The Republic of Mozambique is located in Southeastern Africa and bordered by the Tanzania to the north, Indian Ocean to the east, Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest, Zimbabwe to the west, and Malawi and Zambia to the northwest. Its former name was Portuguese Mozambique or Portuguese East Africa while it was under the Portuguese colonial rule for almost five centuries. Maputo, its capital, is the largest city.
1. It has one of the largest coastal marine reserves in the world
The 4,020-square mile coastal marine reserve in the Primeiras and Segundas, a ten-island archipelago, is considered the largest in Africa and one of the largest in the world. It is rich in coral reefs, mangroves, deep underwater canyons, large seagrass beds, and marine life. There are marine turtle species and over 1,200 species of fish identified in their coastal waters, a fun fact about Mozambique. This archipelago had been approved as a Marine Protected Area in November 2012.
2. The Mozambican Makonde masks were used for initiation rituals
The minority ethnic group Makonde lives in the bordering region of northern Mozambique. Traditionally, they used wooden carved masks called mapiko (plural of lipiko) during the initiation ceremonies of boys and girls into adult life where they were provided knowledge and taught skills necessary for the Makonde way of life. The ancestral spirits were said to return to earth temporarily as the males wearing the masks danced to the beat of the drums during the conclusion of the initiation rituals.
3. The “Island of Mozambique” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Out of many islands in the country, the “Island of Mozambique,” is situated in Nampula province of northern Mozambique. Stone Town, at the northern end of the island, used to be the capital of the country from 1507 to 1898 when it was still a colony of the Portuguese. Structures built there during the 16th century still exist such as the Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte and the Fort São Sebastião. A fun fact about Mozambique is that in 1991, the entire island was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
4. Mozambique had become one of the world’s major slave trading centers
Long before the Portuguese came to the region, the Arab merchants who settled there were trading gold, ivory, spices, and slaves. In the early 1500s, the Portuguese occupied the Muslim settlement in the Island of Mozambique and established their own slave trading center. When there was prolonged drought in the late 1700s and their livelihood was greatly affected as a result, they turned to exporting more slaves. Selling Mozambicans generated much profit that they continued to do that even after the drought was over.
By 1800s, the island had become one of the world’s major slave trading centers. It was said that around 9,000 to 15,000 slaves were exported each year, and the result was depopulation. Slave trading was abolished only in 1878 when a missionary by the name of David Livingstone published a report on the conditions in Mozambique.
5. A decade-long war for independence of Mozambique
FRELIMO or the Mozambican Liberation Front was an organized resistance movement to liberate their nation from Portugal. It launched its first attack in 1964 to destabilize the colonial government. The Portuguese Armed Forces engaged in a merciless counter-guerilla campaign wherein they did not just detain and torture civilians for information about FRELIMO but they also committed village massacres. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were moved to fortified relocation camps mainly to limit FRELIMO’s access to them, and those who refused where labeled terrorists and killed.
The Portuguese army might have had the upper hand in the conflict, but with the help of other nations such as the Soviet Union in providing support and arms, FRELIMO succeeded. It also helped that there were major upheavals in the government of Portugal ending in a military coup d’état in 1974. The people of Mozambique finally gained their independence on June 25, 1975.
6. Only the flag of Mozambique has an AK-47 on it
A handful of countries have a weapon on their flags, but only the flag of Mozambique has a modern firearm on it, the ak-47, which represents vigilance and defense, a fun Mozambique fact. It is symbolic of the war on independence from Portugal in which the Russian firearm was used. The flag is based on the colors and insignia on the flag of FRELIMO, the group that led the resistance to the colonial rule and is now the ruling political party. There was a proposal for the removal of the firearm and a contest was held in 2005. However, all proposed flags were rejected by the ruling party including the flag without the ak-47 on it.
7. A civil war broke out two years after independence from the Portuguese
The president of FRELIMO, Samora Machel, became the president of Mozambique after it gained independence on June 25, 1975. Under a one-party state based on Marxist principles, the years that followed were difficult. It was said that people were relocated to communal villages for collective state farming. Those who benefitted from the colonial government were harassed. All opposition parties were considered illegal. Because of a lot of grievances, FRELIMO encountered resistance from RENAMO (Mozambican National Resistance).
From 1977 to 1992, the country suffered from a long and violent civil war that resulted to loss of lives, human rights violations, and destruction of infrastructures that crippled the economy further. It was said that the conflict lasted that long due to foreign funding and support on both sides. Peace talks started in 1989 and a peace treaty was signed in 1992, which included a change from Marxism to capitalism as well as having a multiparty political system and free elections.
8. Polygamy was widely accepted in Mozambique but not legalized by law
The practice of polygamy is normal and widespread across the nation with about one-third of the married women belonging in a polygamous relationship, with only the first wife recognized by law. Polygamy is not banned and there are no legal restrictions. The practice is deeply rooted in their culture. It is said that for some, having a lot of wives gives the man prestige and for others, provides the man with helpers in his farm. Laws were made that give equal rights to men and women in a marriage as well as give all the wives equal rights to inheritance. However, the reality is said to be quite different. There are cases where the wives were kicked out by the in laws upon the husband’s death, and even the first wife suffers the same fate if she has no son.
9. It is one of the poorest in the world
Mozambique is considered one of the poorest countries in the world. Around 40 percent of the population is living below poverty line. A civil war that lasted for 15 years after its independence, political instability, a debt crisis, and severe climate conditions such as droughts, flooding, and cyclones all contribute to hindering the country’s economic growth.
The people of Mozambique went through a lot from the country’s colonization to where it is now. And being one of the poorest in the world does not mean they are without hope. They are rich in arable land, water, energy, mineral resources, and natural gas. They have 16 Marine Protected Areas (MPA) to safeguard the nation’s rich natural resources, to secure the livelihood of the people, and to promote sustainable use of marine resources.
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