to seek assistance from two of his neighbors, Tanzania and Zimbabwe: he asked President Julius Nyerere to increase the number of Tanzanian troops in the north of Mozambique—there were 2,000 there already—and asked President Mugabe for assistance in fighting RENAMO. By 1983, RENAMO guerrillas had become active in every province except Cabo Delgado in the north where the Tanzanian troops were stationed. By this time several thousand Zimbabwean troops had been deployed along the Beira Corridor, although the railway line was still being sabotaged. The Mozambique government mounted a major anti-RENAMO campaign in Zambezia, Mozambique’s richest province, and a second campaign in Inhambane Province in the south.
A growing problem for the government was the poor condition of its army: by this time it was ill-equipped, badly malnourished, often unpaid, and its soldiers felt neglected. Such troops, suffering from low morale, did not want to take the field against RENAMO. Twice during 1983 (May and October), units of the South African Defence Force (SADF) raided Maputo, ostensibly to attack ANC bases, but in fact to exert further pressures upon an already harassed government. Also during 1983, Machel visited a number of western countries seeking aid, although the immediate consequence was that the USSR cut off its assistance to Mozambique. South African policy was to put pressure upon the “Frontline” States (which included Mozambique) so that they would not provide the ANC with bases, and Pretoria’s support for RENAMO now appeared to be paying dividends.
Under these pressures, Machel was obliged to forge a deal with South Africa. On 16 March 1984, President Machel met South Africa’s President P. W. Botha at Nkomati on their joint border; they negotiated the Nkomati Accord, by whose terms they would each prevent the activities of opposition groups in the other’s territory. Mozambique was obliged to withdraw its support for the ANC and South Africa for RENAMO. The ANC and Nyerere both condemned the Accord, but at the time, Machel had little choice, even though his own leadership was opposed to the agreement. In fact, no decline in RENAMO activity followed. In June 1984, South Africa’s foreign minister, “Pik” Botha, went to Maputo to insist that South Africa was keeping its side of the agreement. It did not do so. The government now made members of the ANC in Mozambique live in controlled camps (or leave the country) and reduced the ANC mission in Maputo to 10. Furthermore, about 800 ANC departed from Mozambique to other Frontline States. When Machel visited China and North Korea in July, both countries endorsed the Nkomati Accord, which gave Machel moral support but not much else. During the second half of 1984, RENAMO increased the severity of its attacks, with continuing backing from South Africa, and by August was active in all 10 of Mozambique’s provinces.
The Second Phase: 1984–1990
Meetings between representatives of the Mozambique government, RENAMO, and South Africa, during August and September 1984, had proved abortive, and in November 1984, RENAMO mounted a new offensive throughout Mozambique. A strong government counter-offensive destroyed 100 RENAMO bases and resulted in the deaths of about 1,000 guerrillas. During 1985, despite protests by the Maputo government, South Africa made no efforts to restrain RENAMO; nor did it withdraw its support, and by this stage Portugal was also providing aid for RENAMO. The guerrilla tactics now changed: they raided villages and forcibly conscripted villagers to act as porters or soldiers. Some towns also came under siege. In April 1985, RENAMO severed rail links between South Africa and Mozambique. When the country celebrated its tenth independence anniversary in June 1985, President Machel was obliged to tell the people that Mozambique had to remain on a war footing because of RENAMO. At a meeting with Presidents Nyerere and Mugabe in July 1985, the latter promised to commit more troops to fight RENAMO. In August 1985, a joint campaign by FRELIMO and Zimbabwean troops captured the RENAMO headquarters at Casa Banana in Sofala Province. Documents seized in the raid showed that South Africa had provided continuous support to RENAMO ever since the Nkomati Accord, and this led a for-once deeply embarrassed South African government to reply that it had only “technically” broken the Nkomati Accord. The spokesman then blamed Portugal and claimed that the government was unable to control the many Portuguese then in South Africa who “worked to Lisbon’s orders.”
