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Chissano, Joaquim

Joaquim Chissano

1939—

Political leader

President Joaquim Chissano devoted forty years of his life to transforming a troubled Portuguese colony into a stable, independent Mozambique. Establishing a policy of political nonalignment, Chissano earned the support of both Marxist and capitalist governments around the world and was able to develop a constructive relationship with the formerly hostile government of neighboring South Africa. He piloted Mozambique through a transition from communism to capitalism, won his country's first and second multiparty elections, and made history by declining to run for another term in office. His accomplishments were recognized in 2007 when he was awarded the inaugural Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, which is the largest award in the world granted to an individual.

Experienced Colonialism

During the 1950s Mozambique was a tourists'; paradise. Crowds of vacationers, mainly from Portugal and South Africa, were attracted by its majestic wildlife and golden beaches, the warm blue waters of the Indian Ocean, and the glittering nightclubs of Lourenco Marques (which later became the capital city of Maputo). However, beneath the stunning surface of this southeast African territory lay an indigenous society deeply divided by ten language groups, ancient ethnic rivalries, and ongoing conflict between rural and urban blacks.

Many of the rural peoples were subsistence farmers who tended to live by tribal tradition. Their education, if any, came from the rudimentary schools designed to give black children a smattering of Portuguese language and culture before they entered primary school; statistics for 1955 showed that only 25,472 students had managed to achieve a primary school education, which, at most, could earn them blue-collar status. As a result, rural dwellers were often left with no other options than to work under contract in the South African gold mines or migrate to the neighboring British-held territories of Nyasaland or Rhodesia.

Urban blacks in the Portuguese-held territory fared somewhat better. With greater access to education, many were taught to read and write Portuguese well enough to hold factory or office jobs. Those Africans who seemed willing to forsake their tribal heritage in favor of the Portuguese culture, customs, and lifestyle were accepted as assimilados, an elite group of black Mozambicans who were able to straddle the line between races—and who would later play an integral part in the rise of black nationalism and the successful fight for independence from Portugal.

Joaquim Alberto Chissano was born into this splintered society on October 22, 1939. He showed his potential early. One of the first black children from the southern Gaza Province to attend primary school, he soared over the barriers of the Portuguese educational system to graduate in record time from the Liceu Salazar secondary school in the country's capital, Lourenco Marques.

Chissano was a high school student when he first met American-trained Mozambican anthropologist Eduardo Mondlane. Mondlane's job as a United Nations (UN) researcher took him to many corners of the world. Having ample opportunity to compare his downtrodden compatriots with independent people living elsewhere, he concluded that their future could never improve unless they were freed from Portuguese rule.

Developed Political Interests

Chissano met Mondlane in Lourenco Marques, where Mondlane had started a high school discussion group called the Nucleus of Mozambican African Secondary Students (NESAM). Before long, young Chissano became an eager acolyte, participating at first in spirited debates about Mozambique's politics and other social issues, and later stepping into the association's presidency.

At the end of 1960 Chissano left for college in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. Though still in his early twenties, he was already marked for leadership by having achieved a level of education far beyond that of most black Mozambicans. His finely honed debating skills—combined with an ability to ignite political fervor in others—earned him respect among Mozambique's nationalists, many of whom had fled to other African countries as Portuguese rule became more repressive.

Chissano found many political soul mates in Lisbon, where antigovernment discussions among students from Angola and other Portuguese colonies took place regularly. Vocal opponents of colonialism, however, faced serious consequences. Uneasy over the newly minted independence of Mozambique's neighbor, Tanzania, which had been a British colony, the Portuguese government stepped up the activities of its powerful and often brutal secret police, known as PIDE. Chissano and his friends soon found themselves the target of unwelcome PIDE attention. Incessantly watched, sometimes bullied, they quietly began to look for a way to leave Portugal.

Their plight came to the attention of CIMADE, a French ecumenical group whose service to humanity's refugees had begun in Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's concentration camps. Having an acquaintance with secret police squads in several parts of the world, CIMADE began to plot the escape of Chissano and the other dissidents.

At a Glance …

Born Joaquim Alberto Chissano, October 22, 1939, in Malehice, Chibuto District, Gaza Province, Mozambique; married Marcelina Rafael; children: four. Education: Attended secondary school in Maputo, Mozambique; studied medicine briefly in Lisbon, Portugal.

