Nation on the E coast of Africa, bordered by Tanzania to the N, South Africa to the S, and Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia to the W. The Limpopo and Zambezi rivers run through it.
Bantu migrations peopled Mozambique after a.d. 1000, while the seacoast was worked by Arab traders. In 1498 Portugal became involved with the country after Vasco da Gama visited a small coastal island and Arab town with this name on his way to India. The town was already an active trade center for the Indian Ocean. Portugal soon established trading posts on the coast and attempted to control all trade in the region. By the end of the 16th century Dutch and English competition had grown, and their traders competed for the lucrative East African commerce in gold, ivory, pearls, amber, and wax. The Portuguese valued Mozambique mainly as part of their plan to dominate the Indian Ocean trade on the E coast, considering it a minor territory compared to Portuguese India. The lure of gold was strong enough to spur inland exploration, however, and by the 17th century Portugal dominated the interior as well as the coast of Mozambique.
Portugal’s power waned in the 18th century, and the colony began to be used as a dumping ground for convicts. Slave trading became very important from the late 18th through the 19th centuries, owing to a tremendous demand for labor from Brazil. Native and renegade settler revolts wrested actual control of much of the colony from Portugal during the 19th century, and interior Mozambique was not entirely reclaimed until 1920. Portugal successfully developed the colony’s economy, but it was at the expense of the harshly exploited native African population. In 1907 the town of Mozambique was replaced as capital by Lourenço Marques, since 1976 called Maputo.
Portugal grudgingly initiated token reforms in 1961, after guerrilla warfare had erupted in their colony of Angola. In 1964 the Mozambique Liberation Front, FRELIMO, opened warfare against the colonial government, and Portugal became mired in a rapidly escalating and costly war. In 1974 the Lisbon regime was overthrown, and Portugal’s new government swiftly moved to negotiate with the rebels.
Mozambique became independent in 1975, led by Samora Machel, FRELIMO’s leader, and began to implement a socialist program. In 1976 war was declared with Rhodesia and border clashes were common. Zimbabwe guerrillas operated out of Mozambique until Rhodesia attained independence in 1979 as the nation of Zimbabwe. In the 1980s Machel started to reverse some of the government’s socialist policies, cutting the size of the government and privatizing some industries. South Africa began financing a resistance movement (RENAMO) in Mozambique. In 1984 Mozambique signed a nonaggression pact with South Africa, whereby South Africa would renounce support of RENAMO and Mozambique would renounce support of the African National Congress. In 1986, Machel was killed in a plane crash and was succeeded by Joaquim Chissano.
In 1992 Mozambique suffered from severe droughts and civil war, and starvation killed tens of thousand s, while more than a million refugees fled the country. In 1992, the government and RENAMO signed an agreement ending the civil war. In multiparty elections held in 1994, monitored by UN peacekeepers, Chissano, the FRELIMO cand idate, won the presidency. The Chissano government started making market reforms in the late 1980s and 1990s. It had largely recovered from the civil war, although widespread poverty remained a problem. Chissano won the 1999 election despite accusations of voter fraud from RENAMO. In 2000, there was intensive flooding in the country as a result of heavy rains from a major cyclone—more than one million were displaced, and protest demonstrations in November resulted in scattered violence in central and N Mozambique. In 2004, the FRELIMO cand idate, Armand o Guebuza, a millionaire business executive, won election to the presidency again despite RENAMO claims of voter fraud.