Slowly, meanwhile, the West was becoming more sympathetic to Mozambique and both the United States and Britain offered relief aid following the 1985 drought. In addition, Britain offered military training for FRELIMO troops—but in Zimbabwe. A further 5,000 Zimbabwean troops were committed to Mozambique in addition to the 2,000 already there. The year 1986 turned into the worst year of the civil war. In February, RENAMO recaptured Casa Banana and this had to be retaken by Zimbabwean troops in April. The government found that it was spending 42 percent of its revenue fighting RENAMO or preparing to deal with South African incursions. RENAMO concentrated upon cutting railway links, thus reducing government revenues from the transit trade. Then, in a further calculated blow to the government, South Africa announced that it would no longer recruit Mozambicans for its mines or renew the contracts of those already in the Republic. This represented a financial loss in the region of $90 million a year. When President Machel asked President Hastings Banda of Malawi to hand over RENAMO rebels then in his country, Banda instead expelled several hundred into Mozambique where they ravaged the border area. RENAMO then declared war on Zimbabwe.
On 19 October 1986, following a meeting with Presidents Kenneth Kaunda and Mugabe in Lusaka, Machel was killed when his plane crashed on its return journey. The crash was never properly explained: South Africa was blamed and a South African mission in Maputo was sacked. South Africa claimed that documents found in the wreckage (the plane crashed just inside the South African border) showed that Zambia and Mozambique were plotting to overthrow Hastings Banda of Malawi. Joaquim Chissano, Machel’s foreign minister, succeeded him as president and Maputo increased its pressures upon Malawi to end its support for RENAMO, threatening to cut its transit routes through Mozambique. As a result, Malawi reversed its policy and committed 300 troops to help guard the Nacala Railway, which linked Blantyre to the Indian Ocean port of Nacala. The line was then being upgraded and rehabilitated.
The war continued as fiercely into 1987, and President Mugabe agreed to provide further military assistance until the war had been won. By this time an estimated four million Mozambicans were facing starvation or destitution as a result of the civil war and one million people had been forced to leave their homes in Zambezia Province, which was one of the worst affected areas. However, the presence of Tanzanian and Zimbabwean troops, as well as the reversal of Malawi’s policy of helping RENAMO, gave the government a new lease of energy to fight the war. A South African raid upon Maputo in May—supposedly against an ANC base—finally spelled the end of the Nkomati Accord. By this time, the Mozambique–Zimbabwe border region had become a semi-war zone.
There were 40,000 Mozambican refugees in camps in Zimbabwe and a further 40,000 were thought to be roaming the country in search of work. Zimbabwe rounded these people up and sent them back to Mozambique. A RENAMO incursion into Zambia produced Zambian retaliation and a military pursuit into Mozambique to destroy two RENAMO bases. In July 1987, RENAMO attacked the southern town of Homoine to massacre 424 people, although Chissano claimed that the South Africans were responsible. Further RENAMO attacks in the south included the ambush of a convoy north of Maputo in which 270 people were killed. RENAMO tactics aimed to isolate Maputo. These RENAMO forces operating along the coast were being supplied by sea from South Africa. They attacked the only road linking Maputo with Gaza and Inhambane Provinces. The Mozambican military escorts for convoys proved ineffective and the troops’ morale was low. Such attacks close to the capital also had a demoralizing effect upon both the government and the international community living in Maputo. However, internal divisions in RENAMO weakened its onslaught. A leading member, Paulo Oliveira, advocated peace while Afonso Dhlakama, the leader, insisted on continuing the war. In December 1987, following the announcement by Chissano of a law of pardon, some 200 members of RENAMO surrendered in January 1988 and Oliveira defected to the government. The Zimbabwean troops provided essential stiffening for the demoralized Mozambican army; with their help two RENAMO bases were captured in December 1987 and a further three in March 1988.
Meanwhile, under Chissano, Mozambique was moving steadily toward the West: Great Britain agreed to a $25 million aid package as well as an increase in the military training for FRELIMO, which it was carrying out in Zimbabwe; and in June 1987, Mozambique negotiated a financial package with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In October 1987, Mozambique was allowed to send an observer mission to the Vancouver Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and a special Commonwealth fund was created to assist Mozambique. In addition, a massive $600 million project to rehabilitate the port of Beira was launched, to be financed (in the main) by funds from the European Community. Mozambique had now come to see the West rather than the Communist bloc as its essential economic resource and savior.
RENAMO activity reached a peak during 1988 with repeated attacks upon communications and villages, with sabotage aimed at the vital Chicualacuala rail line linking Zimbabwe to Maputo. By this time RENAMO had an estimated 20,000 men in the field. Sometimes a force of as many as 600 guerrillas would attack a particular target, though generally RENAMO used small bands of men, often armed only with machetes, who robbed and killed. Half the FRELIMO army appeared to have collapsed or disintegrated and only the better units were able to withstand RENAMO, while government control did not run in large parts of the country. Instead, the government appeared increasingly dependent upon troops from Zimbabwe (10,000) and Tanzania (3,000) to fight RENAMO.
