Background Notes: Mozambique
Republic of Mozambique
Area: 799,380 sq. km.; about twice the size of California.
Major cities: Maputo (Capital, pop. 1,100,000 est.) Beira, Matola, Nampula,
Quelimane, Tete, Nacala.
Terrain: Varies from lowlands to high plateau.
Climate: Tropical to subtropical.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Mozambican(s).
Population: 17.7 million (1997 projection for 2001).
Annual population growth rate: 2.9% (1997).
Annual economic growth rate (GDP) 2000: 2.1%; approximately 8% average for
1996-2000 timeframe, with an estimated growth of 14.9% for the first half of
Ethnic groups: Makua, Tsonga, Makonde, Shangaan, Shona, Sena, Ndau, and
other indigenous groups, and about 10,000 Europeans, 35,000 Euro-Africans,
and 15,000 South Asians.
Religions: Christian 30%, Muslim 17%, indigenous African and other beliefs
Languages: Portuguese (official), indigenous.
Education: Mean years of schooling (adults over 25): Men 2.1, women 1.2.
Primary school attendance (1999)--32.6%. Adult literacy (1999)--39.5%.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2000)--134/1,000. Life expectancy
Work force: (10.7 million est. 1998): Agriculture--88%; industry and
commerce--8.5%; public sector-- 3%.
Type: Multi-party democracy.
Independence: June 25, 1975.
Constitution: November 1990.
Branches: Executive--President, Council of Ministers. Legislative--National
Assembly. Judicial-- Supreme Court, provincial, district, and municipal
Administrative subdivisions: 10 provinces and the capital district of
Political parties: Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO);
Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO); numerous small parties.
Suffrage: Universal adult, 18 years and older.
Flag: Horizontal green, black and yellow bars separated by white stripes.
The national emblem, a book covered by a crossed rifle and a hoe
superimposed on a yellow star, is centered on a red triangle background on
the left side of the flag.
GDP (2000): $3.83 billion.
Per capita income (2000 est.): $222.
Natural resources: Coal, natural gas, titanium ore, tantalite, graphite,
iron ore, and semi-precious stones
Agriculture (50% of GDP): Products--cashews, maize, cotton, sugar, sorghum,
cassava, copra, tea, citrus fruit, and bananas.
Industry (35% of GDP): Types--consumer goods and light machinery.
Trade: Major suppliers of imports, in declining order: South Africa,
Portugal, Japan, United States, France, China, and India. 2000 imports:
$1,217 million. Major imports--equipment and machinery, combustible fuels,
vehicles, spare parts, cereal grains, and alumina. Major markets for
exports, in declining order: Zimbabwe, South Africa, Portugal, Spain,
India, United States, and Japan. 2000 exports: $723 million. Major
exports--aluminum, shrimp, fish, cashews, cotton, fruit, and sugar.
Mozambique's major ethnic groups encompass numerous sub-groups with diverse
languages, dialects, cultures, and histories.
The north-central provinces of Zambezia and Nampula are the most populous,
with about 45% of the population. The estimated 4 million Makua are the
dominant group in the northern part of the country; the Sena and Ndau are
prominent in the Zambezi valley, and the Tsonga and Shangaan dominate in
Despite the influence of Islamic coastal traders and European colonizers,
the people of Mozambique have largely retained an indigenous culture based
on subsistence agriculture. Mozambique's most highly developed art forms
have been wood sculpture, for which the Makonde in northern Mozambique are
particularly renowned, and dance. The middle and upper classes continue to
be heavily influenced by the Portuguese colonial and linguistic heritage.
During the colonial era, Christian missionaries were active in Mozambique,
and many foreign clergy remain in the country. While precise statistics are
difficult to obtain, most observers believe that about 20%-30% of the
population is Christian, 15%-20% Muslim, with the rest adhering to
Under the colonial regime, educational opportunities for black Mozambicans
were limited, and 93% of the population was illiterate. After independence,
the government placed a high priority on expanding education, which reduced
the illiteracy rate to about two-thirds as primary school enrollment
increased. Unfortunately, in recent years school construction and teacher
training enrollments have not kept up with population increases, and the
quality of education has decreased.
