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
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
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
Type: Multiparty democracy.
Independence: June 25, 1975.
Constitution: November 1990.
Branches: Executive--President, Council of Ministers. Legislative--
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-
Agriculture (50% of GDP): Products--cashews, maize, cotton, sugar,
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.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
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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