Career: Lecturer, then president, of Nucleus of Mozambican African Secondary Students (NESAM), 1960; founder and head of National Union of Mozambican Students (UNEMO), 1961. Frente de Libertacao de Mocambique (Front for the Liberation of Mozambique; FRELIMO), founding member, 1962; minister of defense, 1964-74; chief FRELIMO representative in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 1969-74; transitional government of Mozambique, prime minister, 1974-75; Republic of Mozambique, minister of foreign affairs, 1975-86; Republic of Mozambique, president and commander in chief of the armed forces, 1986-2005; Africa Union, president, 2003-05; United Nations, special envoy, 2005—; Fundacção Joaquim Chissano, founder, 2005—.

Memberships: Board of directors, African Rainbow Minerals and Harmony Gold, South Africa.

Awards: Africa Prize, 1997; Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, 2007.

Addresses: Office—Fundacção Joaquim Chissano, Av. do Zimbabwe, 954, Caixa Postal 63, Maputo, Mozambique.

On Friday, June 30, 1961, Chissano and several other students were spirited out of Portugal and smuggled over the Spanish border in a complicated rescue mission involving rented cars, forged papers, and a night in a San Sebastian jail. Bound for Paris, they were led by Dr. William J. Nottingham, an experienced guide who had previously brought forty-one students out of Lisbon, as he put it, "under the noses of the PIDE." Dr. Nottingham, who retired from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, noted: "There were only five Mozambican students in the group, but Mondlane showed up in Paris to greet them."

Formed and Joined Activist Groups

With Mondlane's help, Chissano formed and headed a second youth group called the National Union of Mozambican Students (UNEMO). Intended specifically to alert foreign sympathizers to Mozambique's plight, UNEMO undertook the additional goal of helping students to obtain scholarships for overseas study.

UNEMO was not the only group working for international recognition of Mozambique. Several small liberation groups were gaining support across Mozambique's borders with Malawi and Tanzania. In June of 1962 these small groups united under Mondlane's presidency, forming an organization called Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (or the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, commonly referred to as FRELIMO).

Chissano joined the Tanzania-based FRELIMO as Mondlane's secretary, a post that brought him automatic membership in the Central Committee. As the fight for independence progressed, FRELIMO looked outside of Africa for military assistance. By the end of 1963, the Central Committee had secured weapons and instructors in guerrilla warfare techniques from China and the Soviet Union. A hit-and-run combat campaign was devised against the better-equipped Portuguese army, and well-concealed bases for FRELIMO's soldiers were set up in the dense forests of the Cabo Delgado province straddling the Mozambique-Tanzania border.

By mid-1964 FRELIMO had 250 trained soldiers poised to strike. Their first act of sabotage came on the moonless night of September 25, when they destroyed a Portuguese administrative post in Cabo Delgado. After this initial success, the hit-and-run strategy rapidly gained momentum. Railway lines were blown up, repaired, and blown up again. Beira and Lourenco Marques, the country's principal ports, were systematically isolated. Plastic landmines made road travel so hazardous that by the end of 1965 the white farming population was driven away from a 3,000-square-mile area stretching between the Tanzanian and Malawi borders. For more than half a dozen years, FRELIMO continued its war for independence, using a guerrilla-based military campaign that brought them control of the entire northern section of Mozambique by late 1973.

Rose to Leadership Positions

Several other historical events converged in the late 1960s to make the tide of Mozambique's history begin to flow more swiftly. For Chissano, the 1969 assassination of his comrade, Eduardo Mondlane, propelled him into the spotlight. As the more radical forces of FRELIMO clashed with the more moderate members, Chissano became a voice of reason in the midst of political chaos. Mondlane's replacement, former defense secretary Samora Machel, had been Chissano's Central Committee comember since 1965; the two men had enjoyed a close working relationship, which became even closer when Chissano was appointed FRELIMO's chief representative in Tanzania.

At the same time, the Portuguese government was undergoing its own changes. Longtime Premier António de Oliveira Salazar was replaced by Dr. Marcello Caetano, who, by April of 1974, had been ousted from power by a coup. The military regime that took his place, however, was unable to maintain its grip on Portugal's African colonies. The antiquated Portuguese economy was severely strained and eventually collapsed.

Negotiations for a joint Portuguese-FRELIMO transitional government began immediately. On September 8, 1974, both sides signed the Lusaka Agreement, which set June 25, 1975, as the date for independence and assured FRELIMO a smooth passage to power by allotting them six out of ten cabinet posts, plus the prime minister's slot, which went to Joaquim Chissano. Standing in for president-to-be Samora Machel, who had decided to remain in Tanzania until May of 1975, Chissano got off to a brisk start.

