U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Mozambique, July 1996
Bureau of African Affairs

Prepared and released by the Bureau of African Affairs, 
Office of Southern African Affairs

July 1996
Official Name: Republic of Mozambique



Area: 789,800 sq. km. (303,769 sq. mi.); about twice the size of 
Major cities: Maputo (Capital, pop. 1,100,000 est.)  
Beira, Quelimane, Tete, Nampula, Nacala. 
Terrain: Varies from lowlands to high plateau.
Climate: Tropical to subtropical.


Nationality: Noun and adjective--Mozambican(s).
Population (1996 est.): 17 million.
Annual growth rates (1995): Population--2.9%;  Economy--3.6%.
Ethnic groups: Makua, Tsonga, Makonde, Shangaan, Shona, Sena, and 
other indigenous tribal groups; about 10,000 Europeans, 35,000 Euro-
Africans, 15,000 Indians.
Religions: Christian 30%, Muslim 30%, indigenous African and other 
beliefs 40%.
Languages: Portuguese (official), indigenous.
Education: Mean years of schooling (adults over 25): men--2.1, 
women--1.2. Attendance--40%. Literacy--about one-third.
Health: Infant mortality rate--140-173/1,000. Life expectancy--44 yrs. 
male. 48 yrs. female.(1995).
Work force (8.5 million est. 1995): Agriculture--85%. Industry and 
commerce--10%. Services--5%.


Type: Multiparty democracy.
Independence: June 25, 1975.
Constitution: November 1990.
Branches: Executive--President, Council of Ministers. Legislative--
National Assembly. 
Judicial--Supreme Court; provincial, district, and  municipal courts.
Administrative subdivisions: 10 provinces and the capital, Maputo.
Political parties: Front for Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO). 
Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO).
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 weapon and 
hoe superimposed on a yellow star--is on a red triangle at left.


GDP (1996): $1.58 billion.
Per capita income (1996 est.): $87.
Natural resources: Coal, iron ore, natural gas, titanium sands, semi-
precious stones.
Agriculture (50% of GDP): Products--cashews, maize, cotton, sugar, 
copra, tea.
Industry (35% of GDP): Types--consumer goods, light machinery.
Trade (1995): Exports--$160 million: shrimp (accounting for over one-
third of exports), cashews, cotton, sugar, and tea. Major markets--South 
Africa and Western Europe. Imports (1995)--$960 million: refined 
petroleum products, machinery, vehicles, spare parts and consumer 
goods. Major suppliers--South Africa, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, U.K., 
Portugal, and Japan.
Official exchange rate (July 1996): 11,175 meticais=U.S. $1.


Mozambique's 10 major ethnic groups encompass numerous subgroups 
with diverse languages, dialects, cultures, and history; the largest are 
the Makua and Tsonga.

The north-central provinces of Zambezia and Nampula are the most 
populous, with about 40% 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 
dominate in southern Mozambique.

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 modern elite continues 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 impossible to obtain, most observers believe that 
about 20 to 30% of the population is Christian, 20-30% Muslim, with 
the rest mainly influenced by traditional beliefs.

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, reducing the illiteracy rate to about two-thirds as 
primary school enrollment increased. Unfortunately, in recent years, 
school enrollments have not kept up with population increases and the 
quality of education has decreased.


Mozambique's first inhabitants were Bushmanoid hunters 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 hinterland 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 colonization of 

In the early 20th century, the Portuguese 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 by 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 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 immigration to the colonies 
soared. Mozambique's Portuguese population at the time of 
independence was over 200,000. The drive for Mozambican 
independence developed apace, and in 1962 several anti-Portuguese 
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.

A civil war between the FRELIMO government and the Mozambican 
National Resistance (RENAMO) began in 1976. RENAMO originally 
emerged as a creation of the Ian Smith regime in Southern Rhodesia to 
destabilize the Mozambican government which supported Zimbabwean 
and South African liberation movements. After Southern Rhodesia 
became Zimbabwe in 1980, the South African government took over 
the external sponsorship of RENAMO and began providing the 
insurgents with logistical support and training. Despite its brutal 
methods and documented human rights abuses, RENAMO was also 
able to draw upon strong internal dissatisfaction with FRELIMO to 
garner some support among local populations.

