Mozambican Civil War

Mozambican Civil War
Mozambican Civil War
Part of the Cold War
Date 1977 - 1992
Location Mozambique
Result Peace treaty
and multiparty elections
Mozambique FRELIMO Mz renamo3.PNG RENAMO United Nations ONUMOZ
Commanders and leaders
Mozambique Samora Machel
Mozambique Joaquim Chissano
Mz renamo3.PNG Afonso Dhlakama
Casualties and losses

The Mozambican Civil War began in 1977, two years after the end of the war of independence. 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 900,000 died in fighting and from starvation, five million civilians were displaced, many were made amputees by landmines, a legacy from the war that continues to plague Mozambique.[1][2] Fighting ended in 1992 and the country's first multi-party elections were held in 1994.



Mozambican resistance began to surface, as some groups within the Mozambican society eventually started to blame the Portuguese authorities for centuries of exploitation, oppression and neglect.[citation needed] After a successful wave of independence movements in other African territories, cold war powers and the international community started to suggest that Portugal should leave its territories in Africa. Sentiment for Mozambique's own national independence developed and on 25 June 1962 several Mozambican anti-Portuguese political groups formed the Mozambique Liberation Front (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.[citation needed] 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, Soviet Union and China.

On September 25, 1964, Frelimo soldiers, 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 Portuguese colonial government. Frelimo militants were able to evade pursuit and surveillance by employing 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 until FRELIMO's ultimate disbanding. In the early 1970s, Gordian Knot Operation and the following Portuguese campaigns were militarily successful in destroying guerrilla forces and support bases in the territory. But the expense in blood and treasure, not military defeat, was costly for Lisbon; the Portuguese army was never destroyed on the battlefield, although some of its officers were converted to Frelimo's communist ideology for Portugal.

On 25 April 1974 the authoritarian regime of Estado Novo had been overthrown in Lisbon, a move that was supported by many Portuguese workers and peasants. The Armed Forces Movement (Movimento das Forças Armadas) in Portugal pledged a return to civil liberties and an end to the fighting in all colonies (or the overseas provinces). 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. When this was made known to the public, several thousand of Portuguese people fled the newly-independent country and, as a result of the exodus, the economy and social organization of Mozambique collapsed. On June 25, 1975 Mozambique gained independence from Portugal, with Samora Machel as the Head of State.

A couple of years later, Mozambican RENAMO rebels, armed and aided by South Africa, would start to fight against the Marxist-oriented Government of FRELIMO, which had come to power after Portugal granted its African overseas province independence in 1975.

Civil war begins

In 1976[citation needed] a new resistance movement was formed called the Mozambique Resistance Movement (RENAMO). This force was formed to counter the Frelimo government and to disrupt the logistical flow of weapons to ZANLA guerrilla fighters based in Mozambique's border areas who were fighting against neighboring Rhodesia. After Rhodesia became Zimbabwe South Africa then became Renamo's chief sponsor. South Africa, just like Rhodesia before was determined to prevent guerrillas, this time from the African National Congress (ANC), from basing themselves in Mozambique. Renamo was led by Afonso Dhlakama. Many Portuguese nationals and Mozambicans of Portuguese heritage left again in mass exodus.

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 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 the end of the cold war, and apartheid crumbling in South Africa, support for Renamo was drying up in South Africa and 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 4 October 1992, the Rome General Peace Accords, negotiated by the Community of Sant'Egidio with the support of the United Nations, 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.


  1. ^ USAID. [3]
  2. ^ Scaruffi, Paul. War and genocides of the 20th century


  • 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

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