Participated in New Marxist State

Leaving no doubt in the Mozambican people's minds about the new regime's single-party, Marxist ideology, Chissano took over two of the new republic's six newspapers and let his citizens know that no political opposition would be tolerated. Next, he nationalized medicine—a drastic move that touched off an exodus of medical personnel, leaving only a hundred trained physicians to care for the country's entire population. Soon after, the legal system, agricultural estates, and most profitable businesses followed suit, causing so many white minority professionals to leave that the country's nonblack population sank from 200,000 to about 40,000 by the time independence day arrived.

As Miles Smith-Morris put it in Africa South of the Sahara 1994, "The situation in 1974-75 was chaotic, as the Portuguese…fled the country. The exclusion of Africans by the colonial regime from almost all positions in the modern sector created a dearth of middle-level managers and others who could fill the vacuum left by the exodus of the Portuguese." Black Mozambicans—the majority of whom were denied education and training under Portugal's domination—were left with few resources to revive their staggering nation.

As the country's administrative infrastructures collapsed, Chissano began to substitute as best he could. He encouraged each local population to select "dynamizing" groups, or civic action squads, whose standing with their own constituents gave them the authority to protect their districts against vandalism, and whose popularity gave them the authority to dispense advice about ways to increase and collectivize crops. At the same time, he made sure these leaders were loyal to FRELIMO, so that they could spread politically correct ideology wherever they went.

A few minutes after the rainy midnight of June 25, 1975, the new flag went up in Maputo, formerly known as Lourenco Marques. Chissano, the newly appointed foreign minister, listened intently as President Samora Machel uttered three eerily prophetic words: "The struggle continues!" Domestically, Mozambique's day-to-day struggle—compounded by a 90 percent illiteracy rate, a near-starving population, and a nonexistent economy—was typical of many newly independent African states. However, Mozambique was more deeply split by tribal and linguistic differences than its neighboring nations; in addition, the concept of democracy was so foreign to Mozambicans that many expected their income and their prospects to rise immediately. Chissano set them straight at once. "You must not think that FRELIMO will drop like a god from the sky to solve all your problems," he warned in a speech quoted by Time magazine in 1975.

Established Policies of Nonpolitical Alignment

Realizing that his nation's desperate needs could only be solved with outside help from both capitalist and Communist quarters, the new government sent out a strong international message of political nonalignment. Still, Mozambique came to rely more heavily on Soviet aid in the months following independence. The Soviets supplied the country with thousands of outdated but badly needed missiles, MIG-17 fighter aircraft, and tanks. Other contributions from Communist governments came from East Germany, Algeria, Libya, and Iraq, which agreed in 1978 to supply Mozambique with oil priced below the world market. Even such pro-Western countries as Italy, Holland, and France, with far looser ties to Marxist Mozambique, supported the Machel government with generous imports of petroleum products, manufactured consumer goods, and food.

Yet the economy continued to plummet. The loss of skilled manpower in the years immediately following independence began to show up in inefficiently managed stores, an unreliable transport system, and failing agricultural estates that could no longer be run without expensive, imported machinery.

Maintaining these systems drained Mozambique's treasury. Pressure mounted even further after 1976, when UN trade sanctions against white-ruled Southern Rhodesia forced Mozambique to close its borders with the neighboring country, reducing both revenue and job opportunities for black Mozambicans. A little later, South Africa eliminated 80,000 mineworkers from a previous quota of 120,000, depleting already meager cash resources. By 1980 Machel was forced to acknowledge that rural Mozambique could not support an economic model originally designed for the more sophisticated, urban Soviet Union. Desperately needing economic aid, he was forced to rethink his policy of idealistic Marxism by strengthening ties with the West.

Chissano's part in this was to forge fruitful relationships with Western governments. His mission was complicated by the recent expulsion from Mozambique of four American diplomats accused of spying for the Central Intelligence Agency; but he did not let the acrimonious aftermath stand in his way. Spurred onward by the worst drought ever to hit southern Africa, he went to Washington, DC, to find help for his starving people. By 1984 Mozambique had become the world's largest recipient of U.S. food aid. In return, American mining companies seeking fresh fields for oil and mineral prospecting found a warm welcome in Mozambique.

