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Flag Source: CIA World Factbook
Mozambique’s first inhabitants were San hunters and gatherers. By the fourth century A.D., Bantu-speaking peoples had settled in the area as well. Portuguese explorers reached Mozambique in 1498 and quickly established trading posts and forts along the coast; later, they moved inland in search of gold and slaves.
By the early 1900s, the Portuguese had shifted the administration of much of the country to private, largely British-owned companies, which established railroad lines to neighboring countries and forced Mozambicans into slave labor in the mines and plantations of nearby British colonies and South Africa. Since Portugal intended to benefit only white settlers and the Portuguese homeland, little attention was paid to Mozambique’s national integration or its economic infrastructure.
After World War II, as other European nations were granting independence to their colonies, Portugal clung to the noti
on of Mozambique as an overseas extension of the mother country, and emigration to the area skyrocketed. Mozambicans formed the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), which launched an armed campaign against Portuguese colonial rule in 1964. After ten years of intermittent warfare and an anticolonial coup in Lisbon, Mozambique became an independent nation on June 25, 1975.
Following independence, the leaders of FRELIMO’s military campaign established a one-party state and outlawed oppositional political activity. The new government lent support to armed liberation groups fighting the white-minority-rule governments in South Africa and Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). In turn, those countries sponsored an armed rebel movement in central Mozambique called the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO). The civil war that ensued between the two groups lasted until 1992, leaving a million dead and millions of Mozambican refugees.
Years later, with a fragile peace in place and a newly adopted, multiparty constitution, Mozambique seemed headed in a positive direction when it was hit with another series of setbacks. In 2000 and 2001, devastating floods swept through the country, affecting a quarter of the population and destroying much of its infrastructure, and in 2002 a severe drought afflicted many central and southern parts of the country. The good news is that recent years have brought a great deal of beneficial change to Mozambique. Foreign aid, economic reforms, and the resettlement of civil war refugees have all contributed to economic growth and a promising future.
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1. Nearly twice the size of California, Mozambique is situated on Africa’s southeastern coast and shares borders with Tanzania and Malawi to the north, Zambia to the northeast, Zimbabwe to the west, and South Africa and Swaziland to the southwest. The country is split into 11 provinces, including the capital city, Maputo, which has provincial status.
2. The local currency is the metical (plural “meticais”), whose symbol is MZN. (One U.S. dollar is equal to approximately 36 MZN.) U.S. dollars and South African rands also may be used in Mozambique.
3. Mozambique’s constitution protects media freedom, but criminal-libel laws inhibit liberty of expression. The country’s main daily newspapers are Noticias, of which the government owns a share, and Diario de Mocambique, which is private. A handful of private weeklies are also published: Demos, Zambeze, Domingo, Savana, Fim de Semana, and Folha Universal.
4. Portuguese is Mozambique’s official language; Makua-Lomwe, Swahili, and other indigenous languages are also spoken throughout the country.
5. Smoking in public places is prohibited in Mozambique; certain restaurants and bars contain separate smoking areas.