On March 5, 1984, the Government's of Mozambique and South Africa 
signed the Nkomati accords, which committed both countries to cease 
hostilities against the other and to search for ways to increase economic 
cooperation. Thereafter, Mozambique severely restricted African 
National Congress (ANC) activities within Mozambique, and the 
volume of official South African support for RENAMO diminished.

Mozambique's first president, Samora Machel, died when his aircraft 
crashed near Mbunzi on South Africa's border with Mozambique in 
October 1986. Machel was succeeded by Joaquim Alberto Chissano, 
who had served as Foreign Minister from 1975 until Machel's death.

Despite a reduction in external support to RENAMO, the government 
was unable to defeat the insurgents. As early as 1980, the war's 
stalemate had led the two sides to begin peace talks in Rome under the 
auspices of Italy and the Catholic Church. Not until December 1990, 
however, did FRELIMO and RENAMO agree to a partial cease-fire 
covering two of the country's principal transportation arteries: the 
Limpopo and Beira corridors. The partial cease-fire continued through 
mid-1992. Though the negotiations only progressed slowly during 
1991 and 1992, the parties were able to agree on three protocols 
regarding the electoral system, political parties, and the structure of the 
talks. In June 1992, the United States was invited to become an official 
observer to the talks, and the General Peace Accord was signed in 
October 1992. A UN Peacekeeping Force (ONUMOZ) successfully 
oversaw the cease-fire and the two year transition to multiparty 
elections (see below). The last ONUMOZ contingents departed 
Mozambique in early 1995. 

By mid-1995, the over 1.7 million refugees who had sought asylum in 
neighboring Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Zambia, Tanzania, and 
South Africa as a result of war and drought had returned to 
Mozambique, as part of the largest repatriation witnessed in sub-
Saharan Africa. Additionally, a further estimated 4 million internally 
displaced persons had largely returned to their areas of origin.


Until November 1990, Mozambique was formally a socialist, one-party 
state ruled by FRELIMO. As early as 1983, the government began to 
introduce various economic and political reforms aimed at 
transforming Mozambique into a more pluralistic society and the pace 
of reform accelerated after 1987.

Those efforts culminated in the enactment of a new constitution in 
November 1990 which provided for a multiparty political system, a 
market-based economy, and free elections. In 1991, FRELIMO party 
activities and government responsibilities were officially separated, and 
mass organizations created by FRELIMO (such as the worker, youth, 
and women's groups) declared themselves independent, autonomous 
entities. However, FRELIMO has maintained a de facto monopoly over 
the government and many societal organizations.

Following enactment of constitutional guarantees for a multiparty 
political system, political activity in the country increased. During the 
country's first multi-party democratic elections in October 1994, 14 
parties contested seats in the National Assembly and 12 candidates ran 
for President. The international donor community played a major role 
in financing and supervising the elections, which were held under the 
formal supervision of an independent National Elections Commission. 
The polls were monitored and pronounced generally free and fair by 
the UN and other international organizations.

Opposition parties, including RENAMO, accepted the results despite 
their complains of irregularities. Chissano was elected president by a 
margin of 53-34% over RENAMO leader Afonso Dhlakama and 
FRELIMO gained a narrow majority in the National Assembly. 
RENAMO made a strong showing, outpolling FRELIMO in five 
central and northern provinces, including the two most populous.

The National Assembly, after a rocky start in which RENAMO walked 
out to protest the election of the Speaker by secret vote, has steadily 
matured. Its effectiveness is limited, however, as the Assembly has yet 
to develop as a check on executive power and suffers from a lack of 
resources and experience.