Faced Strong Opposition

Starvation was not Chissano's only problem. Equally urgent was the Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (Mozambique National Resistance, or RENAMO), an antigovernment terrorist force that originated with Rhodesian and Portuguese intelligence officers, then spread to longtime FRELIMO opponents. The opposition brushfire expanded fast, aided by RENAMO troop training in Rhodesia and South Africa. It is widely believed that the South African government, then run by the white minority, felt threatened by even the smallest prospect of economic stability in Mozambique and feared that the former Portuguese colony—a struggling, but nevertheless independent nation—would fuel the progress of the African National Congress (the ANC; South Africa's black liberation organization) in obtaining black majority rule.

Beginning in the early 1980s RENAMO was led by Afonso Dhlakama, a man Chissano knew well. Like his short-lived predecessor, André Matzangaisa, he had been expelled from the FRELIMO ranks in Chissano's own 1974 anticorruption purge and had then plunged enthusiastically into a brutal campaign to disrupt Mozambique's population and economy. Within a year Dhlakama's troops had earned a blood-spattered reputation as the "locust people" for the ways in which they destroyed everything in their path. Operating countrywide, they went on an eight-year rampage that destroyed 1,800 schools, 720 health posts, 900 shops, and 1,300 vehicles and left newspaper readers reeling at gruesome eyewitness accounts of crushed skulls and mutilated faces, wholesale village massacres, and children boiled alive to punish parents for failing to cooperate with RENAMO troops.

Samora Machel did not live to see the full extent of this savagery. On October 19, 1986, he died in a Soviet civilian aircraft that crashed in South Africa while on its way home from Zambia. Accounts of the tragedy varied considerably. Causes mentioned by the South African media included stormy weather, outdated navigational equipment, and high alcohol levels in the bloodstreams of the Soviet crewmembers. Mozambican reports, on the other hand, tended to dwell on the delayed reports of the president's death, the removal of the aircraft's black box from the wreckage by the South African authorities, and the possibility that a high-frequency radio broadcasting beacon had been used to lure the aircraft off course.

Promoted Peace and Reforms as President

On November 4, 1986, forty-seven-year-old Joaquim Alberto Chissano succeeded Machel as Mozambique's president, head of the FRELIMO party, and chief of the armed forces. Characteristically, he took office with a minimum of ceremony and a reassuring announcement that he would not make any drastic political changes. Strengthening the unsteady economy was his top priority. The high cost of anti-RENAMO defense and repeated repairs to government buildings and public transportation cut deep into the country's budget; education programs were therefore shelved, and agricultural projects were abandoned because human resources had been diverted to the army.

In 1987 Chissano established an economic recovery program in an effort to buttress the 679,000 metric tons of food aid needed to keep Mozambique alive for a year. He obtained a huge loan from the International Monetary Fund and devalued Mozambique's unit of currency to a fraction of its original value. In other moves, he laid off 14 percent of government employees and lifted price controls on all agricultural produce.

While all these measures were helpful, they were not enough to rebuild the shattered economy. The key was to find a way to end the war with RENAMO. Chissano's resolute policy of political nonalignment now made it possible to ask both Western and Communist countries for help in the search for peace. Both sides of the political spectrum responded. Nevertheless, by 1990 President Chissano recognized that conquering the fiercely nationalistic RENAMO was more likely at the bargaining table than on the battlefield. He announced several radical changes, most notably a deliberate shift from government dominated by a single party with a Marxist-Leninist ideology to a multiparty democracy. He also changed his previous policy of refusing to deal with RENAMO.

Acceding to Dhlakama's demands, Chissano gave him a house in Maputo to use as his official headquarters and allocated 15,000 out of 30,000 positions in the Mozambican army to former RENAMO troops. Believing that RENAMO could make a real contribution as an opposition party, Dhlakama signed a peace pact with Chissano on October 5, 1992. However, Mozambique's troubles were not yet over. Six thousand international UN peacekeepers patrolled city streets until 1994 when peace took hold.

That same year Mozambique held its first multiparty elections. Chissano won the election, becoming the country's first democratically elected president. Refugees who had slipped over the borders of neighboring countries began to return home, offers of help in rebuilding the country came from overseas, and the formerly hostile country of South Africa—having ended its practice of providing covert aid to RENAMO—began investing in the new regime. Under Chissano's leadership, Mozambique began steady economic progress, and in 1997 he became an Africa Prize laureate for his work toward ending hunger in the country by reviving its economy. Chissano was elected to a second term in 1999. During his tenure he attracted foreign investment in order to speed Mozambique's economic growth and also negotiated debt forgiveness to alleviate the country's payments on foreign loans.

