Mozambique Recent History

Portuguese consolidation

According to Fashionissupreme, the Portuguese Empire managed to drive away its European colonial competitors from the shores of East Africa. The Portuguese tried to legitimize and consolidate their positions by creating prazos (concessions) attached to their administrative apparatus. Although initially the prazos were developed to be run by the Portuguese, through mixed marriages they became Luso-African or Luso-indigenous centers, defended by black slaves called chikunda.

In Mozambique, slavery was practiced by African tribal chiefs, Arab merchants, and Portuguese (prazeiros). In fact, between 1500 and 1800, about a million people were sold as slaves.

Although the Portuguese influence expanded, its power was limited and exercised through some officers and settlers, who were guaranteed great autonomy. If between 1500 and 1700 it was possible to control the Arab commercial expansion, with the fall of Fort Jesus on the Island of Mombasa in 1698 (currently belonging to Kenya), the Portuguese found themselves in a disadvantageous situation, and their power decreased. As a result, investment declined while Lisbon devoted itself to more lucrative business with India and the Far East, as well as the colonization of Brazil.

18th and 19th centuries

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Mazrui and Omani Arabs controlled much of the region’s maritime trade, shifting the Portuguese influence south. By 1780, the Portuguese had lost all influence north of Cabo Delgado due to Omani advances. Many prazos were abandoned in the mid-19th century.

At that time, other colonial powers such as the British and French empires (the latter coming from Madagascar) became increasingly involved in the trade and politics of Portuguese East Africa. In this sense, only with the division of Africa during the Berlin Conference in 1885, the Portuguese penetration was transformed into a military occupation, which led during the first years of the 20th century to a true colonial administration.

In effect, Portugal claimed a strip of land from Mozambique to Angola, which was accepted by the German imperial authorities, its colonial neighbors in northern German East Africa, but not by the British, who would also control the Tanganyika section. Due to the debts of the Portuguese, and to the military capacity of both powers, in 1891 they were forced to renounce their claims and accept the lines defined by the British. In that sense, although the map of Mozambique was defined by the four centuries under Portuguese domination, the result is due more to a random sequence of expansion attempts, than to a successful policy.

Twentieth century

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Portuguese had transferred most of their administration to large private companies, such as Mozambique (current provinces of Manica and Sofala), Zambezia or Niassa (current Cabo Delgado and Niassa), directed and financed mainly by the United Kingdom, which established rail lines to connect Beira with Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia, and developed sugar, copra and sisal plantations

Although slavery was officially abolished, in the late 19th century companies enforced forced labor policies, supplying men for work in mines and on plantations in neighboring British colonies, as well as in South Africa. The Zambezia Company, the most profitable, seized several prazeiros, and established military outposts. Roads, ports and other communication routes were built, in particular a railway linking Zimbabwe and the port of Beira. Central avenue of Lourenço Marques (current Maputo) in 1905.

Due to its bad results, under the Estado Novo de Salazar, the control of the Portuguese Empire increased and the concessions were not renewed, for which in 1929 the Company of Niassa disappeared, and in 1942 that of Mozambique. In 1951 all the colonies in Africa were renamed the Overseas Provinces of Portugal.

During this period, the concentration of power in the hands of Portuguese companies and individuals intensified.


In the 1950s, the Portuguese launched a series of development plans to extend and modernize the national transport and communications infrastructure. The good prices of post-war tropical products favored the economy, which was not favorable for the native population, which suffered severe mobility limitations due to lack of opportunities, caused mainly by the arrival of Portuguese settlers, which worsened some already bad relations between the two communities. Samora Moises Machel, President during the Frelimo government between 1975 and 1986.

As communist and anti-colonial ideologies spread across the continent, many political movements favorable to Mozambique’s independence were created. They argued that since development policies and plans were designed to favor the Portuguese, very little attention had been paid to tribal integration and the development of their native communities.

The Mozambican Liberation Front (Frelimo) began a guerrilla war against the Portuguese regime in 1964. Along with the struggles in Portuguese West Africa (now Angola) and Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea Bissau), Mozambique was part of the Portuguese Colonial War. By 1974 the Frelimo could move in the north zone with tranquility, as well as in the center zones, although the urban zones of most of the south and the coast were still in Portuguese hands. In 1975, both due to guerrilla action and the effects of the Carnation Revolution in Portugal, Mozambique obtained its independence along with the rest of the regions that still belonged to its colonial Empire.

Mozambique Recent History

You may also like...