Guide to Mozambique Culture & History

Ancient History of Mozambique

  • The earliest inhabitants of Mozambique are believed to be related to the San people (Bushman) around 1000 BC
  • Around the time Great Zimbabwe was abandoned, the Monomotapa Kingdom emerged, Monomotapa was a Karanga or Shona king ruling over legendary gold fields
  • Traders from Arabia arrived in the first millennia, and gradually the Bantu speaking San gave way to Swahili language and culture

Colonialism in Mozambique

Evidence of the Portuguese is still abundant in Mozambique
  • In 1498, the Portuguese Vasco de Gama landed in Mozambique en route to India and the Portuguese quickly established control of the Swahili-Arab trading posts, with ivory replacing gold as the main trading commodity, in the 15 hundreds, and slaves being added to the list of commodities in the 17 hundreds
  • In the 1880s colonial powers threatened the Portuguese in Mozambique, with the boundaries drawn up for Portuguese East Africa in 1891 in a treaty between Britain and Portugal. The southern part of the country grew in economic importance as ties with South Africa strengthened, leading to the capital being transferred from Ilha de Mozambique to Maputo before 1900
  • Support for independence grew from around 1960, largely over the "massacre of Mueda" when Portuguese troops opened fire on demonstrators protesting over taxes.

Recent History

  • Portugal pulled out almost overnight after the independent Peoples Republic of Mozambique was proclaimed on 25th June 1975 and Mozambique was almost immediately flung into a kind of "civil war" between the governing party Frelimo and the externally backed resistance movement Renamo.
  • The new prime minister was a founding member of the Mozambique Liberation Front Frelimo to whom power was handed over. The ensuing socialist program and opposition from Renamo led to crisis in 1983 when drought and famine struck the nearly bankrupt country. Mozambique was opened up to the west once more in return for aid.
  • Frelimo did an about turn from its Marxist ideology and announced it would switch to a market economy and multiparty elections.
  • In 1990 a cease fire was arranged through negotiations in Rome. A formal peace agreement was signed in 1992 and since then Mozambique has moved beyond war and has held multiparty elections in 1994 and 1999, both won by Frelimo