The position was made worse because of the large numbers of refugees created by the war. Sometimes whole villages were massacred. Many RENAMO guerrillas were, in fact, no more than armed bandits, the product of a lawless time. Afonso Dhlakama controlled about half the RENAMO forces. He had worked closely with South African intelligence since 1980 and had undergone training at the South African Special Forces base at Voortrekkerhoogte. South Africa, even after the Nkomati Accord, had made airdrops of supplies to RENAMO. Its other backers were the Portuguese (principally those who had fled in 1975 to settle in South Africa) and right-wing groups in the United States. Part of Pretoria’s motive for assisting RENAMO was economic: South Africa wanted to force the landlocked countries to its north—Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe—to continue trading through South Africa and a destabilized Mozambique helped ensure that this happened.
Western aid to Mozambique increased through 1988 while Chissano’s government attempted to reactivate the Joint Security Commission with South Africa (it had been set up under the terms of the Nkomati Accord). In Lisbon, Eco Fernandes, who wanted RENAMO to maintain its links with South Africa, was shot. At a time when right-wing U.S. senators were arguing for U.S. aid to RENAMO, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Roy Stacey publicly described RENAMO as “waging a systematic and brutal war of terror against innocent Mozambican civilians through forced labor, starvation, physical abuse, and wanton killing.” The war produced many contradictions: in May 1988, for example, South Africa offered the Maputo government 82 million rand in military assistance to protect the Cabora Bassa Dam against RENAMO; Mozambique refused the offer of South African troops, but accepted training for 1,500 FRELIMO troops to guard the power pylons. In mid-year the government launched a new offensive against RENAMO.
A possible breakthrough occurred in August when Chissano endorsed a plan advanced by church leaders to meet representatives of RENAMO in an effort to end the war. In 1989, the U.S. State Department claimed that RENAMO had killed 100,000 people since 1984. Meanwhile, Malawi had become host to nearly one million refugees (one in 12 of its population) and early in 1989 refugees from the war were arriving at the rate of 20,000 a month. And, despite repeated denials by Pretoria, South Africa continued to support RENAMO. In April 1989, RENAMO made a conciliatory gesture when it agreed to a ceasefire to allow food supplies to reach starving people. In June 1989, President Chissano advanced a 12-point peace plan, provided that RENAMO would renounce violence and agree to constitutional rule: by that time, some 3,000 members of RENAMO had accepted the December 1987 government amnesty. Also that June, church leaders met representatives of RENAMO at one of its strongholds, Gorongosa, and Dhlakama endorsed the peace move. RENAMO then demonstrated its readiness to compromise by sacking Artur Janeiro de Fonseca, its pro–South African external relations minister, and replacing him with Raul Domingos, formerly chief of staff. Talks scheduled to take place in Nairobi, Kenya, were called off when the government launched an attack upon Gorongosa. However, Dhlakama did go to Nairobi for talks with church leaders at the end of July, and though no agreement was reached these talks were generally seen to herald the beginning of a peace process. There was a setback in October 1989, but at the end of the year, Presidents Daniel arap Moi of Kenya and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe met in Nairobi to urge both RENAMO and the Mozambique government to drop all talk of preconditions. Early in 1990, with the country facing growing industrial unrest and an army that often went unpaid for months, President Chissano announced major constitutional changes which had the effect of moving Mozambique into line with the western democracies. An immediate result of this move was a U.S. announcement at the end of January that it no longer regarded Mozambique as a Communist country, while the general effect of these reforms was to make Mozambique more acceptable to the West.
The end of the Cold War played a part in the peace process, for once Mikhail Gorbachev had come to power in the USSR, he signaled the withdrawal or ending of Soviet aid and advised the two sides in the war to negotiate a peace. Fighting was to continue through 1990, but in July, the two sides met in Rome for talks arranged jointly by the churches and President Mugabe of Zimbabwe. In November 1990, the government announced the abandonment of Marxism–Leninism and said it would thereafter run the economy according to market forces.
In December 1990, after Zimbabwe’s forces had been confined to the Beira and Limpopo Corridors, a ceasefire was negotiated; however, in February, despite the emergence of new political parties as part of the peace process, RENAMO launched new attacks to cut the roads to Malawi in the north. Peace talks were resumed on 6 May 1991, with RENAMO attempting to alter the agenda while its guerrillas continued to launch attacks against the Cabora Bassa power lines and railway links. The talks again broke down, but the following 4 October, a cease-fire was signed by Chissano and Dhlakama. By this time both sides were exhausted: these talks had been brokered by the Roman Catholic Church, President Mugabe, and the British businessman “Tiny” Rowland.