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 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, development
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. Because policies were designed
to benefit white settlers and the Portuguese homeland, little attention was
paid until the last years of colonial rule to the development of
Mozambique's 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. FRELIMO quickly
established a one-party Marxist state and outlawed rival political activity.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
A Brief History of Mozambican Politics
The last 25 years of Mozambique's history have encapsulated the political
developments of the entire 20th century. Portuguese colonialism collapsed
in 1974 after a decade of armed 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, eliminating
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 an armed rebel movement in central
Mozambique called the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO). Civil war,
sabotage from neighboring states, and economic collapse--first from the mass
exodus of Portuguese nationals and the weak infrastructure left by them, and
then from nationalization and economic mismanagement--characterized the
first decade of Mozambican independence. During most of the civil war the
government was unable to exercise effective control outside of urban areas.
1 million Mozambicans perished during the civil war, 1.7 million took refuge
in neighboring states, and several million more were internally displaced.
President Samora Machel had already conceded the need for political and
economic reforms before his death, along with several key advisers, in a
suspicious plane crash in 1986.
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.
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 had largely returned to
their areas of origin.
Under supervision of the ONUMOZ peacekeeping force of the United Nations,
stability returned to Mozambique. In 1994 the country held its first
democratic elections. Chissano was elected President with 53% of the vote.
A 250-member National Assembly was formed in December 1994, comprised of 129
FRELIMO deputies, 112 RENAMO deputies, and 9 representatives of three
smaller parties that formed the Democratic Union (UD). Since its inception,
the National Assembly has made slow but steady progress toward becoming a
body increasingly more independent of the executive.
After some delays, in 1998 the country held its first local elections to
decentralize power and some budgetary authority at the municipal level. The
principal opposition parties boycotted these local elections, citing flaws
in the registration process; some independent slates contested the elections
and won seats on municipal councils. 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 multi-party national elections in 1999. Working with
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. International
and domestic observers agreed that the voting process was well organized and
went smoothly. Both the opposition and observers subsequently cited
irregularities in the tabulation process that marred the exercise.
International and domestic observers, however, all concluded these did not
influence the outcome of the vote.
The opposition coalition did not accept the National Elections Commission's
results 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. President Chissano won with a margin of less than 4% over
the RENAMO-Electoral Union coalition candidate, Afonso Dhlakama, and began
his 5-year term in January 2000. FRELIMO retained its majority in the
National Assembly with 133 out of 250 seats. The RENAMO-UE coalition has
116 seats; there is one independent; no third parties are represented.
Principal Government Officials
President--Joaquim Alberto Chissano
Prime Minister--Pascoal Mocumbi
Minister of Foreign Affairs & Cooperation--Leonardo Simao
Minister of National Defense--Tobias Dai
Minister of Planning and Finance--Luisa Diogo
Minister of the Interior--Almerino Manhenje
Minister of Industry and Commerce--Carlos Morgado
Ambassador to the United States--Armando Panguene (expected to arrive in
Washington in early 2002)
At the end of the civil war in 1992, Mozambique ranked among the poorest
countries in the world. In the ensuing decade, it has experienced a notable
economic turnaround. The year 2000's per capita GDP is estimated to have
increased to $222; in the mid-1980s, it was $120. With a high foreign debt
(originally $5.7 billion at 1998 net present value) and a good track record
on economic reform, Mozambique was the second African country to receive
debt relief under the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Country) Initiative. In
April 2000, Mozambique qualified for the Enhanced HIPC program, as well, and
attained its completion point in September 2001. This led to the Paris Club
members agreeing in November 2001 to substantially reduce the remaining
bilateral debt. This will lead to the complete forgiveness of a
considerable volume of bilateral debt, including that owed to the United
The resettlement of war refugees and successful economic reform have led to
a high growth rate: the average growth rate from 1993 to 1999 was 6.7%;
from 1997 to 1999, it averaged more than 10% per year. The devastating
floods of early 2000 slowed GDP growth to 2.1%; early estimates point to a
recovery in 2001. The government projects the economy to continue to expand
between 7%-10% a year for the next 5 years, although rapid expansion in the
future hinges on several major foreign investment projects; continued
economic reform; and the revival of the agriculture, transportation, and
tourism sectors. More than 75% of the population engage in subsistence
agriculture, which has largely resumed since the end of the civil war.
Ensuring that Mozambique's economic growth benefits this population is a
major challenge for the government.
