There is evidence of man in Mozambique going back to 100,000 years ago, but San hunters are the first recorded people followed by Bantu speaking people migrating from the Zambezi River Valley between the 1st and 5th centuries A.D.
By the time the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama arrived in 1498, Arab traders had long since populated the coastal areas possibly from the 10th Century onwards.
The Portuguese were quick to establish trading posts and later traders penetrated inland looking for gold and slaves. The Portuguese do not appear to have taken Mozambique all that seriously with richer more accessible treasures to be found more easily further East in India and the Far East.
There had been moments, between 1500 and 1700, when Arab traders had re-imposed their influence on the area due to neglect by the Portuguese. But by the 20th Century the Portuguese considered the area to be one of their colonies although much of the territory was controlled and administered by private companies such as the Mozambique Company, the Zambezia Company and the Niassa Company which were in the hands of the British.
After World War Two the Portuguese formally named the region Mozambique and in 1951 all of Portugal’s overseas colonies became known as the Overseas Provinces of Portugal. This led to a large influx of Portuguese into the country and the economy thrived.
Naturally the local people were unhappy with being taken over in this way and in being treated as second class citizens. This led to the establishment of the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) in 1962 and the start of an independence war which lasted ten years and cost the lives of around 50,000 people.
Following the April 1974 coup d’état in Portugal the military decided to withdraw and on 7th September 1974 the Lusaka Accord between FRELIMO and the Portuguese government was signed which recognised the right of the Mozambican people to independence. On 25th June 1975 Mozambique became independent.
With independence there was a large exodus of Portuguese nationals from the country the economy quickly deteriorated. FRELIMO turned to the Soviet Union which had helped arm them during the war of independence and soon after a one-party state was established.
Around the same time the FRELIMO government allowed South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) and Rhodesia’s Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) to base themselves in Mozambique as they fought their own liberation wars. In a tit for tat move the South African government supported and financed an armed rebel movement in Mozambique called the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) which was established in 1975.
The scene was set for a civil war which lasted 15 years, took the lives of an estimated one million people and displaced more than five million people. The economy of the country was completely destroyed and the after effects, including land and anti-personnel mines scattered around the countryside, still affect the country.
With the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the apartheid regime in South Africa in the early 1990s both sides lost the support of their main backers. Fighting ended in 1992 and on 4th October 1992 the Rome General Peace Accords were signed. A United Nations force, (ONUMOZ) entered the country to oversee a two year transition period to democracy.
The first multi-party democratic elections in the country were held in October 1994. Joaquim Chissano of FRELIMO was elected President with 53.3% of the vote and the party took 129 of the 250 seats in the Assembly of the Republic. RENAMO came second with 112 seats and an amalgamation of small parties called the Democratic Union took nine seats.
In 1995 Mozambique joined The Commonwealth even though it had never been a British colony.
A second election was held in 1999 and declared to be free and fair. Chissano was re-elected and FRELIMO took 133 seats with RENAMO taking the remaining 117 seats.
Towards the end of his second term President Chissano announced that he would not be standing again and in the 2004 elections Armando Guebuza of FRELIMO was elected President with 63.74% of the vote. The party took 160 seats and RENAMO took 90 seats – the gap between the two parties was growing and questions were being asked.
In 2009 Guebuza stood for his second term and was elected with 75% of the vote whilst turnout was just 42%. In that election FRELIMO took 191 seats and RENAMO held 51 seats. A new party, the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM) arrived on the scene and won eight seats. This time RENAMO were deeply unhappy with the result and demanded that the election be annulled, but the Constitutional Court upheld the result.
In October 2012 RENAMO’s leader, Afonso Dhlakama, began retraining a small group of veterans. They cited unhappiness with the political system and that the proceeds of economic development were not being shared fairly. The government failed to take them seriously at first and by April 2013 they had headed for the jungle and were attacking the armed forces and police. Around 100 people were killed before the government started talking to Afonso Dhlakama. In August 2014 the two sides signed a peace agreement and Dhlakama announced that he would be standing in the 2014 Presidential elections. According to an AFP report he said “After the beautiful dream of two decades ago when peace seemed to be for always, we saw a systematic concentration of power in the hands of those in power… many are in this room.”
In recent years Mozambique has been found to have vast mineral resources. Natural gas has been found off the coast in large quantities (more than 150 trillion cubic feet), the largest ever recorded coal reserves have been found in Tete province. There are many other minerals beside the finds of iron, palladium and a myriad of heavy minerals which make Mozambique one of the most exciting investment opportunities in the world today.
The President is elected for a five-year term and is eligible to serve a second term.
The unicameral Assembly of the Republic has 250 members directly elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Mozambique at joint 142nd out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 27 (where 100 is least corrupt).