Costs and Casualties
The statistics of this brutal war were horrifying: by 1988 RENAMO campaigns had forced a minimum of 870,000 people to flee the country, had displaced a further one million inside the country, and reduced another 2.5 million to the point of starvation, while approximately 100,000 civilians had been killed and many more wounded or permanently maimed. By the end of the 1980s, famine threatened up to 4.5 million people throughout the country. There are variations on these figures but they each tell the same story. For example, in 1988 the World Food Programme (WFP) reported that there were 420,000 refugees in Malawi, 350,000 in South Africa, 22,500 in Swaziland, 30,000 in Zambia, 64,500 in Zimbabwe, and 15,000 in Tanzania to make a total of 902,000. Other estimates gave a total of 650,000 refugees in Malawi. The government requested (mid-1988) $380 million in emergency assistance to help feed six million people threatened with famine.
By the beginning of 1992, Mozambique was rated (by the World Bank) as having the lowest standard of living in the world.
In December 1992, the United Nations agreed to send a peacekeeping force of 7,500 to Mozambique; its task would be principally to safeguard the transport corridors. However, delays in implementation almost led to disaster and RENAMO withdrew from the peace process. This resumed again and on 14 April 1993 the Zimbabwe troops guarding the Beira and Limpopo Corridors were withdrawn. By the following May 4,721 UN soldiers from five countries, the United Nations Operation in Mozambique (UNOMOZ), had arrived and these were accompanied by additional unarmed units. On 14 June 1993, the repatriation of 1.3 million refugees began under United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) auspices while international donors promised $520 million for humanitarian programs. On 14 August, the Joint Commission for the Formation of the Mozambique Defense Armed Forces (CCFADM) agreed upon a program to create a Mozambique Defense Armed Forces (FADM); 50 officers from either side in the civil war and 540 soldiers were selected for a 16-week training course. On 20 October 1993, the UN secretary-general, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, visited Maputo for talks with Chissano and Dhlakama. A fresh timetable for demobilization was set—this was to be carried out between January and May 1994, with a new army coming into being in September 1994. UN Security Council Resolution 898 of February 1994 authorized the creation of a UN police component to supervise the coming elections.
By March 1994, troops were moving into demobilization centers by which time 6,000 UNOMOZ troops were stationed in the country at a cost to western donors of $1 million a day. By mid-July 1994, 3.2 million voters had registered in areas over which the government had control. RENAMO called for a government of national unity after the elections. During the run-up to the elections, Dhlakama charged FRELIMO with fraud and said RENAMO would not take part in the elections, although on 28 October he reversed this stand and urged his followers to vote. The election results gave Chissano 53.3 percent of the presidential vote and Dhlakama 33.7 percent while, for the legislature, FRELIMO obtained 44.3 percent of the votes and RENAMO 37.7 percent. Dhlakama agreed that RENAMO would accept these results and cooperate with the government. Various offers of aid for reconstruction were now made by western governments.
At first, relations between the ruling FRELIMO government and RENAMO were delicate; Chissano said Dhlakama could not be an official leader of the opposition because he was not a member of the legislature but would, nonetheless, be provided with a salary and other official benefits since he had come second in the presidential election. In March 1995, the Paris Club pledged $780 million in loans and grants to Mozambique; the government also hoped to obtain relief on $350 million of debts. The government launched a program to eradicate poverty. The European Union arranged another package of aid in 1995 worth $65 million to rehabilitate Cabora Bassa and the Beira Corridor. By May 1995, most of the refugees had returned home, and in November 1995, Mozambique was admitted as a full member to the Commonwealth. In 1996 Mozambique embarked upon the long haul of economic and social recovery. It enjoyed much international goodwill at this time and in particular, growing links with the new South Africa, which was ready to provide assistance for its recovery.
