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Mozambique, officially the Republic of Mozambique (Portuguese: Moçambique or República de Moçambique, pronounced: [ʁɛˈpublikɐ di musɐ̃ˈbiki]), is a country in Southeast Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest. The capital and largest city is Maputo (previously called Lourenço Marques before independence).
Between the 1st and 5th centuries CE, Bantu-speaking peoples migrated from farther north and west. Swahili, and later also Arab, commercial ports existed along the coasts until the arrival of Europeans. The area was explored by Vasco da Gama in 1498 and colonized by Portugal from 1505. After over four centuries of Portuguese rule, Mozambique gained independence in 1975, becoming the People’s Republic of Mozambique shortly thereafter. After only two years of independence, the country descended into an intense and protracted civil war lasting from 1977 to 1992. In 1994, Mozambique held its first multiparty elections and has remained a relatively stable presidential republic since.
Mozambique is endowed with rich and extensive natural resources. The country’s economy is based largely on agriculture, but with industry, mainly food and beverages, chemical manufacturing, aluminium and petroleum production, is growing. The country’s tourism sector is also growing. South Africa is Mozambique’s main trading partner and source of foreign direct investment. Portugal, Brazil, Spain and Belgium are also among the country’s most important economic partners. Since 2001, Mozambique’s annual average GDP growth has been among the world’s highest. However, the country ranks among the lowest in GDP per capita, human development, measures of inequality, and average life expectancy.
The only official language of Mozambique is Portuguese, which is spoken mostly as a second language by about half of the population. Common native languages include Swahili, Makhuwa, and Sena. The country’s population of around 24 million is composed overwhelmingly of Bantu people. The largest religion in Mozambique is Christianity, with significant minorities following Islam and African traditional religions. Mozambique is a member of the African Union, Commonwealth of Nations, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, the Latin Union, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Southern African Development Community and La Francophonie.
The country was named Moçambique by the Portuguese after the Island of Mozambique, derived from Musa Al Big or Mossa Al Bique or Mussa Ben Mbiki, an Arab trader who first visited the island and later lived there.[
Between the 1st and 5th centuries AD, waves of Bantu-speaking people migrated from the west and north through the Zambezi River valley and then gradually into the plateau and coastal areas. They established agricultural communities or societies based on herding cattle. They brought with them the technology for iron making, a metal which they used to make weapons for the conquest of their neighbors. Cities in Mozambique during the Middle Ages (fifth to the 16th century) were not sturdily built, so there is little left of many medieval cities such as the trading port Sofala.
Several Swahili trade ports dotted the coast of the country before the arrival of Arabs which had been trading with Madagascar and the Far East.
From about 1500, Portuguese trading posts and forts displaced the Arabic commercial and military hegemony, becoming regular ports of call on the new European sea route to the east.
The voyage of Vasco da Gama around the Cape of Good Hope in 1498 marked the Portuguese entry into trade, politics, and society of the region. The Portuguese gained control of the Island of Mozambique and the port city of Sofala in the early 16th century, and by the 1530s, small groups of Portuguese traders and prospectors seeking gold penetrated the interior regions, where they set up garrisons and trading posts at Sena and Tete on the Zambezi River and tried to gain exclusive control over the gold trade. The Portuguese attempted to legitimize and consolidate their trade and settlement positions through the creation of prazos (land grants) tied to Portuguese settlement and administration. While prazos were originally developed to be held by Portuguese, through intermarriage they became African Portuguese or African Indian centres defended by large African slave armies known as Chikunda. Historically within Mozambique there was slavery. Human beings were bought and sold by African tribal chiefs, Arab traders, and Portuguese and French traders as well. Many Mozambican slaves were supplied by tribal chiefs who raided warring tribes and sold their captives to the prazeiros.
Although Portuguese influence gradually expanded, its power was limited and exercised through individual settlers and officials who were granted extensive autonomy. The Portuguese were able to wrest much of the coastal trade from Arabs between 1500 and 1700, but, with the Arab seizure of Portugal’s key foothold at Fort Jesus on Mombasa Island (now in Kenya) in 1698, the pendulum began to swing in the other direction. As a result, investment lagged while Lisbon devoted itself to the more lucrative trade with India and the Far East and to the colonisation of Brazil. During these wars, the Mazrui and Omani Arabs reclaimed much of the Indian Ocean trade, forcing the Portuguese to retreat south. Many prazos had declined by the mid-19th century, but several of them survived. During the 19th century other European powers, particularly the British (British South Africa Company) and the French (Madagascar), became increasingly involved in the trade and politics of the region around the Portuguese East African territories.
