Mozambique's first inhabitants were San hunter 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 River
valley and then gradually into the plateau and coastal areas. The Bantu
were farmers and ironworkers.
When Portuguese explorers reached Mozambique in 1498, Arab-trading settlements
had existed along the coast and outlying islands for several centuries.
From about 1500, Portuguese trading posts and forts became regular ports
of call on the new route to the east. Later, traders and prospectors penetrated
the interior regions seeking gold and slaves. Although Portuguese influence
gradually expanded, its power was limited and exercised through individual
settlers who were granted extensive autonomy. As a result, investment lagged
while Lisbon devoted itself to the more lucrative trade with India and
the Far East and to the colonization of Brazil.
By the early 20th century the Portuguese had shifted the administration
of much of the country to large private companies, controlled and financed
mostly by the British, which established railroad lines to neighboring
countries and supplied cheap--often forced--African labor to the mines
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 Mozambique's national integration, its economic
infrastructure, or the skills of its population.
After World War II, while many European nations were granting independence
to their colonies, Portugal clung to the concept that Mozambique and other
Portuguese possessions were overseas provinces of the mother country, and
emigration to the colonies soared. Mozambique's Portuguese population at
the time of independence was about 250,000. 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. After
10 years of sporadic warfare and major political changes in Portugal, Mozambique
became independent on June 25, 1975.
The last 30 years of Mozambique's history have reflected political developments
elsewhere in the 20th century. Following the April 1974 coup in Lisbon,
Portuguese colonialism collapsed. In Mozambique, the military decision
to withdraw occurred within the context of a decade of armed anti-colonial
struggle, initially led by American-educated Eduardo Mondlane, who was
assassinated in 1969. When independence was proclaimed in 1975, the leaders
of FRELIMO's military campaign rapidly established a one-party state allied
to the Soviet bloc and outlawed rival political activity. FRELIMO eliminated
political pluralism, religious educational institutions, and the role of
The new government gave shelter and support to South African (ANC) and
Zimbabwean (ZANU) liberation movements while the governments of apartheid
South Africa and Rhodesia fostered and financed an armed rebel movement
in central Mozambique called the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO).
Civil war, sabotage from neighboring states, and economic collapse characterized
the first decade of Mozambican independence. Also marking this period were
the mass exodus of Portuguese nationals, weak infrastructure, nationalization,
and economic mismanagement. During most of the civil war, the government
was unable to exercise effective control outside of urban areas, many of
which were cut off from the capital. An estimated 1 million Mozambicans
perished during the civil war, 1.7 million took refuge in neighboring states,
and several million more were internally displaced. In the third FRELIMO
party congress in 1983, President Samora Machel conceded the failure of
socialism and the need for major political and economic reforms. He died,
along with several advisers, in a suspicious plane crash.
His successor, Joaquim Chissano, continued the reforms and began peace
talks with RENAMO. The new constitution enacted in 1990 provided for a
multi-party political system, market-based economy, and free elections.
The civil war ended in October 1992 with the Rome General Peace Accords.
Under supervision of the ONUMOZ peacekeeping force of the United Nations,
peace returned to Mozambique.
By mid-1995 the more than 1.7 million Mozambican refugees who had sought
asylum in neighboring Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Zambia, Tanzania, and
South Africa as a result of war and drought had returned, as part of the
largest repatriation witnessed in Sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, a further
estimated 4 million internally displaced returned to their areas of origin.
In 1994 the country held its first democratic elections. Joaquim Chissano
was elected President with 53% of the vote, and a 250-member National Assembly
was voted in with 129 FRELIMO deputies, 112 RENAMO deputies, and 9 representatives
of three smaller parties that formed the Democratic Union (UD). Since its
formation in 1994, the National Assembly has made progress in becoming
a body increasingly more independent of the executive. By 1999, more than
one-half (53%) of the legislation passed originated in the Assembly.
After some delays, in 1998 the country held its first local elections
to provide for local representation and some budgetary authority at the
municipal level. The principal opposition party, RENAMO, boycotted the
local elections, citing flaws in the registration process. Independent
slates contested the elections and won seats in municipal assemblies. Turnout
was very low.
In the aftermath of the 1998 local elections, the government resolved
to make more accommodations to the opposition's procedural concerns for
the second round of multiparty national elections in 1999. Working through
the National Assembly, the electoral law was rewritten and passed by consensus
in December 1998. Financed largely by international partners, a very successful
voter registration was conducted from July to September 1999, providing
voter registration cards to 85% of the potential electorate (more than
7 million voters).
The second general elections were held December 3-5, 1999, with high
voter turnout. International and domestic observers agreed that the voting
process was well organized and went smoothly. Both the opposition and observers
subsequently cited flaws in the tabulation process that, had they not occurred,
might have changed the outcome. In the end, however, international and
domestic observers concluded that the close result of the vote reflected
the will of the people.
President Chissano won the presidency with a margin of 4% points over
the RENAMO-Electoral Union coalition candidate, Afonso Dhlakama, and began
his 5-year term in January 2000. FRELIMO increased its majority in the
National Assembly with 133 out of 250 seats. RENAMO-UE coalition won 116
seats, one went independent, and no third parties are represented.
The opposition coalition did not accept the National Election Commission's
results of the presidential vote and filed a formal complaint to the Supreme
Court. One month after the voting, the court dismissed the opposition's
challenge and validated the election results. The opposition did not file
a complaint about the results of the legislative vote.