Mozambique - History
A monument showing the capture of the emporor of Gaza
in Mozambique by Portugese invaders
Photo: Jenny Matthews/Oxfam
Bantu-speaking people first settled in what is now Mozambique between
the first and fourth centuries AD. From the 6th century AD onwards,
Arab and Asian traders worked along the southern coast of Mozambique.
They traded gold, brought from powerful civilisations inland, and
raided the north for slaves and ivory.
In 1497, the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was the first European
to reach Mozambique. The Portuguese set up trading posts. By the
1760s slavery was the most profitable trade. Over a million slaves
were sold to the sugar plantations in Brazil and Cuba, and to north
At the Berlin Conference in 1884, Mozambique became a Portuguese
colony. Land was rented to British and French companies, which set
up plantations growing cash crops such as cotton, and tea. The colonial
rulers raised income through heavy taxes and a brutal forced labour
Colonial rule stifled Mozambiques development. Resistance
grew and a ten-year war for freedom began. When Mozambique became
independent in 1975, the country was in ruins. Over 90 per cent
of Portuguese settlers left, taking everything they could. Of the
countrys 500 doctors, only 80 remained.
The Frelimo Party that came to power quickly set about re-building
health and education services, but it had little experience, and
even fewer resources. At the same time, the government had to fight
an anti-Frelimo organisation called Renamo, which was backed by
South Africa and Zimbabwe, which was then known as Rhodesia. The
result was a devastating war in which many thousands of civilians
were injured and killed. Schools, health-centres, railways, and
roads were destroyed.
In the 1980s and early 1990s droughts and the disruption caused
by war led to severe food shortages and famine for
millions. Eventually, with the country brought to its knees, a peace
agreement was signed in 1992. Today Mozambique is still struggling
to repair the damage that has been done. In addition to this in
2000, and to a lesser extent in 2002, Mozambique was hit by devastating
floods which destroyed the homes and livelihoods of hundreds of
thousands of people.
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|| Oxfam in Mozambique