By the early 20th century the Portuguese had shifted the administration of much of Mozambique to large private companies, like the Mozambique Company, the Zambezia Company and the Niassa Company, controlled and financed mostly by the British, which established railroad lines to neighbouring countries. Although slavery had been legally abolished in Mozambique, at the end of the 19th century the Chartered companies enacted a forced labor policy and supplied cheap – often forced – African labour to the mines and plantations of the nearby British colonies and South Africa. The Zambezia Company, the most profitable chartered company, took over a number of smaller prazeiro holdings, and established military outposts to protect its property. The chartered companies built roads and ports to bring their goods to market including a railroad linking present day Zimbabwe with the Mozambican port of Beira.
Due to their unsatisfactory performance and the shift, under the corporatist Estado Novo regime of Oliveira Salazar, towards a stronger Portuguese control of Portuguese empire‘s economy, the companies’ concessions were not renewed when they ran out. This was what happened in 1942 with the Mozambique Company, which however continued to operate in the agricultural and commercial sectors as a corporation, and had already happened in 1929 with the termination of the Niassa Company’s concession. In 1951, the Portuguese overseas colonies in Africa were rebranded as Overseas Provinces of Portugal.
Main article: Mozambican Civil War
The new government, under president Samora Machel, established a one-party state based on Marxist principles. The new government received diplomatic and some military support from Cuba and the Soviet Union and proceeded to crack down on opposition. Starting shortly after the independence, the country was plagued from 1977 to 1992 by a long and violent civil war between the opposition forces of anti-Communist RENAMO rebel militias and the Marxist FRELIMO regime. This conflict, combined with sabotage from the neighbouring white-ruled state of Rhodesia and the Apartheid regime of South Africa, ineffective policies, failed central planning, and the resulting economic collapse, characterized the first decades of Mozambican independence. This period was also marked by the exodus of Portuguese nationals and Mozambicans of Portuguese heritage, a collapsed infrastructure, lack of investment in productive assets, and government nationalisation of privately owned industries as well as widespread famine. During most of the civil war, the FRELIMO-formed central government was unable to exercise effective control outside of urban areas, many of which were cut off from the capital. It is reported that in RENAMO controlled areas, which included up to 50% of the rural areas in several provinces, health services of any kind were isolated from assistance for years. The problem worsened when the government cut back spending on health care. The war was marked by mass human rights violations from both sides of the conflict with RENAMO contributing to the chaos through the use of terror and indiscriminate targeting of civilians. The central government executed tens of thousands of people while trying to extend its control throughout the country and sent many people to re-education camps where thousands died.
During the war RENAMO proposed a peace agreement based on the secession of RENAMO controlled northern and western territories as the independent Republic of Rombesia, but FRELIMO refused wanting sovereignty over the entire country. An estimated one million Mozambicans perished during the civil war, 1.7 million took refuge in neighbouring states, and several million more were internally displaced. The FRELIMO regime also gave shelter and support to South African (African National Congress) and Zimbabwean (Zimbabwe African National Union) rebel movements while the governments of first Rhodesia and later South Africa (at that time still operating the Apartheid laws) backed RENAMO in the civil war.
On 19 October 1986, Samora Machel was on his way back from an international meeting in Zambia in the presidential Tupolev Tu-134 aircraft when the plane crashed in the Lebombo Mountains, near Mbuzini. There were ten survivors, but President Machel and thirty-three others died, including ministers and officials of the Mozambique government. The United Nations’ Soviet delegation issued a minority report contending that their expertise and experience had been undermined by the South Africans. Representatives of the Soviet Union advanced the theory that the plane had been intentionally diverted by a false navigational beacon signal, using a technology provided by military intelligence operatives of the South African government.
Machel’s successor, Joaquim Chissano, implemented sweeping changes in the country, starting reforms such as changing from Marxism to capitalism, and began peace talks with RENAMO. The new constitution enacted in 1990 provided for a multi-party political system, market-based economy, and free elections. The civil war ended in October 1992 with the Rome General Peace Accords, first brokered by the CCM, the Christian Council of Mozambique (Council of Protestant Churches) and then taken over by Community of Sant’Egidio. Under supervision of the ONUMOZ peacekeeping force of the United Nations, peace returned to Mozambique.