Chissano's admired position among African leaders was recognized in 2003 when he was appointed president of the African Union and began traveling the world to speak of Africa's challenges and attract support. When the world had turned its attention to the war in the Middle East in 2003, Chissano helped refocus attention on aid to Africa and personally contacted international businessmen with proposals for investing in his country.

Stepped Down from the Presidency

Though he was well liked, and his country continued along a path of progress, Chissano announced that he would not run for the final five-year term the Constitution allowed him in 2004. His decision shocked many, for African leaders had a history of holding fast to their offices. Indeed, Chissano's decision put pressure on the longtime leaders of neighboring countries such as Zimbabwe and Malawi to allow others to govern. On February 2, 2005, Chissano stepped down in order for his handpicked successor and the winner of the election, Armando Guebuza, to take office. Chissano continued work for the UN as a special envoy, and by May of 2005 he had accepted board memberships at both African Rainbow Minerals and Harmony Gold, two huge mining concerns in South Africa.

In 2007 Chissano was awarded the inaugural Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. Established by Sudanese-born telecommunications magnate Mohamed Ibrahim, the prize is intended to foster good governance on a continent widely plagued by governmental corruption. Billed as "the largest prize in the world," the award consists of $5 million distributed to the winner over ten years, plus $200,000 annually for life thereafter. The winner may also direct an additional $200,000 per year to worthy causes of his or her choosing. In selecting the winner, the Ibrahim Foundation evaluates the candidates' leadership in economic and social development, democracy, human rights, security, and the rule of law. Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary-general and chair of the prize committee, noted that "it is his role in leading Mozambique from conflict to peace and democracy that President Chissano has made his most outstanding contribution." Annan also credited Chissano for the economic progress made in Mozambique under his leadership and for his international advocacy on behalf of Africa.

Accepting the award, Chissano stated: "We need to develop and root in our societies a culture of peace. We need to promote regional integration. We need to encourage public-private partnerships and give a more robust role to our private sector. We must fight corruption and promote integrity and good governance. And we need to establish a sustained process of national dialogue and reconciliation in all the countries emerging from conflict. In short, we need to work towards building capable states in Africa."

Sources

Books

Africa Contemporary Record, edited by Colin Legum, Africana Publishing Company, 1992.

Africa South of the Sahara 1994, 23rd edition, Europa, 1994.

Africa Today, Africa Books Ltd., 1991.

Azevedo, Mario, Historical Dictionary of Mozambique, African Historical Dictionaries, Scarecrow Press, 1991.

Finnegan, W., A Complicated War: The Harrowing of Mozambique, University of California Press, 1992.

Henriksen, Thomas H., Revolution and Counterrevolution: Mozambique's War of Independence, 1964-1974, Greenwood Press, 1983.

Mondlane, Eduardo, The Struggle for Mozambique, Zed Press, 1969.

Periodicals

African Business, August-September 2003, p. 32.

Africa News Service, October 28, 2007.

Africa Report, January-February 1981, p. 19; January-February 1983, p. 42; May-June 1984, p. 24; January-February 1985, p. 41; January-February 1986, p. 77; January-February 1987, p. 25; July-August 1987, p. 61; September-October 1987, p. 48; November-December 1987, p. 65; July-August 1988, p. 55; November-December 1990, p. 39; May-June 1992, p. 30; November-December 1992, p. 31; March-April, 1993, p. 47; July-August 1993, p. 40; September-October 1993, p. 46; November-December 1993; p. 7; March-April, 1994, p. 47.

Economist, September 17, 1988, p. 43; March 31, 1990, p. 37; April 21, 1990, p. 47; October 27, 2007, p. 57; December 1, 2007, p. 61.

Finance Week, South Africa, May 4, 2005, p. 32.

Global Information Network, June 7, 2002, p. 1.

Independent (London), October 23, 2007, p. 22.

New African, August-September 2003, p. 16.

New York Times, May 25, 1975, p. A7; June 25, 1975, p. 3; November 4, 1986, p. A5; August 2, 1990, p. A9; October 5, 1992, p. A7; February 22, 1993, p. P1; December 3, 1999; October 23, 2007.

Online

"Mozambique: Country Reports on Human Rights," U.S. Department of State, March 4, 2002, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/af/8394.htm (accessed February 29, 2008).