Principal Government Officials

President--Joaquim Alberto Chissano
Prime Minister--Pascoal Mocumbi
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Leonardo Simao
Minister of Defense--Aguiar Mazula
Minister of Planning and Finance--Tomaz Salomao
Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism--Oldemiro Baloi
Ambassador to the United States--Marcos Namashula


Prior to independence in 1975, the economy of Mozambique was based 
on the export of agricultural products to Portugal and associated 
services, e.g. shipping and transportation. A limited manufacturing 
sector produced some products for domestic consumption. With the 
exodus of 250,000 resident Portuguese after independence, the country 
lost most of its entrepreneurial and technical talent. FRELIMO's 
political leadership immediately embarked on replacing colonial 
mercantilism with Marxism. Private enterprises were nationalized, 
collective farms created, and centralized planning adopted. Armed 
resistance from opposition RENAMO forces easily succeeded  in 
rapidly choking off trade and industry through systematic sabotage of 
the country's infrastructure. By the mid-1980s, the Mozambican 
economy was in disarray.

Economic reform began in 1984 when Mozambique joined the Bretton 
Woods institutions (World Bank and IMF) and the Lome Convention. 
Until 1993, progress was painstakingly slow and shrouded by ongoing 
civil war, seasonal droughts, and a lingering distrust of free market 
principles within FRELIMO. Corruption found fertile ground and 
flourished until it became a real problem in the 1990s. Since 1993, the 
pace of market oriented reform has quickened and substantial foreign 
assistance was restoring much of the nation's basic infrastructure.

For now, the country's beleaguered economy is entirely dependent 
upon foreign assistance and, even under the brightest of scenarios, will 
continue to be so for the next 3-5 years. In recent years, annual foreign 
assistance pledges have totaled $1 billion, with about two-thirds to 
three-quarters actually being disbursed in any given year. This 
compares to an official GDP of $1.6 billion. The country's large foreign 
debt of $5.2 billion ($1.6 billion to the former Soviet Union) has cost 
the country less than $50 million to service, but these charges will 
grow as grace periods lapse. Mozambique is seeking debt relief along 
with many other African countries.

An estimated 80% of Mozambique's population relies upon subsistence 
agriculture and fishing to survive. The principal staple is corn;  wet rice 
is also grown in the natural flood plains of the country's many rivers;  
but all wheat is imported. Time needed to resettle those displaced by 
war and reestablish rural trading and transportation networks, coupled 
with two devastating droughts, has slowed Mozambique's post-war 
effort to regain self-sufficiency in food production. Hopes run high that 
1996-97 will prove different. 

Business activity in Mozambique is centered upon import/export 
trading. Foreign assistance programs supply the foreign exchange 
required to purchase imports of goods and services. At nearly $1 
billion, official imports are five times official exports. These figures 
exclude a vibrant and growing informal sector that conducts much of 
the trade along the porous borders with six neighboring countries and 
outside of the formal economy. Historically, principal exports have 
been shrimp, cashews, copra, sugar, cotton, tea, and citrus fruits. 
Private initiatives in each of these areas are currently being undertaken. 
These initiatives, coupled with the rehabilitation of electricity 
transmission from the giant Cahora Bassa hydro-electric dam in South 
Africa and Zimbabwe;  proposed construction of a natural gas pipeline 
to South Africa;  and reform of transportation services  could make a 
major impact on foreign exchange earnings in the future. The export of 
minerals could also be a source of future foreign exchange earnings.

What manufacturing industry there is has either recently been 
privatized or is currently undergoing privatization. Obsolete and poorly 
maintained capital equipment coupled with the lack of managerial 
capacity and an excess of employees has caused a number of 
privatizations to immediately fail. On the other hand, foreign managed 
privatizations, most notable Portuguese and South African, have been 
scoring some successes, particularly in plastic products, tires, cashew 
processing, milling, beverages, and construction materials. Practically 
all manufacturing is located in the major urban areas of Maputo, Beira, 
and Nampula, which are situated along historic transportation corridors 
to neighboring countries.

