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Mozambique

Named for the offshore island of Mozambique. The island was apparently named after Mussa al-BIK, an influential Arab slave trader who set himself up as sultan on the island in the 15th century.

Year:  2017

Area: 799,380 sq km

Population: 25,930,150 -- 50th in World

Flag: There are three equal horizontal bands of green, black, and yellow with a red triangle based on the hoist side; the black band is edged in white; centered in the triangle is a yellow star bearing a crossed rifle and hoe in black superimposed on an open white book; green represents the riches of the land, white peace, black the African continent, yellow the country's minerals, and red the struggle for independence; the rifle symbolizes defense and vigilance, the hoe refers to the country's agriculture, the open book stresses the importance of education, and the star represents Marxism and internationalism.

Mozambique's first inhabitants were hunters and gatherers, ancestors of the Khoisani peoples. Between the first and fourth centuries AD, waves of Bantu-speaking peoples migrated from the north through the Zambezi River Valley and then gradually into the plateau and coastal areas. The Bantu were farmers and iron workers.

When Portuguese explorers reached Mozambique in 1498, Arab trading settlements had existed along the coast and outlying islands for several centuries.

From about 1500, Portuguese trading posts and forts became regular ports of call on the new route to the east. Later, traders penetrated the interior regions seeking gold and slaves. Although Portuguese influence gradually expanded, limited power was exercised through individual settlers who were granted extensive autonomy. As a result, investment lagged while Lisbon devoted itself to the more lucrative trade with India and the Far East and the colonization of Brazil.

By the early 20th century, the Portuguese had shifted the administration of much of the country to large private companies, controlled and financed mostly by the British, who established railroad lines to neighboring countries and supplied cheap – often forced – African labor to the mines and plantations of the nearby British colonies and South Africa. Because policies were designed to benefit white settlers and the Portuguese homeland, little attention was paid to Mozambique's national integration, its economic infrastructure, or the skills of its population.

Following the April 1974 coup in Lisbon, Portuguese colonialism collapsed. In Mozambique, the military decision to withdraw occurred within the context of a decade of armed anti-colonial struggle, initially led by American-educated Eduardo Mondlane, who was assassinated in 1969. After ten years of sporadic warfare and major political changes in Portugal, Mozambique became independent on June 25, 1975.

When independence was achieved in 1975, the leaders the Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO) military campaign rapidly established a one-party state allied to the Soviet bloc and outlawed rival political activity. FRELIMO eliminated political pluralism, religious educational institutions, and the role of traditional authorities.

The new government gave shelter and support to South Africa's African National Congress (ANC) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) liberation movements while the governments of first Rhodesia and later apartheid South Africa fostered and financed an armed rebel movement in central Mozambique called Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (RENAMO).

Civil war, sabotage from neighboring states, and economic collapse characterized the first decade of Mozambican independence. Also marking this period were the mass exodus of Portuguese nationals, weak infrastructure, nationalization, and economic mismanagement. During most of the civil war, the government was unable to exercise effective control outside of urban areas, many of which were cut off from the capital. An estimated 1 million Mozambicans perished during the civil war, 1.7 million took refuge in neighboring states, and several million more were internally displaced. In the third FRELIMO party congress in 1983, President Samora Machel conceded the failure of socialism and the need for major political and economic reforms. He died, along with several advisers, in a suspicious 1986 plane crash. His widow, Graça Machel, eventually married Nelson Mandela of South Africa.

For the past 15 years, Mozambique has exhibited strong economic growth and has been one of the economic lions of Southern Africa.

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