Other

Additional information for this profile was provided by Dr. William J. Nottingham.

—Gillian Wolf, Sara Pendergast, and Paula Kepos

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Chissano, Joaquim

Joaquim Chissano

1939–

President

President Joaquim Chissano devoted 40 years of his life to carving a stable, independent Mozambique from a former Portuguese colonial backwater. Chissano is responsible for Mozambique's foreign policy of political nonalignment, which earned him firm friendships with both western and Marxist regimes and enabled him to replace neighboring South Africa's hostility with constructive cooperation. An articulate leader who is fluent in Portuguese, English, French, and Swahili, Chissano maintains a deliberately understated profile. He piloted Mozambique through the transition from a Communist to a capitalist ideology, won his country's first and second multiparty elections, and made history by deciding not to run for his final term in office.

Experienced Colonialism

During the 1950s Mozambique was a tourists' paradise. Crowds of vacationers, mainly from Portugal and South Africa, were attracted by its majestic wildlife, golden beaches, the warm blue waters of the Indian Ocean, and the glittering nightclubs of Lourenco Marques (which would later become the capital city of Maputo). But beneath the stunning surface of this southeast African territory lay an indigenous society deeply divided by ten language groups, ancient ethnic rivalries, and ongoing conflict between rural and urban blacks.

The rural peoples were usually subsistence farmers who tended to live by tribal tradition. Their education, if any, came from the rudimentary schools designed to give black children a smattering of Portuguese language and culture before they entered primary school; 1955 statistics showed that only 25,472 students had managed to achieve a primary school education which, at most, could earn them blue-collar status. As a result, rural dwellers were often left with no other options than to work under contract in the South African gold mines or migrate to the neighboring British-held territories of Nyasaland or Rhodesia.

Urban blacks in the Portuguese-held territory, however, fared somewhat better. With greater access to education, many were taught to read and write Portuguese well enough to hold factory or office jobs. Those Africans who seemed willing to forsake their tribal heritage in favor of the Portuguese culture, customs, and lifestyle were accepted as assimilados, an elite group of black Mozambicans who were able to straddle the line between races—and who would later play an integral part in the rise of black nationalism and the successful fight for independence from Portugal.

Joaquim Alberto Chissano was born into this splintered society on October 22, 1939. He showed his potential early. One of the first black children from the southern Gaza Province to attend primary school, he soared over the barriers of the Portuguese educational system to graduate in record time from the Liceu Salazar secondary school in the country's capital, Lourenco Marques.

Chissano was a high school student when he first met American-trained Mozambican anthropologist Eduardo Mondlane. Mondlane's job as a United Nations (UN) researcher took him to many corners of the world. Having ample opportunity to compare his downtrodden compatriots with independent people living else-where, he concluded that their future could never improve unless the stranglehold of Portuguese colonialism was shattered.

Formed Political Interests

Chissano met Mondlane in Lourenco Marques, where Mondlane had started a high school discussion group called the Nucleus of Mozambican African Secondary Students (NESAM). Before long, young Chissano became an eager acolyte, participating at first in spirited debates about Mozambique's politics and other social issues, and later stepping into the association's presidency.

At the end of 1960, Chissano left for college in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. Though still in his early twenties, he was already marked for leadership by having achieved a level of education far beyond that of most black Mozambicans. His finely honed debating skills—combined with an ability to ignite political fervor in others—earned him respect among Mozambique's nationalists, many of whom had fled to other African countries as Portuguese repression intensified.

Chissano found many political soulmates in Lisbon, where anti-government discussions among students from Angola and other Portuguese colonies took place regularly. Vocal opponents of colonialism, however, faced serious consequences. Uneasy over the newly minted independence of Mozambique's neighbor, Tanzania, the Portuguese government had decided to take precautions against its own demise by stepping up the activities of its powerful and often brutal secret police, known as PIDE. Chissano and his friends soon found themselves the target of unwelcome PIDE attention. Incessantly watched, sometimes bullied, they quietly began to look for a way to leave Portugal.

Their plight came to the attention of CIMADE, a French ecumenical group whose service to humanity's refugees had begun in Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's concentration camps. Having an acquaintance with secret police squads in several parts of the world, CIMADE immediately began to plot the escape of Chissano and the other dissidents.

