After almost five centuries as a Portuguese colony, Mozambique became independent in 1975. The economic situation in the country had been affected very negatively by the civil war and natural disasters such as severe droughts and floods. Further more had the lack of skilled labor and foreign exchange been a severe problem. At independence in 1975, Mozambique was one of the poorest countries in the world.
In the beginning of the 16th century the Portuguese occupied Sofala, which is a province in Mozambique, and a few years later the port city of Mozambique, located on an island with the same name. Although, it was not until the early 1900s that Portugal gained complete control of Mozambique’s inland.
In 1962 the Marxist-Leninist liberation movement Frelimo was formed. With Tanzania as a base they penetrated Mozambique from the north with the aim to take over the country. The Portuguese resistance was initially strong but ended in a blow when the dictatorship in the home country was disrupted in 1974. The year after, Frelimo could take over the management of Mozambique, which subsequently was declared as the People’s Republic on a Marxist-Leninist basis.
Frelimo formally abandoned Marxism in 1989 and a new constitution the following year provided for multiparty elections and a free market economy. With the help from the United Nations, Frelimo and Renamo rebels were able to come to a peace agreement in 1992, which meant the end of the civil war that had lasted since 1977. Today, Frelimo is a leading political party, which together with Renamo dominate politics.
The capital of Mozambique is Maputo and the current president is Armando Guebuza. There are about 21 million people living in Mozambique and the country’s area is slightly less than twice the size of California. The majority of the people are Catholics, but there are almost just as many Muslims, Christians and indigenous animistic religions in the country. The official language is Portuguese and the indigenous languages belong to the Bantu.
The people of Mozambique can be divided into three main groups. The northern part is inhabited by Makua, Lolo, Yao and Late. These people share the same heritage as neighboring people in Malawi, where the role of women in the family is highly respected and also her role in cult and fertility symbolism is prominent.
Groups that linguistically belong to Shona populate the middle part of the country. Here it is the male role that dominates the culture, which is mainly reflected in religion, myth and ritual. The patriarchal dominance, however, completely lacks emphasis on warlike virtues.
Inhabitants of the south belong to the South East Bantu culture, Nguni. They also have a strong patriarchal family system where the role of men is symbolically predominant. However, they have a more aggressive male ideal, and like other Nguni, a greater emphasis on warlike virtues.
Even though the three groups are culturally and linguistically different, they are not entirely diverse. The married woman is in all the groups the person on which agriculture rests and is thus responsible for the family’s livelihood.
In Mozambique, agriculture accounts for more than 40 percent of the Net National Product and employs about 80 percent of the population. Mainly grown are cashew nuts, sugar, cotton, tea and sisal, which is a stiff fiber traditionally used in making twine and robe.
At independence, 85 to 95 percent of the population in Mozambique was illiterate. In the early 1980s, large investments in adult education were made with help from outside, and the illiteracy is today estimated to approximately 50 percent. However, there are more men than women who are literate.
For children, seven years of education is compulsory, but the number of school children has been low and uneven because of poverty and the uncertain situation in the country
AIDS is a major health problem in Mozambique. 1.3 million of its population was in 2003 calculated to be infected with HIV, and every year, 110 000 Mozambicans die of AIDS. The lack of knowledge, money and trained medical personnel exacerbate the situation immensely. The estimated life expectancy in Mozambique is 41 years of age. However, if AIDS had not devastated so many lives as it does, life expectancy would have been significantly higher.
Although the majority of the Mozambican population still lives well below poverty line, the country is in progress. With help from abroad and with greater political stability since 1994, economic growth has increased. The country has in recent years been spared from major natural disasters that may have slowed down economic growth, and the civil war destruction lies further and further back in time.