All transportation corridors are receiving increased attention from 
neighboring states and foreign investors, but none more than the 
Maputo (or Limpopo) corridor, the object of a high level bilateral 
initiative between the South African and Mozambican governments. A 
major sticking point, however, has been the desire of the Mozambican 
government to limit the level of private management in port and rail 
operations. The port and rail authority continues to be widely criticized 
for inefficiency, mismanagement, and corruption,

In the past few years, over 500 privatizations have been accomplished, 
most of which involve small enterprises. More recently, larger 
enterprises have been subject to privatization. In 1996, the government 
plans to privatize the country's largest commercial bank, and a number  
of sizable manufacturing companies. Other reform measures being 
considered include the privatization of customs operations, customs 
and tax reform, and the introduction of competition and/or private 
participation to the transportation, energy, and telecommunications 


While allegiances dating back to the liberation struggle remain 
relevant, Mozambique's foreign policy has become increasingly 
pragmatic and less ideological. The twin pillars of Mozambique's 
foreign policy are its desire for good relations with its neighbors and 
the need to maintain and expand ties to current and potential donor 

During its first two decades, 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 principled decision to enforce UN sanctions against 
Southern 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 majority rule in Zimbabwe in 1980 removed this threat, 
the apartheid regimes in South Africa continued to keep the pressure on 
Mozambique. The 1984 Nkomati accord, which provided the 
beginnings of a political and economic accommodation with South 
Africa thus marked a watershed in Mozambique's history. 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 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, 
notable the Scandinavians, but quickly fell under the Soviet Union's 
sphere of influence. During these years, Moscow and its allies became 
Mozambique's primary economic, military, and political supporters. In 
exchange, Mozambique's foreign policy was closely linked to the goals 
of its patrons. This began to change in the mid-1980s and notably, in 
1984, when Mozambique joined the World Bank and International 
Monetary Fund. Western aid quickly displaced Soviet largess in 
supporting the Mozambican state. While the Scandinavians continue to 
provide significant amounts of aid, the United States, the Netherlands, 
and the European Union are increasingly important sources of 
development assistance. Italy also maintains a high profile in 
Mozambique as a result of its key role during the peace process. 
Relations with Portugal, the former colonial power, are close 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 and the Southern African Development Community, 
which is increasingly assuming a political, as well as economic role. 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 sizable Muslim population. Similarly, in 
early-1996 Mozambique joined the Commonwealth, an organization 
which includes all of its anglophone neighbors. At the same time, 
Mozambique will be a founding member of the community of 
Portuguese language countries when that organization is launched in 


Although the United States was quick to recognize Mozambique's 
independence from Portugal (establishing diplomatic relations with the 
new country on September 23, 1975), the relationship between he two 
countries quickly soured. The turn-around began in the mid-1980s with 
Mozambique's shift out of the Soviet orbit. By the early-1990s, the 
relationship was markedly improved. The U.S. played a leading role in 
providing assistance during Mozambique's worst drought this century 
in the early-1990s and was also a key actor in the peace process that led 
to elections in October 1994.

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 Rhodesia 
sanctions. 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 U.S. suspended plans to provide development aid and to 
name a new ambassador to Mozambique. Relations between the two 
countries were then firmly mired 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 U.S. 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. For his part, President Chissano has met with 
Presidents Reagan (October 1987) and Bush (March 1990), and also 
with Secretary of State Baker (July 1992) since replacing Machel.

The bilateral relationship has been fostered by the end of the 
superpower confrontation on the continent, South Africa democratic 
transition, and most importantly, Mozambique's own internal changes. 
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 U.N.-financed peace process leading up to elections in October 
1994, the U.S. served as a member of several of the most important 
commissions established to monitor implementation of the Rome 
Accords. The United States continues to play a leading role in donor 
efforts to assist Mozambique's on-going economic and political 
transitions and is currently the largest bilateral donor to the country. 
Vocal U.S. support for reform at times is perceived as an irritant in the 
bilateral relationship, especially by hard-liners within the government 
who are resisting these changes.

