As the Cold War raged on in the 1970s and 1980s, much of southern Africa, from Angola to Mozambique, became caught up in the superpower competition as local and regional proxies for both Moscow and Washington fought it out on the battlefield. Thus, the struggle to determine the future of a newly independent Mozambique was shaped by multiple factors beyond the control of its people in the course of its 16-year conflict from 1977-1992. These factors also contributed to the longevity and ferocity of the Mozambican war that would leave an estimated one million dead, millions more displaced and made homeless, and a country in ruins.
From the rise of the Resistencia Nacional Mocambicana, or Renamo, in 1977 as a Rhodesian weapon against Zimbabwean nationalist guerrillas operating in Mozambique, through South African patronage in the 1980s and to Renamo’s evolution as a self-sufficient insurgency, the forces of Mozambican nationalism became inexorably intertwined with the geopolitics of the region and the international manifestations of the Cold War. Thus, both government and rebel forces found themselves repeatedly beholden to external interests – be it American, Soviet, Cuban, South African or Rhodesian – as each sought to advance its own agenda and future vision of the country. However, it would be Mozambicans themselves who spilled their blood in a clash of men and arms that spanned the length and breadth of the country. And ultimately this is their story of sacrifice and triumph.