History and exploration
Early Mozambique, like the whole sub-continent of South Africa, was inhabited by nomadic hunter-gatherers. Approximately 2,000 years ago Bantu people migrated from the west and the north through the Zambezi River valley and then gradually into the plateau and coastal areas.
The Bantu people, with their greater knowledge of agricultural skills and iron-working techniques, gradually displaced the hunter-gatherers.
By around 900 AD, Mozambique had forged trading links with China, India and Arabia, with the inland gold fields being the major lure for the merchants.
In 1498, a Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, landed in Mozambique en route to India. By 1505 the Portuguese had established several forts and trading posts, exporting gold and providing supply points on the sea route between Europe and the East.
By the middle of the 16th century, Ivory had replaced gold as Mozambique’s chief export, and by the late 18th century the slave trade had joined the list of exports. Some estimates suggest as many as one million Africans were enslaved and dispatched through the ports of Mozambique.
In 1511, the first major inland exploration of the country was made by Antonio Fernandes, who travelled as far as the kingdom of Monomotapa (south and west of modern-day Tete in central Mozambique). Further Portuguese explorations continued into the interior, and by the 1530s the Portuguese had established many settlements in the Zambezi Valley.
Although Portuguese influence gradually expanded, they struggled to gain power and their influence remained weak across much of the country.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Portuguese attempted to consolidate their control by establishing charter companies along the Zambesi Valley and other inland areas.
The main companies, which were largely controlled and funded by the British, included the Zambezia Company, the Mozambique Company and the Niassa Company. The charter companies did little to strengthen Portuguese control, instead achieving little economic success, with many becoming notorious for using forced African labour.
In 1932, António Salazar came to power and attempted to consolidate Portuguese control by terminating the leases of many of the charter companies. Although, some of his policies, such as extending the railway network and building up light industry, led to economic growth, the African population received little of this investment.
In the 1960s, repression and exploitation led to the founding of freedom organisations like FRELIMO (Frente da Libertaçao de Moçambique). Mozambique became independent from Portugal on June 25, 1975, when FRELIMO took control of the country.
Almost all of the Portuguese population abandoned the country, leaving Mozambique in a state of chaos and economic collapse.
Mozambique then faced a 17 year civil war between FRELIMO’s government forces and RENAMO (Resistência Nacional de Moçambique). During these years many atrocities were committed, including destruction of the already poor infrastructure and execution of skilled labour. An estimated 1.7 million people took refuge in neighbouring countries and many more were internally displaced.
In 1990, a cease fire was arranged, followed by the signing of a peace treaty in October 1992 by President Joaquim Chissano and the head of RENAMO, Afonso Dhlakama.
Since signing the peace accord, many Mozambicans have returned and the country has held national multiparty elections. Reconstruction of the infrastructure has proceeded at a remarkable pace, and the country is now building upon its stability by promoting its tourism and foreign investment.