The Mozambican Civil War dubbed one of the longest internal wars started on 30th May 1977 and ended on 4th October 1992. The Civil War in the southern African country of Mozambique lasted for a span of 15 years.
Although the internal civil war was regarded as a proxy war between the Soviet Union and the United States. The Mozambique government had the support of the Soviet Union while the Insurgents had the support of the United States. According to history, the war occurred just two years after Mozambique was officially liberated from Portugal.
The civil war was between the government and the insurgence of which the former were the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) led by President Samora Machel who also had control over the central government, while the later were Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) which was led by André Matsangaissa.
History accounts that an estimation of over one million people died during the 15 years conflict, of which it’s total population was 14 million as at 1990.
The background of the war dates back to 1976 when troops from white minority-controlled Rhodesia penetrated Mozambique to carry out operations that were against the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) which had bases in Mozambican territory. Later, André Matsangaissa, a former -FRELIMO official who had been arrested and imprisoned was freed by the Rhodesian forces.
After his release, he (André) joined RENAMO which was established in 1975 as opposition to FRELIMO and quickly became its leader. When Matsangaissa was killed in 1979 after a failed attack on a Mozambican regional Centre, Afonso Dhlakama became the new leader of RENAMO.
During the civil war FRELIMO was known to be the strongest in the cities and major towns of Mozambique while RENAMO operated mainly in the countryside. FRELIMO never stopped fighting the Mozambique central government despite replacing the white minority regime in Rhodesia by Robert Mugabe who had renamed the country Zimbabwe.
In no time, Mugabe and his government then joined forces with FRELIMO while RENAMO gained the support of Kenya and South Africa.
Occasionally, raids on towns and smaller cities were carried out by RENAMO. To increase the number of its troops RENAMO forcefully recruited civilians into its army, including under age after mass abductions. A system called Gamdira had been imposed by RENAMO. Gamdira was a system in which villagers were required to transport goods and ammunition, produce food, and their women were forced to be sex slaves.
As the war continued to escalate, both sides began using cruel tactics including land mines. However, in order for RENAMO to stall the economy and destroy confidence in the central government, they mined roads, schools, and health centers.
The war continued into the 1980s which resulted in FRELIMO losing most of Mozambique’s territory although they kept control of the urban areas. FRELIMO also kept getting support from the Soviet Union, United Kingdom and France while RENAMO got its support from South Africa, Kenya, and covertly from the United States.
On 19th of October, 1986, it was reported that President Samora Machel was traveling near South Africa’s border when his plane crashed and he died. To this day, it remains unclear how and why the plane crashed or whether RENAMO or even South Africa was responsible for the crash.
Meanwhile, Joaquim Alberto Chissano succeeded Machel as president of the country where, because of the fifteen-year conflict, hundreds of thousands of Mozambicans were dying from famine which was caused by both FRELIMO and RENAMO.
By the end of 1990, none of the warlords were winning. While the end of the war was in sight due to some developments outside Mozambique. South Africa was gradually moving toward a black majority-controlled nation by 1990 and the Soviet Union had fallen. These made FRELIMO and RENAMO lost their major supporters and arms suppliers.
In 1990, Mozambique enacted a new law that included multiparty elections. In 1992, a peace accord was signed in Rome, Italy which allowed UN peacekeepers to enter the country safely. Their intervention effectively ended the war. The democratic elections were held in the country in 1994. Despite FRELIMO winning the majority votes, RENAMO candidates were voted for by a portion of the population. The political rivalry continues in Mozambique but the military conflict is over.