The government's tight control of spending and the money supply, combined
with financial sector reform, successfully reduced inflation from 70% in
1994 to less than 5% from 1998-99. Rates spiked in 2000, however, to a rate
of 12.7% due to economic disruptions stemming from the devastating floods.
Inflation has stabilized in the second half of 2001. The value of
Mozambique's currency, the metical, lost nearly 50% of its value against the
dollar since December 2000, although in late 2001 it began to stabilize.
Extensive Economic Reform
Economic reform has been extensive. Over 1,200 state-owned enterprises
(mostly small) have been privatized. Preparations for privatization and/or
sector liberalization are underway for the remaining parastatals, including
telecommunications, electricity, water, airports, ports, and the railroad.
The government frequently selects a strategic foreign investor when
privatizing a parastatal. Additionally, customs duties have been reduced,
and customs management has been streamlined and reformed under an ongoing
assistance contract with a private firm. The government introduced a new
value-added tax in 1999 as part of its comprehensive reform efforts. Plans
for 2001 included Commercial Code reform, continued civil service reform,
improved government audit and inspection capability, implementation of the
1997 Land Law, and introduction of the private management of water systems
in major cities.
Improving Trade Imbalance
In recent years, imports have outnumbered exports by about 2:1, an
improvement over the 4:1 ratio of the immediate post-war years. In 2000
imports were $1,217 million, and exports were $723 million. Support
programs provided by development partners have compensated for shortfalls.
The medium-term outlook for exports is encouraging, since a number of
foreign investment projects should lead to substantial export growth and a
better trade balance. MOZAL, a large aluminum smelter that commenced
production in mid-2000, has greatly expanded the nation's trade volume.
Traditional Mozambican exports include cashews, shrimp, fish, copra, sugar,
cotton, tea, and citrus fruits. Efforts are underway to rehabilitate these
industries. Mozambique is becoming less dependent on imports for basic food
and manufactured goods because of steady increases in local production.
SADC Trade Protocol
In December 1999, the Council of Ministers approved the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) Trade Protocol. The Protocol will create a
free trade zone among more than 200 million consumers in the SADC region.
Beginning the 10-year implementation process of the SADC Trade Protocol is a
major goal for the region in 2002.
While allegiances dating back to the liberation struggle remain relevant,
Mozambique's foreign policy has become increasingly pragmatic. The twin
pillars of Mozambique's foreign policy are the maintenance of good
relations with its neighbors and maintenance and expansion of ties to
current and potential development partners.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, Mozambique's foreign policy was
inextricably linked to the struggles for majority rule in Rhodesia and South
Africa as well as superpower competition and the Cold War. Mozambique's
decision to enforce UN sanctions against Rhodesia and deny that country
access to the sea led Ian Smith's regime to undertake overt and covert
actions to destabilize the country. While the change of government in
Zimbabwe in 1980 removed this threat, the apartheid regime in South Africa
continued to pressure Mozambique.
The 1984 Nkomati Accord, while failing in its goal of ending South African
support to RENAMO, opened initial diplomatic contacts between the Mozambican
and South African Governments. This process gained momentum with South
Africa's own implementation of internal political reforms, which culminated
in the establishment of full diplomatic relations in October 1993. While
relations with neighboring Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, and Tanzania may show
occasional strains, Mozambique's ties to these countries remain strong.
In the years immediately following its independence, Mozambique benefited
from considerable assistance from some Western countries, notably the
Scandinavians, but moved into the Soviet Union's sphere of influence.
Moscow and its allies became Mozambique's primary economic, military, and
political supporters, and its foreign policy reflected this linkage. This
began to change in the mid-1980s; in 1984 Mozambique joined the World Bank
and International Monetary Fund. Western aid quickly replaced Soviet
support, with the Scandinavians, the United States, Netherlands, and the
European Union increasingly important sources of development assistance.
Italy also maintains a profile in Mozambique as a result of its key role
during the peace process. Relations with Portugal, the former colonial
power, are complex and of increasing importance as Portuguese investors play
a significant role in Mozambique's economy.
Mozambique is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement and ranks among the
moderate members of the African bloc in the United Nations and other
international organizations. Mozambique also belongs to the Organization of
African Unity/African Union and the Southern African Development Community.