FRENTE DA LIBERTAÇÃO DE MOÇAMBIQUE (FRELIMO)/MOZAMBIQUE LIBERATION FRONT. As the nationalist determination to oust the Portuguese from Mozambique developed, several liberation movements arose in the early 1960s; these merged in 1962 to form the Frente da Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO) under the leadership of Dr. Eduardo Mondlane. By 1969, when Mondlane was assassinated, FRELIMO had become a powerful organization, although its cohesion was now threatened by a potential split between the leadership that came from the south of the country and the fighting forces that were mainly drawn from the north. For a short time following Mondlane’s death, FRELIMO was ruled by a troika, but before long Samora Machel, one of the three who made up the joint leadership, emerged as the undisputed leader. His military ability, as well as his personal charisma, were to alter the character of the guerrilla war against the Portuguese.
As early as 1964, FRELIMO had extended the war into Tete Province in an attempt to prevent the construction of the Cabora Bassa Dam on the Zambezi; by 1974 (the year of the coup in Lisbon which toppled the Marcello Caetano government) FRELIMO forces were fighting throughout the northern third of the country and as far south as Manica and Sofala provinces, as well as across the Pungwe river. According to Portuguese sources, 3,815 FRELIMO guerrillas were killed between May 1970 and May 1973. In 1974, as white settler farms came under increasing threats of attack, Portugal was forced to transfer 10,000 troops from Angola to Mozambique. Meanwhile, FRELIMO claimed that its greatest victories were being achieved among the liberated people of the country, where new freedoms were being introduced. By this last year of the war against the Portuguese, FRELIMO had long been the only liberation movement and so formed the first independence government of Mozambique in 1975. It became the sole (Marxist) ruling party.
The new government faced daunting problems: not only was Mozambique one of the poorest countries in Africa, but it had suffered from nearly 15 years of warfare and the great majority of its people were rural peasants unaccustomed to urban life, although they had now occupied the towns. FRELIMO lacked the discipline necessary for peace and its members were difficult to control; moreover, after a long, brutal war and memories of past oppression, there were demands for reprisals against former enemies or collaborators with the Portuguese. The readiness of the new government to support the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) in Rhodesia and the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, ensured the immediate enmity of the illegal Smith regime in Rhodesia as well as that of P. W. Botha’s government in South Africa. The result of this enmity was the creation of the Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (RENAMO)/Mozambican National Resistance by Ken Flower, the head of the Rhodesian Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), during 1974–1975, in order to destabilize the new FRELIMO government and leadership.
Discontented members of FRELIMO, including many who did not see any quick rewards resulting from their victory, provided recruits for RENAMO, which soon challenged government authority in many rural areas. By the early 1980s, as the Mozambique economy deteriorated and the war against RENAMO escalated, FRELIMO turned from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), East Germany, and other Communist countries, which until then had been its principal backers, and sought instead to mobilize western support for its cause. By 1983, the war against RENAMO was going badly, FRELIMO forces in the field were ill-equipped and malnourished (and not paid), and often did not wish to fight at all. The Nkomati Accord, which was concluded with South Africa in 1984 by Machel, appeared to make pragmatic sense, even though it was opposed by the hardline members of FRELIMO. In the event, the South Africans did not keep their side of the agreement. By 1988, the greater part of the FRELIMO army, with the exception of a few of the best units, appeared to have disintegrated and the government came to rely increasingly upon troops from Zimbabwe and Tanzania to safeguard its vital cross-country railway routes to Beira and Nacala.
In June 1989, a 12-point position paper on how to end the war with RENAMO was issued by FRELIMO and a peace process was initiated. During 1990, the FRELIMO government under President Joaquim Chissano, radically altered the constitution to pave the way for the switch from a one-party Marxist state to a multi-party system, and in November the government announced the abandonment of Marxism–Leninism, the creed which had been a cornerstone of FRELIMO until that time. The years 1990–1994 witnessed negotiations that finally produced a ceasefire, then peace followed by an amalgamation of the armies of FRELIMO and RENAMO under United Nations auspices. In the legislative elections of 1994, FRELIMO won 44.3 percent of the vote to RENAMO’s 37.7 percent and though FRELIMO formed the new government, it was no longer a sole “ruling party” but one of a multi-party system.
RESISTÊNCIA NACIONAL MOÇAMBICANA (RENAMO)/MOZAMBICAN NATIONAL RESISTANCE. The Mozambique National Resistance, generally known as RENAMO, fought against the Frente da Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO)/Mozambique Liberation Front government, which came to power in Mozambique in 1975, through to the peace of 1992. Then, in 1994, RENAMO took part in nationwide elections.
RENAMO was set up in 1975/1976 by Ken Flower, the head of the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) in Salisbury, Rhodesia, under the illegal Ian Smith government, as a means of destabilizing the new FRELIMO government that supported the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), which then maintained a number of base camps in Mozambique. The original members of RENAMO were recruited from Mozambicans who had fled from the war into Rhodesia.