By 1993 more than 1.5 million Mozambican refugees who had sought asylum in neighbouring Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Zambia, Tanzania, and South Africa as a result of war and drought had returned, as part of the largest repatriation witnessed in sub-Saharan Africa.
Geography and climate
At 309,475 sq mi (801,537 km2), Mozambique is the world’s 35th-largest country. It is comparable in size to Turkey. Mozambique is located on the southeast coast of Africa. It is bound by Swaziland to the south, South Africa to the southwest, Zimbabwe to the west, Zambia and Malawi to the northwest, Tanzania to the north and the Indian Ocean to the east. Mozambique lies between latitudes 10° and 27°S, and longitudes 30° and 41°E.
The country is divided into two topographical regions by the Zambezi River. To the north of the Zambezi River, the narrow coastline moves inland to hills and low plateaus, and further west to rugged highlands, which include the Niassa highlands, Namuli or Shire highlands, Angonia highlands, Tete highlands and the Makonde plateau, covered with miombo woodlands. To the south of the Zambezi River, the lowlands are broader with the Mashonaland plateau and Lebombo Mountains located in the deep south.
The country is drained by five principal rivers and several smaller ones with the largest and most important the Zambezi. The country has four notable lakes: Lake Niassa (or Malawi), Lake Chiuta, Lake Cahora Bassa and Lake Shirwa, all in the north. The major cities are Maputo, Beira, Nampula, Tete, Quelimane, Chimoio, Pemba, Inhambane, Xai-Xai and Lichinga.
The north-central provinces of Zambezia and Nampula are the most populous, with about 45% of the population. The estimated four million Macua are the dominant group in the northern part of the country; the Sena and Shona (mostly Ndau) are prominent in the Zambezi valley, and the Shangaan (Tsonga) dominate in southern Mozambique. Other groups include Makonde, Yao, Swahili, Tonga, Chopi, and Nguni (including Zulu). Bantu people comprise 97.8% of the population, with the rest including White Africans (largely of Portuguese ancestry), Euro-Africans (mestiço people of mixed Bantu and Portuguese heritage), and Indians. Roughly 45,000 people of Indian descent reside in Mozambique.
During Portuguese colonial rule, a large minority of people of Portuguese descent lived permanently in almost all areas of the country, and Mozambicans with Portuguese blood at the time of independence numbered about 360,000. Many of these left the region after independence from Portugal in 1975. There are various estimates for the size of Mozambique’s Chinese community, ranging from 7,000 to 12,000 as of 2007.
The 2007 census found that Christians made up 56.1% of Mozambique’s population and Muslims comprised 17.9% of the population. 7.3% of the people held other beliefs, mainly animism, and 18.7% had no religious beliefs.
The Roman Catholic Church has established twelve dioceses (Beira, Chimoio, Gurué, Inhambane, Lichinga, Maputo, Nacala, Nampula, Pemba, Quelimane, Tete, and Xai-Xai; archdioceses are Beira, Maputo and Nampula). Statistics for the dioceses range from a low 5.8% Catholics in the population in the diocese of Chimoio, to 32.50% in Quelimane diocese (Anuario catolico de Mocambique 2007).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) has established a growing presence in Mozambique. It first began sending missionaries to Mozambique in 1999, and, as of December 2011, has more than 5600 members.
The Baha’i Faith has been present in Mozambique since the early 1950s but did not openly identify itself in those years because of the strong influence of the Catholic Church which did not recognize it officially as a world religion. The independence in 1975 saw the entrance of new pioneers. In total there are about 3,000 declared Baha’is in Mozambique as of 2010. The Administrative Committee is located in Maputo.
Muslims are particularly present in the north of the country. They are organized in several “tariqa” or brotherhoods (of the Qadiriya or Shadhuliyyah branch). Two national organizations also exist – the Conselho Islâmico de Moçambique (reformists) and the Congresso Islâmico de Moçambique (pro-Sufi). There are also important Indo-Pakistani associations as well as some Shia and particularly Ismaili communities.
Among the main Protestant churches are Igreja União Baptista de Moçambique, the Assembleias de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventists, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, the Igreja do Evangelho Completo de Deus, the Igreja Metodista Unida, the Igreja Presbiteriana de Moçambique, the Igreja de Cristo and the Assembleia Evangélica de Deus.
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