In 1994, the government became a full member of the Organization of the
Islamic Conference, in part to broaden its base of international support but
also to please the country's sizeable Muslim population. Similarly, in
early 1996 Mozambique joined its Anglophone neighbors in the Commonwealth.
In the same year, Mozambique became a founding member and the first
President of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), and
maintains close ties with Lusophone states.
Relations between the United States and Mozambique are good and steadily
improving. This state of comity, spurred by the end of the superpower
confrontation on the continent, South Africa's democratic transition, and
most importantly, Mozambique's own internal changes, bodes well for
continued strong ties. By 1993, Mozambique had become one of the largest
recipients of U.S. aid in Sub-Saharan Africa, due in part to significant
emergency food assistance in the wake of the 1991-93 southern African
drought. During the UN-financed peace process leading up to elections in
October 1994, the United States served as a member of several of the most
important commissions established to monitor implementation of the Rome
General Peace Accords. The United States, currently the largest bilateral
donor to the country, plays a leading role in donor efforts to assist
Mozambique with its ongoing economic and political transitions.
The U.S. Embassy opened in Maputo on November 8, 1975, and the first
American ambassador arrived in March 1976. In that same year, the United
States extended a $10 million grant to the Government of Mozambique to help
compensate for the costs of enforcing sanctions against Rhodesia. In 1977,
however, largely motivated by a concern with human rights violations, the
U.S. Congress prohibited the provision of development aid to Mozambique
without a presidential certification that such aid would be in the foreign
policy interests of the United States. Relations hit a nadir in March 1981,
when the Government of Mozambique expelled four members of the U.S. Embassy
staff. In response, the United States suspended plans to provide
development aid and to name a new ambassador to Mozambique. Relations
between the two countries languished in a climate of stagnation and mutual
Contacts between the two countries continued in the early 1980s as part of
the U.S. administration's conflict resolution efforts in the region. In
late 1983, a new U.S. ambassador arrived in Maputo and the first Mozambican
envoy to the United States arrived in Washington, signaling a thaw in the
bilateral relationship. The United States subsequently responded to
Mozambique's economic reform and drift away from Moscow's embrace by
initiating an aid program in 1984. President Samora Machel paid a
symbolically important official working visit to the United States in 1985,
where he met President Reagan. President Chissano met with President
Clinton in November 1998; previously, he had met with Presidents Reagan
(October 1987) and Bush (March 1990), and also with Secretary of State Baker
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Sharon P. Wilkinson
Deputy Chief of Mission--Dennis B. Hankins
USAID Mission Director--Cynthia Rozell
USAID Deputy Mission Director--David Hess
Public Affairs Officer--Robin Smith
Defense Attache-- (vacant as of December 12, 2001)
Peace Corps Directo--John Grabowski
Centers for Disease Control Director--Alfredo Vergara
Administrative Officer--Jonita I. Whitaker
Regional Security Officer--Paul Kennedy
Economic/Political Section Head--Eric P. Whitaker
Economic/Political Officer--Bryan D. Hunt
Economic/Commercial Officer--James B. Story
Consular Officer--Amy Scanlon
Offices of the U.S. Mission
U.S. Embassy--193 Avenida Kenneth Kaunda; P.O. Box 783; Tel: (258-1)
49-27-97, after hours (258-1) 49-07-23; Fax: (258-1) 49-01-14.
USAID Mission--107 Rua Faria de Sousa; Tel: (258-1) 49-07-26, after hours
(258-1) 49-16-77; Fax: (258-1) 49-20-98.
Public Affairs Office/Martin Luther King Library--542 Avenida Mao Tse Tung;
Tel: (258-1) 49-19-16; Fax: (258-1) 49-19-18.
The security situation in Mozambique requires caution. Street crime and
carjackings in urban areas occur frequently. Road travel can be hazardous
and should not be undertaken after daylight hours. The abundance of weapons
remaining from the country's civil war and police who are poorly trained,
equipped, and motivated contribute to a serious crime situation.
Additionally, up to 1 million land mines were planted throughout Mozambique
during the last three decades of conflict, and while mine clearing
operations are currently underway, surface travel off main highways should
be approached with caution.
Before visiting Mozambique, consult the Consular Information Sheet. Visit
the Consular Section of the Embassy after arrival for security updates and
See http://www.state.gov/r/pa/bgn/ for all Background notes
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