First operative on the Rhodesian border (Flower’s CIO hoped that RENAMO would supply it with advance information about ZANU movements), by 1979 RENAMO was disrupting the new government with attacks in Manica and Sofala Provinces. When Rhodesia became Zimbabwe in 1980, the new government of Robert Mugabe at once withdrew support from RENAMO, but by then Flower had already persuaded the South African government to take responsibility for supporting RENAMO, which it was willing to do since it saw the movement as a means of destabilizing its Marxist neighbor. During 1983 RENAMO was able to carry out offensives in Nampula and Zambezia Provinces and had developed into a major threat to the stability of independent Mozambique. In August 1983, for example, RENAMO took 24 Swedish aid workers hostage and then forced them to withdraw from the country. On 28 September 1983, the army claimed to have destroyed a RENAMO provincial base at Tome in Luhambane Province. After the signing of the Nkomati Accord (which the Mozambique government had assumed would deprive RENAMO of further assistance from South Africa), RENAMO claimed that it possessed sufficient war materiel to continue fighting for two years and that it was by then active in all 10 provinces of the country.
RENAMO then demanded an end to the one-party state and the creation of a government of national reconciliation, but after tripartite talks had been launched between the Mozambique government, South Africa, and RENAMO, the latter withdrew (2 November) claiming it was not prepared to accept the presence of South African troops on Mozambique soil. By the end of 1984 RENAMO was deploying 21,000 guerrillas; its main targets were convoys, civilians, and foreign aid workers and it was able to disrupt trade between Mozambique and Malawi and Zambia. The power lines to Beira and Maputo were cut during December 1984 and January 1985, and by this time RENAMO had become a major threat to the stability of Mozambique and was interrupting and damaging most aspects of development.
By July 1985, Zimbabwe had committed some 10,000 troops to Mozambique to assist the government in its fight against RENAMO. On 28 August 1985, a combined Mozambique–Zimbabwe force captured the RENAMO headquarters in Sofala Province, including documents which revealed that South Africa was still supporting RENAMO, despite the promise not to do so enshrined in the Nkomati Accord. RENAMO attacks upon government and civilian targets were to continue unabated during 1986, and in July of that year Mozambique accused Malawi of harboring RENAMO rebels. One of the side affects of RENAMO offensives was a growing influx of refugees into South Africa, which then decided to erect an electric fence along a section of its border with Mozambique. In October of that year, thousands of RENAMO forces were expelled from Malawi to return to Mozambique.
The death of President Samora Machel in an air crash (19 October 1986) brought Joaquim Chissano to power as president of Mozambique; and following a meeting between Chissano and President Mugabe of Zimbabwe (15 January 1987), a joint statement declared that they would increase military operations until RENAMO had been eliminated. On 7 February 1987, a RENAMO spokesman in Lisbon said it was ready for talks with the government, provided that all foreign troops were withdrawn from Mozambique. Meanwhile, beginning in January 1986, British military personnel undertook a series of training programs for FRELIMO troops at a base in Zimbabwe. During 1988 and 1989 RENAMO activities continued unabated; they prevented any development from taking place, certainly in the rural areas, as more and more government resources had to be diverted to the war against them.
By 1990, UNICEF estimated that 600,000 people had been killed in the course of the war, that about 494,000 children had died of malnutrition, and that 45 percent of primary education facilities had been destroyed, as well as many health centers. As RENAMO activity continued during 1990, the government came to realize that it had to negotiate and would not be able to win a purely military victory.
Talks were held through 1990 and government reforms during the year, foreshadowing the abandonment of Marxism and moves toward a market economy and multi-partyism, gave point to the talks. On 3 November 1990, President Chissano said “there is no longer any pretext for anyone to continue the violence,” but RENAMO rejected the 1990 constitution because, it argued, the National Assembly was invalid. Negotiations continued through 1991 and 1992, and toward the end of that year, RENAMO finally agreed to take part in national elections. These were held in November 1994, with RENAMO competing in multi-party elections. Though it came second to FRELIMO in the results, it agreed to abide by these. RENAMO had begun as the creature of Smith’s Rhodesia to destabilize Mozambique and it had no discernible philosophy but by the end of a bitter war it demanded—and got—multi-partyism. The most obvious lesson of the RENAMO war was that power should be shared.