The battle for freedom in Africa has and will always remain a protracted one. Historical events in one country determine the course of history in another, and so on.
The chain reactions from history, and as they continue to the present day need to be looked at and shown to the people. When Mozambique gained its independence under the astute leadership of Samora Machel, the civil war was to engulf the nation for a bloody 15 years in which a devastating total of 1 million people perished.
The war in Mozambique can be traced back to the days when Rhodesia was hell-bent on thwarting the Zimbabwe nationalists who were operating from Mozambique. This saw Rhodesia form an unholy and unhealthy alliance with Mozambique under Portuguese colonial administration. Later on, South Africa joined the alliance, as well as the infamous America Central Intelligence Organization (CIA). The war in Mozambique was part of the Cold War at that time, as the Soviet Union backed the Zimbabwean and Mozambique nationalists while Rhodesia, South Africa, and the CIA did not want to witness the "spread of communism" in Mozambique. This proxy war regressed development for Mozambique as war and conflict became the order of the day, with no side claiming proper victory.
Shortly after Mozambique gained its independence in 1975, the movements of Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) elements in Mozambique increased and Rhodesia was determined to stop this. They started making inroads in Mozambique, attacking ZANLA elements and bases. Rhodesia, with the help of the Portuguese, had also been able to attack FRELIMO bases. But to dilute and frustrate the spirited efforts of the nationalist for liberation, the Rhodesian Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) created a rebel movement to this effect. The Mozambican National Resistance/Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (RENAMO) was founded and funded by the Rhodesian CIO under the anti-communist narrative. It is the narrative that compelled apartheid, South Africa, to pick up where Rhodesia had left in terms of supporting and funding the counter-revolutionary movement, as well as roping in the American CIA. Anti-communism was enough ground to dispel any developmental efforts spearheaded by the Samora Machel led government. RENAMO was created to counter FRELIMO and ZANLA movements.
RENAMO started as a rural-based insurgent group, characterized as counter-revolutionary and inimical to the prosperity of Mozambique. Its guerrilla movements spread rapidly across Mozambique, shattering Machel's hope of economic development for Mozambique. When Mozambique gained its independence in 1975, a large group of anti-FRELIMO elements galvanized together for the common purpose of derailing the programs of FRELIMO. These anti-FRELIMO elements mainly comprised of conservative whites who had fled Mozambique, colonial army veterans, secret police agents, disillusioned FRELIMO officials as well as some tribal chiefs. Its activities were mainly based on sabotaging economic targets and causing chaos in the countryside. They received direct support from Rhodesia but at times the sabotage activities of RENAMO would be assisted by South Africa at the behest of the Rhodesian CIO.
As Zimbabwe got its independence, South Africa assumed sponsorship of RENAMO. Apartheid South Africa was committed to financing RENAMO so that they would destabilize Mozambique to the core. A training base in the Transvaal was set up by South Africa. Important to note too is that there was a propaganda radio station Voice of Free Africa, which was a response to the Voice of Zimbabwe that had been earlier on set up by ZANLA. The Voice of Free Africa was originally based in Rhodesia, but it was then moved to South Africa.
Efforts like the Nkomati Accord did not do much to stop the civil war in Mozambique. RENAMO were responsible for attacking Zimbabwean lorries and for also attacking the pipeline from Beira that supplies fuel to Zimbabwe despite undertakings to reduce the war. FRELIMO controlled much of the cities and major towns while RENAMO dominated in the countryside. RENAMO carried out attacks in cities and towns and for recruitment they relied on mass abductions in which they would recruit young children. They also enforced a system called Gamdira whereby villagers were required to produce food, transport goods, and ammunition, and village women were forced to be sex slaves.
The war was brutal, and land mines characterized the course of the war. Destroying the economy and the confidence of the masses, as aided by foreign powers was the sole mission of RENAMO. Support from the CIA came covertly. Samora Machel died in 1986 when his plane mysteriously crashed near South Africa's border and he was succeeded by Joaquim Alberto Chissano. By 1990 neither side was winning the war. Chissano was part of the ceasefire agreement in 1992 that put a stop to the war. RENAMO became a recognized political party and has been a participant in multi-party politics in Mozambique. RENAMO has not fully disarmed, arguing that FRELIMO reneged on its promises. Skirmishes are still there in Mozambique from time to time, a legacy of Rhodesia, South Africa and the CIA who were complicit in giving birth to RENAMO for counter-revolutionary purposes. The political rivalry still goes on.
The CIA later on became skeptical of RENAMO, saying that its leader then, Alfonso Dhlakama, did not match Samora Machel's political stature and support. They said that RENAMO did not have a clear-cut political ideology, an ideology they lambasted saying it was "simplistic" and was merely anti-communist and anti-Samora rhetoric. They said RENAMO had "little appeal beyond the rural peasantry."
There is a lot that can be said about RENAMO and the civil war in Mozambique but one thing is for sure - this was cooked by the colonial forces who were keen on disturbing peace efforts in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. RENAMO and the subsequent civil war in Mozambique were birthed by the imperial forces, and the effects are still palpable up to this day.
Header image credit - Economist