QUICK FACTS

Ethnic groups: African 99.66% (Makhuwa, Tsonga, Lomwe, Sena, and others), Europeans 0.06%, Euro-Africans 0.2%, Indians 0.08%

Languages: Emakhuwa 25.3%, Portuguese (official) 10.7%, Xichangana 10.3%, Cisena 7.5%, Elomwe 7%, Echuwabo 5.1%, other Mozambican languages 30.1%, other 4% (1997 census)

Religions: Catholic 28.4%, Protestant 27.7% (Zionist Christian 15.5%, Evangelical Pentecostal 10.9%, Anglican 1.3%), Muslim 17.9%, other 7.2%, none 18.7% (1997 census)

Population: 24,096,669 (July 2013 est.)

HISTORY

Mozambique stretches for 1,535 mi (2,470 km) along Africa's southeast coast. It is nearly twice the size of California. Tanzania is to the north; Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe to the west; and South Africa and Swaziland to the south. The country is generally a low-lying plateau broken up by 25 sizable rivers that flow into the Indian Ocean. The largest is the Zambezi, which provides access to central Africa.

Bantu speakers migrated to Mozambique in the first millennium, and Arab and Swahili traders settled the region thereafter. It was explored by Vasco da Gama in 1498 and first colonized by Portugal in 1505. By 1510, the Portuguese had control of all of the former Arab sultanates on the east African coast. Portuguese colonial rule was repressive.

Guerrilla Activity and Independence

Guerrilla activity began in 1963, and became so effective by 1973 that Portugal was forced to dispatch 40,000 troops to fight the rebels. A cease-fire was signed in Sept. 1974, and after having been under Portuguese colonial rule for 470 years, Mozambique became independent on June 25, 1975. The first president, Samora Moises Machel, had been the head of the National Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) in its ten-year guerrilla war for independence. He died in a plane crash in 1986, and was succeeded by his foreign minister, Joaquim Chissanó.

Civil War

On Jan. 25, 1985, after a decade of independence, the government became locked in a paralyzing war with antigovernment guerrillas, the Mozambique National Resistance (MNR, or Renamo), who were backed by the white minority government in South Africa. The guerrilla movement weakened President Chissanó's attempts to institute socialism, which he then decided to abandon in 1989. A new constitution was drafted calling for three branches of government and the granting civil liberties. A cease-fire agreement signed in Oct. 1992 between the government and the MNR ended 6 years of civil war.

Democracy and Economic Growth

In multiparty elections in 1994, President Chissanó won. In Nov. 1995, the country was the first nonformer British colony to become a member of the British Commonwealth. The president's disciplined economic plan was highly successful, winning the country foreign confidence and aid. While Mozambique posted some of the world's largest economic growth rates in the late 1990s, it has suffered enormous setbacks because of natural disasters, such as the enormous damage caused by severe flooding in the winters of 2000 and 2001. Hundreds died and thousands were displaced.

In 2002, Chissanó announced he would not seek a third term. FRELIMO's candidate, independence hero Armando Guebuza, was elected president and sworn in on Feb. 2, 2005.

The current president is Filipe Jacinto Nyusi.