Principal U.S. Officials

Ambassador--Dennis C. Jett
Deputy Chief of Mission--P. Michael McKinley
Political Officer--Jon Danilowicz
Economic/Commercial Officer--Joe Ripley
Director, USAID Mission--Jay Smith
Public Affairs Officer--Adrienne O'Neal
Defense Attache--LTC Paul Keller

Offices of the U.S. Mission

U.S. Embassy--193 Avenida Kenneth Kaunda, P.O. Box 783; Tel.: 
(258) (1) 492-797, after hours (258) (1) 490-723; Fax: (258) (1) 490-
114; Telex: 6-143 AMEMB MO.

USAID Mission--107 Rua Faria de Sousa; Tel.: (258) (1) 490-726, 
after hours (258) (1) 491-677; Fax: (258) (1) 492-098; Telex: 6-180 

USIS Office--542 Avenida Mao Tse Tung; Tel.: (258) (1) 491-916; 
Fax: (258) (1) 491-918.


For information on foreign economic trends, commercial development, 
production, trade regulations, and tariff rates, contact the International 
Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, 
DC, 20230, or any Commerce Department district office.


Customs and currency: Visas are required and can be obtained for a fee 
through the Mozambican Embassy in Washington, its Mission in New 
York, through the government agency or firm in Mozambique that the 
traveler intends to visit, or by applying directly by cable with prepaid 
response to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Maputo at least six 
weeks in advance. The government imposes exorbitant fines for 
overstaying visas. Money can be exchanged at the airport, banks and 
money-changing firms, and should not be exchanged on the black 
market. Mozambican currency may not be taken in or out of the 
country. Travelers may not take out of the country any foreign 
exchange that they do not declare upon entry.

Climate and clothing: Light summer clothing is worn generally from 
mid-August to mid-May; light woolens are suitable the rest of the year.

Health: Standards in Maputo and other urban areas are better than other 
parts of the country, but exercise caution. In Maputo, boil water before 
drinking; many find it prudent to drink bottled water. There are a 
limited number of doctors, and hospitals are overcrowded and poorly 
equipped. Adequate medical care can only be obtained in Maputo at 
the private Sommerchield clinic. Malaria suppressants are required, 
vaccinations for tetanus and typhoid are highly recommended, and a 
gamma globulin injection should be obtained.

Telecommunications: International telephone and telegram services are 
usually adequate but very costly. Maputo is seven time zones ahead of 
Eastern Standard Time.

Transportation: Most Americans enter Mozambique by air from 
Johannesburg or Lisbon. Direct connections also are available to 
Manzini, Harare, Luanda and Paris. The Mozambican airline, LAM, 
has been the subject of travel advisories due to inadequate maintenance 
practices. When possible, travelers should avoid using LAM. There are 
also a number of small charter companies that service domestic routes 
in addition to LAM. 

A passenger railway links Mozambique with South Africa. Paved roads 
connect major towns south of the Zambezi River and extend to the 
South African, Swazi, and Zimbabwean frontiers. 

The security situation in Mozambique requires caution. 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 one million land mines 
were planted throughout Mozambique during the last three decades of 
conflict, and mine clearing operations are currently in their initial 
stages. Before visiting Mozambique, consult the consular information 
sheet. Visit the consular section of the Embassy after arrival for 
security updates and to register. 

Traffic moves on the left. Rental cars are available in Maputo and there 
is a growing taxi service. Buses are few, dangerously overcrowded, and 
follow erratic schedules.

National holidays. Businesses and the U.S. Embassy are closed on the 
following Mozambican holidays.

New Year's Day--January 1
Mozambican Heroes Day--February 3
Mozambican Women's Day--April 7
Workers Day--May 1
Independence Day--June 25
Lusaka Agreement--September 7
Armed Forces Day--September 25
Family Day/Christmas Day--December 25


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