The Republic of Mozambique

The Story of Mozambique

Mozambique is the 36th largest country in the world by land mass. However, the country is divided in half by the Zambezi River. The Zambezi River flows over the famous Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe before making its way east into Mozambique. The Zambezi is the 4th largest river in Africa and the largest eastward flowing river on the African continent. As a result, it divides Mozambique into 2 topographical areas, the highlands in the north and the lowlands in the south.

Mozambique is located in SE Africa and is bordered by South Africa and Swaziland in the south west, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia in the west and Tanzania to the north. Additionally, the Mozambique channel and Madagascar lie off of the east coast of the country.

The largest city and capital of Mozambique is Maputo. Maputo is located in the far south of the country and is a large port on the Indian Ocean. Furthermore, the population of Maputo was just below 1 million in 1997 according to UN data.

Political History of Mozambique

Since 1990 Mozambique has been a multi party democracy. However, this was only instated after centuries of European colonial rule and a brutal civil war that lasted nearly 2 decades.

Initially, Vasco Da Gama sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in 1498 and established a colonial foot hold in Mozambique. Consequently, the Portuguese encountered competition from the Arab Muslims between 1500 and 1700 for colonial control. However, the Portuguese eventually gained control of the country. As a result, the national language remains Portuguese. Although it has been several decades since the war of independence was fought against Portugal.

The War of Independence 1964-1974

In the 1960s and 1970s African states that had been colonized by the Europeans became much more resistant to colonial rule. This was in large part due to the efforts of the communist Vietnamese in defeating both the industrialized French and also the United States Army.

As a result, the colonized countries of Africa realized that the industrialized powers that oppressed them could be defeated. Additionally, they were emboldened by the leadership of Ho Chi Minh and became organized into resistance movements. The rebel fighters received equipment and funds from the USSR. After independence, many of the liberation fighters would became cold war proxies used by the US and former USSR.

After 9 years of resistance to colonial rule the Mozambique fighters caught a lucky break. Most essentially, the Portuguese government was destabilized by a military coup in 1974 which gave the anti colonialists the upper hand.

Finally the resistance movement known as The Front of Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) took control of the country in 1975 and established a one party Marxist rule.

photo FRELIMO monument Tofinho MozambiqueMonument to the fallen members of the FRELIMO resistance movement. Located in Tofinho.

The Civil War of Mozambique 1977-1992

Unfortunately, for Mozambique the war of independence gave rise to a long and brutal civil war. After gaining control FRELIMO began to crack down on opposition in an effort to consolidate power.

The anticommunist Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) was able to exercise control of the country side and FRELIMO could only control the population centers. FRELIMO was also targeted with sabotage by the Apartheid regime in South Africa and also the white rule state of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). This exacerbated the situation and by the end of the war over 1 million Mozambicans were estimated to have perished.

Crimes against humanity were widespread and the war also caused famine throughout the country. Including the execution of tens of thousands of the opposition by FRELIMO.

Large parts of the countries infrastructure were obliterated and the damage remains to this day.

destroyed infrastructure of mozambique Infrastructure in Mozambique was left in shambles after the brutal civil war.

Burraco dos Assassinatos

This was a 5 meter blow hole in the Tofinho bluff located a few kilometers south of Tofo Beach next to the FRELIMO Monument. Its walls are lined with sharp spindles of limestone and would cause excruciating pain and injury upon contact. 

limestone cliffs located adjacent to Burraco dos AssassinatosLimestone cliffs located adjacent to the Burraco dos Assassinatos.

Translated as “the hole that killed people” this is where the colonial authorities would throw people who would not pay their taxes. This was also an execution chamber used by FRELIMO to eliminate RENAMO opposition members.  

This was a slow, painful execution. The prisoners would be thrown down into the blowhole and maimed on the way down by the sharp rocks. Lying on the bottom waiting for the tide to come and wash them out to sea where them would be ripped apart by the waiting sharks. 

the bluff where the Burracco dos assassinatos is locatedThe bluff where the Burraco dos Assassinatos is located next to the FRELIMO Monument. 


Mozambique is still one of the poorest countries in the world. Corruption is wide spread and Mozambique is ranked 116 out of 178 on Transparency International’s latest global corruption index.

The country was praised in 2007 by both the World Bank and IMF as a country that was a “Sub-Saharan Africa success story”.  More recently the IMF has halted funding after the Mozambique government revealed nearly 1 billion USD in undisclosed debt. The corruption revelations are exacerbated by the new “Tuna Boat” Scandal. The government issued 850 million in debt to fund a tuna fishing company “Ematum”. Instead 500 million of the money was misappropriated to fund the construction of naval vessels needed to “protect the tuna fleet”.

This is Africa!