"It was a pity about the war in Mozambique"
by cm
Portuguese Troops in Mozambique
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumPortuguese Troops in Mozambique - Credit: Joaquim Coelho

The Mozambican War of Independence began in 1964 and lasted for ten years.  To put it in context, most British colonies in Africa (other than Rhodesia) had been granted independence in the early 1960s.  Portugal did not give up Mozambique until 1975.  However, unlike the other European powers who had made their "scramble for Africa" in the 19th century, Portugal had held Mozambique as a colony since 1505.

Portugal was already fighting a colonial war in Angola when the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO), a political party formed two years earlier, initiated an insurgency with the support of the Soviet Union, China and Cuba.  A protracted conflict ensued, with FRELIMO capturing small areas of territory but focusing on guerrilla operations and urban terrorism.  They used landmines to great effect.  Portugual increased its military strength in the country from 8,000 to 50,000 men in 1970, and pursued a variety of strategies over the years.

Portuguese Propaganda in Mozambique
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumPortuguese Propaganda in Mozambique - Credit: Joaquim Coelho

The colonial army maintained control over most of the country during the decade of fighting, but at great cost to Portugal.  On 25 April 1974, a peaceful left-wing coup d'état in Lisbon, the Carnation Revolution, led to a ceasefire in Mozambique.  Portugal ceded power to FRELIMO, with formal independence granted on 25 June 1975.   300,000 white Portuguese left the country overnight, causing the local economy to collapse. 

FRELIMO rapidly established a one-party state allied to the Soviet bloc, and outlawed rival political activity. The new government gave shelter and support to South African (ANC) and Zimbabwean (ZANU) liberation movements, provoking the governments of Rhodesia and later apartheid South Africa to foster and finance an armed rebel movement called the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO). In 1977, civil war erupted, and lasted for 15 years. This conflict, Rhodesian and South African intervention, and central economic planning by the Marxist leadership, left the country in chaos. About one million people died in the civil war and millions more fled abroad or to other parts of the country.

FRELIMO formally abandoned Marxism in 1989, and a new constitution provided for multiparty elections and a free market economy. A UN-negotiated peace agreement between FRELIMO and RENAMO ended the fighting in 1992.