On Friday, June 30, 1961, Joaquim Chissano and several other students were spirited out of Portugal and smuggled over the Spanish border in a complicated rescue mission involving rented cars, forged papers, and a night in a San Sebastian jail. Bound for Paris, they were led by Dr. William J. Nottingham, an experienced guide who had previously brought 41 students out of Lisbon, as he put it, "under the noses of the PIDE." Dr. Nottingham, who recently retired from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, shared a vivid memory about the refugees' arrival: "There were only five Mozambican students in the group," he recalled, "but Mondlane showed up in Paris to greet them."

Formed and Joined Activist Groups

With Mondlane's help, Chissano formed and headed a second youth group called the National Union of Mozambican Students (UNEMO). Intended specifically to alert foreign sympathizers to Mozambique's plight, UNEMO undertook the additional goal of helping students to obtain scholarships for overseas study.

UNEMO was not the only group working for international recognition of Mozambique. Several small liberation groups were gaining support across Mozambique's borders with Malawi and Tanzania. In June of 1962 these small groups united under Mondlane's presidency, forming an organization called Frente de Libertacao de Mocambique (or the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, commonly referred to as FRELIMO).

At a Glance …

Born Joaquim Alberto Chissano, October 22, 1939, in Malehice, Chibuto District, Gaza Province, Mozambique; married Marcelina Rafael; children: four. Education: Attended secondary school in Maputo, Mozambique; studied medicine briefly in Lisbon, Portugal.

Career: Lecturer, then president, of Nucleus of Mozambican African Secondary Students (NESAM), 1960; founder and head of National Union of Mozambican Students (UNEMO), 1961. Frente de Libertacao de Mocambique (Front for the Liberation of Mozambique; FRELIMO), founding member, 1962; minister of defense, 1964–74; chief FRELIMO representative in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 1969–74; transitional government of Mozambique, prime minister, 1974–75; Republic of Mozambique, minister of foreign affairs, 1975–86; Republic of Mozambique, president and commander in chief of the armed forces, November 4, 1986–February 2, 2005; Africa Union, president, 2003–2005; United Nations, special envoy, 2005–.

Memberships: Board of directors, African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) and Harmony Gold, South Africa.

Awards: Africa Prize Laureate, 1997.

Chissano joined the Tanzania-based FRELIMO as Mondlane's secretary, a post that brought him auto-matic membership in the Central Committee. As the fight for independence progressed, FRELIMO was forced to look outside of Africa for military assistance. By the end of 1963, the Central Committee had secured weapons and instructors in guerrilla warfare techniques from China and the Soviet Union. A hit-and-run combat campaign was devised against the better-equipped Portuguese Army, and well-concealed bases for FRELIMO's soldiers were set up in the dense forests of the Cabo Delgado Province straddling the Mozambique-Tanzania border.

By mid-1964 FRELIMO had 250 trained soldiers poised to strike. Their first act of sabotage came on the moonless night of September 25, when they destroyed a Portuguese administrative post in Cabo Delgado Province. After this initial success, the hit-and-run strategy rapidly gained momentum. Railway lines were blown up, repaired, and blown up again. Beira and Lourenco Marques, the country's principal ports, were systematically isolated. Plastic landmines made road travel so hazardous that by the end of 1965 the white farming population was driven away from a 3,000-square mile area stretching between the Tanzanian and Malawi borders. For more than half a dozen years, FRELIMO continued its war for independence, using a guerrilla-based military campaign that brought them control of the entire northern section of Mozambique by late 1973.

Rose to Leadership Positions

But several other historical events converged in the late 1960s to make the tide of Mozambique's history begin to flow more swiftly. For Chissano, the 1969 assassination of his comrade, Eduardo Mondlane, propelled him into the spotlight. As the more radical forces of FRELIMO clashed with the more moderate members, Chissano became a voice of reason in the midst of political chaos. Mondlane's replacement, former defense secretary Samora Machel, had been Chissano's Central Committee co-member since 1965; the two men had enjoyed a close working relationship, which became even closer when Chissano was appointed FRELIMO's chief representative in Tanzania.

At the same time, the Portuguese government was undergoing its own changes. Longtime Premier Antonio de Oliveira Salazar was replaced by Dr. Marcello Caetano, who, by April of 1974, had been ousted from power by a coup. The military regime that took his place, however, was unable to maintain its grip on Portugal's African colonies. The antiquated Portuguese economy was severely strained and eventually collapsed.

