Our Planet Reviewed - Expedition Papua New-guinea

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Story of mozambique

FRELIMO in power


Independence was proclaimed on 25 June 1975 and the constitution of the “People’s Republic of Mozambique” was adopted. The State, according to Marxist-Leninist principles, nationalised lands and wealth and charted the economy. The accent was on the development of teaching and health, women’s emancipation and the promotion of national culture. At an international level, Mozambique consolidated links with socialist countries and practised a policy of very close cooperation with them. Opposed to apartheid, its relations with South Africa and Rhodesia were disastrous, at the expense of its own economic interests.
Communal villages and State farms were created with varying results. Communalisation, better accepted in the south, suffered through the lack of a framework and of means (tractors, fertilisers, seed). Food-production and textile industries were encouraged, but the industrial sector remained dependent on imports. The deficit grew more serious with the rise in petrol prices in 1980. While the overall situation was deteriorating, the party could do nothing but note the poor results of its economic intervention policy. Anti-Marxist guerilla warfare began to spread while the repressive system of the party was strengthened.

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Civil war


The constitution of a Marxist Mozambique had caused concern to South Africa and Rhodesia. From 1972 onwards, these two countries, whose aim was to fight communism, had encouraged the creation of an anti-FRELIMO movement made up of Portuguese colonists, African soldiers and secret police. This movement took the name RENAMO (National Resistance of Mozambique) in 1981. Supported by South Africa, in 1982 it began a civil war from the south of the country against government forces in Mozambique.

Sabotage operations increased and raids on villages were accompanied by massacres in a climate of systematic violence. In 1985, Zimbabwe deployed military forces into the centre of the country against RENAMO. The latter had adopted a political programme allowing people to choose their government, promising free elections and insisting on respect for traditional customs.  It mustered those who were disappointed in the Marxist regime, the traditional former chiefs and numerous peasants recruited in the communal villages.
A terrible guerilla warfare was pursued right into 1992 claiming nearly a million victims without counting the child soldiers raised by RENAMO, who sometimes made up 2/3 of combat units. Meanwhile, the collapse of the Soviet system forced FRELIMO to change. Renouncing Marxism, in 1990 the party proclaimed the separation of State and party, recognized a multi-party system, proclaimed public liberties and re-established freedom of religion.
This change of course was to facilitate peace negotiations. RENAMO accepted a ceasefire in the Beira and Limpopo region. A Peace Agreement was signed in Rome in October 1992. It made provision for disarmament of combatants under the supervision of the United Nations, which took two years. Free elections took place in 1994, enabling the constitution of an assembly where FRELIMO gained 129 seats compared with RENAMO’s 112 and a new government was appointed at the end of 1994, an auspicious year for southern Africa as Mandela became president of an Africa liberated from apartheid.

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The consequences of the war on the country’s society and economy were catastrophic. 1.5 million people of Mozambique had taken refuge in neighbouring countries, 4.5 million had been chased from their lands, families had been separated, there was a huge number of orphans, a sense of uprootedness  and insecurity increased in the towns with the influx  of “displaced people”. The country’s infrastructures had been seized or destroyed and the economy was in a shambles.

The government first had to set the infrastructures to rights, re-launch the economy, then commit itself to a programme of development for the education and health systems. Activities were re-started with international aid (the country was described as being drip-fed) in the shape of a regional organisation uniting all the southern African states. This confirmed anew that Mozambique served as a passage between the interior and the ocean. The corridors that formed access routes to the sea became axes of development for the regions of Mozambique. This regional integration was confirmed in 1995 by the country’s membership of the Commonwealth, although it had never been part of the British Empire.

But Mozambique, with 19 million inhabitants, remains one of the poorest countries in the world where life expectancy is 41 years. Curbs on development are many: a deficient education system, lack of infrastructure, corruption, a high prevalence of AIDS and the brain drain.
The economy essentially rests on agricultural export, while farmers do not satisfy their own nutritional needs. Large projects for exploitation of underground resources are attempting to give impetus to the mining industry once again. The country is counting on developing the tourism sector. The country, which can only rely on international aid, currently derives the best part from it, which supports continued annual growth.