Every Thursday, we will use an event that occurred on this date to discuss an important moment in international history. This week: The Mozambique Liberation Front (1962)
The Mozambique Liberation Front, commonly known as FRELIMO (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique) was founded in 1962 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Initially a liberation movement fighting for freedom from the Portuguese, FRELIMO is now the dominant political party in independent Mozambique.
Following the end of World War II, while much of Africa had seen a wave of self-determination, Portugal continued to maintain that its possessions —which included Mozambique, Angola, Guinea and East Timor— were Portuguese overseas territories.
While the colonizers ruled with a heavy hand, curbing any signs of dissent within Mozambique, Tanzania was sympathetic to the nationalist cause and allowed the group to form within its boundaries. The United Nations, too, recognized the liberation movements against Portugal as "the authentic representatives" of their peoples. Three exiled nationalist groups — Mozambican African National Union (MANU), National Democratic Union of Mozambique(UDENAMO), and the National African Union of Independent Mozambique (UNAMI)— combined to form an armed campaign under the leadership of their elected President, Eduardo Mondlane.
The party was received by the Mozambican people with mixed reactions. With Portugal’s presence in Mozambique dating back to the 15th century, some Mozambicans did not desire independence at all. Other who wanted to be free from Portugal, were opposed to achieving it through violent means. However, after the gruesome massacre of peaceful protesters in Mueda two years prior, Eduardo Mondlane and his party were convinced that they would never attain independence unless they armed themselves.
By the late 1960s, through its guerrilla operations, FRELIMO —which had garnered the support of China, the Soviet Union and some Scandinavian countries— had already designated ‘Liberated Zones’ within the northern provinces of Mozambique. Within these zones, the FRELIMO worked at introducing reforms in areas such as agriculture, healthcare and education to improve the conditions of the peasant population. In an effort to increase its popularity as a national movement, FRELIMO trained a group of its soldiers as photographers, who traveled to the Liberated Zones to take photographs of the alleviated conditions to enable the masses to visualize an independent Mozambique.
The Portuguese now had close to 70,000 troops situated in Mozambique in a bid to subjugate the revolution. The Gordian Knot Operation of 1970, a seven-month long massive military campaign which sought to destroy permanent guerrilla bases and crush the insurgency, dealt the nationalists a heavy blow. However, simultaneous significant developments in Lisbon initiated the withdrawal of Portugal from its colonies.The Carnation Revolution, a military coup and civil resistance movement, had led to the fall of Estado Novo— the authoritarian regime that had been in power in Portugal since 1933.
On 25th June 1975, exactly thirteen years after the formation of FRELIMO in Dar es Salaam, Mozambique became independent.
The years after independence were tumultuous as well. FRELIMO, which had embraced a communist ideology and announced that Mozambique would be a one-party state, was not well received by all Mozambicans. The country broke into a brutal civil war which lasted over a decade, killing and displacing millions and leaving Mozambique impoverished. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, the new leader, Joaquim Chissano, who had begun to see shortcomings in communism, turned toward a multi-party system.
Since the first democratic multi-party election in 1994, FRELIMO has remained the dominant ruling party. The incumbent President and FRELIMO candidate, Filipe Nyusi, took office in January this year.
Mozambique, which has made great strides in leaving behind its painful past, earned a spot among the 50 most peaceful countries in 2012. However, internal tensions have begun to resurface in recent times.