21. Portuguese Mozambique (1951-1975)


Pre-Crisis Phase (June 11, 1951-June 15, 1960):  On June 11, 1951, the Portuguese parliament approved a law granting provincial status to all Portuguese colonies, including Portuguese Mozambique (which became the Overseas Province of Mozambique or Provincia Ultramarina de Mocambique).

Crisis Phase (June 16, 1960-September 24, 1964):  Portuguese policemen killed some 500 individuals in the town of Mueda in northern Mozambique on June 16, 1960.  As a result of the Mueda massacre, Mozambican nationalists formed several independence movements, including the Mozambique African National Union-MANU, in the early 1960s. Three Mozambique nationalist groups based in Tanzania established the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) in Dar es Salaam on June 25, 1962.

Conflict Phase (September 25, 1964 – September 7, 1974):  FRELIMO militants, led by Eduardo Mondlane, started a rebellion against the Portuguese government in northern Mozambique on September 25, 1964.  Algeria, China, Cuba, East Germany, Egypt, Soviet Union, Tanzania, and Zambia provided military assistance (military training, military advisers, weapons) to FRELIMO.  Rhodesia, South Africa, and the U.S. government provided military assistance to the government of Portugal.  Portuguese troops killed 59 individuals in the village of Mutanga in Cabo Delgado District on January 2, 1965.  Portuguese troops and FRELIMO militants clashed in northern Mozambique on March 11, 1965, resulting in the deaths of four Portuguese soldiers.  Portuguese troops killed 55 individuals in the village of Bene in Tete District on March 15, 1968.  Eduardo Mondlane, president of FRELIMO, was killed in an explosion at FRELIMO headquarters on Dar es Salaam on February 3, 1969.  Samora Moises Machel was elected as president of FRELIMO in May 1970.  Some 35,000 Portuguese troops commanded by Brigadier General Kaúlza de Arriaga launched a seven-month military offensive (Operation Gordian Knot) against FRELIMO militants on June 10, 1970, resulting in the deaths of 440 FRELIMO militants and 132 Portuguese soldiers.  Sweden provided economic assistance to FRELIMO in 1972 and 1973.  Portuguese troops, along with Rhodesian troops, killed 78 individuals in the village of Zambeze on March 15-16, 1972.  Another 106 villagers were killed by the Portuguese and Rhodesian troops in Mponda, Deveteve, and Chimandabue.  Tanzanian military personnel shot down a Portuguese military aircraft on April 14, 1972.  FRELIMO militants launched a military offensive against Portuguese troops in Tete District on November 9, 1972.  The Portuguese government responded with Operation Marosca in December 1972.  Portuguese troops killed between 150 and 300 villagers in Wiriyamu in Tete District on December 16, 1972.  On July 16, 1973, Zambia condemned alleged massacres of Mozambicans by Portuguese troops.  On December 12, 1973, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution calling for a UN commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of massacres in Portuguese Mozambique.  The Portuguese government in Lisbon was deposed in a military coup on April 25, 1974. Portugal and FRELIMO signed the Lusaka Accords in Lusaka, Zambia on September 7, 1974, which provided for the transition of control of the territory from the Portuguese government to a Mozambican government headed by Joaquim Chissano. Some 50,000 individuals, including at least 10,000 FRELIMO militants and 3,500 Portuguese soldiers, were killed during the conflict.

Post-Conflict Phase (September 8, 1974-June 25, 1975): FRELIMO took over control of the government of Mozambique on September 20, 1974.  On November 22, 1974, the five-member UN commission of inquiry (Nepal-chair, German Democratic Republic, Honduras, Madagascar, and Norway) issued a report stating that Portuguese troops had massacred some 1,000 individuals between 1971 and 1974. Mozambique formally achieved its independence from Portugal on June 25, 1975. Samora Moises Machel became president of Mozambique on June 25, 1975.

[Sources: Africa Research Bulletin (ARB), July 1-31, 1973; Brogan, 1992, 62-70; Butterworth, 1976, 299-302; Henriksen 1983; Jessup, 1998, 492-494; Keesing’s Record of World Events, March 4-11, 1967, July 28-August 3, 1975; Langer, 1972, 1273; Tillema, 1991, 120-122; Weisburd, 1997, 82-85.]


Selected Bibliography

Henriksen, Thomas H. 1983. Revolution and Counterrevolution: Mozambique’s War of Independence, 1964-1974. Westport, CT and London: Greenwood Press.

Reis, Bruno C. and Pedro A. Oliveira. 2012. “Cutting Heads or Winning Hearts: Late Colonial Portuguese Counterinsurgency and the Wiriyamu Massacre of 1972,” Civil Wars, vol. 14 (1), 80-103.

United Nations General Assembly, 29th Session, “Report of the Commission of Inquiry on the Reported Massacres in Mozambique,” Supplement No. 21 (A/9621), November 22, 1974.