Negotiations for a joint Portuguese-FRELIMO transitional government began immediately. On September 8, 1974, both sides signed the Lusaka Agreement, which set June 25, 1975, as the date for independence and assured FRELIMO a smooth passage to power by allotting them six out of ten cabinet posts, plus the prime minister's slot, which went to Joaquim Chissano. Standing in for president-to-be Samora Machel, who had decided to remain in Tanzania until May of 1975, Chissano got off to a brisk start.

Participated in New Marxist State

Leaving no doubt in the Mozambican people's minds about the new regime's single-party, Marxist ideology, Chissano took over two of the new republic's six newspapers and let his citizens know that no political opposition would be tolerated. Next, he nationalized medicine—a drastic move that touched off an exodus of medical personnel, leaving only 100 trained physicians to care for the country's entire population. Soon after, the legal system, agricultural estates, and most profitable businesses followed suit, causing so many white minority professionals to leave that the country's nonblack population sank from 200,000 to about 40,000 by the time independence day arrived.

As Miles Smith-Morris put it in Africa South of the Sahara: 1994, "The situation in 1974–75 was chaotic, as the Portuguese … fled the country. The exclusion of Africans by the colonial regime from almost all positions in the modern sector created a dearth of middle-level managers and others who could fill the vacuum left by the exodus of the Portuguese." Black Mozambicans—the majority of whom were denied education and training under Portugal's domination—were left with few resources to revive their staggering nation.

As the country's administrative infrastructures caved in, Chissano began to substitute as best he could. He encouraged each local population to select "dynamizing" groups, or civic action squads, whose standing with their own constituents gave them the authority to protect their districts against vandalism, and whose popularity gave them the authority to dispense advice about ways to increase and collectivize crops. At the same time, he made sure these leaders were loyal to FRELIMO, so that they could spread the politically correct ideology wherever they went.

A few minutes after the rainy midnight of June 25, 1975, the new flag went up in Maputo, formerly known as Lourenco Marques. Joaquim Chissano, the newly appointed foreign minister, listened intently as President Samora Machel uttered three eerily prophetic words: "The struggle continues!" Domestically, Mozambique's day-to-day struggle—compounded by a 90 percent illiteracy rate, a near-starving population, and a nonexistent economy—was typical of many newly independent African states. But Mozambique was more deeply split by tribal and linguistic differences than its neighboring nations; in addition, the concept of democracy was so foreign to Mozambicans that many expected their income and their prospects to rise immediately. Chissano set them straight at once. "You must not think that FRELIMO will drop like a god from the sky to solve all your problems," he warned in a speech quoted by Time magazine in 1975.

Formed Policies of Nonpolitical Alignment

Realizing that his nation's desperate needs could only be solved with outside help from both capitalist and Communist quarters, the new government sent out a strong international message of political nonalignment. Still, Mozambique came to rely more heavily on Soviet aid in the months following independence. The Soviets supplied the country with thousands of outdated but badly needed missiles, MIG-17 fighter aircraft, and tanks. Other contributions from Communist governments came from East Germany, Algeria, Libya, and Iraq, which agreed in 1978 to supply Mozambique with oil at below world prices. Even pro-western Italy, Holland, and France, with far looser ties to Marxist Mozambique, supported the Machel government with generous imports of petroleum products, manufactured consumer goods, and food.

Yet the economy continued to plummet. Within a couple of post-independence years, the loss of skilled manpower began to show up in inefficiently managed stores, an unreliable transport system, and failing agricultural estates that could no longer be run without expensive, imported machinery.

Maintaining these systems drained Mozambique's treasury. Pressure mounted even further after 1976, when UN trade sanctions against white-ruled Southern Rhodesia forced Mozambique to close its borders with the neighboring country, reducing both revenue and job opportunities for black Mozambicans. A little later, South Africa chopped 80,000 mineworkers from a previous 120,000-strong quota, depleting already meager cash resources. By 1980 Machel was forced to acknowledge that rural Mozambique could not support an economic model originally designed for the more sophisticated, urban Soviet Union. Desperately needing economic aid, he was forced to rethink his policy of idealistic Marxism by strengthening ties with the West.

Chissano's part in this was to forge fruitful relationships with western governments. His mission was complicated by the recent expulsion from Mozambique of four American diplomats accused of spying for the CIA; but he did not let the acrimonious aftermath stand in his way. Spurred onward by the worst drought ever to hit southern Africa, he went to Washington, D.C., to find help for his starving people. By 1984 Mozambique had become the world's largest recipient of U.S. food aid. In return, American mining companies seeking fresh fields for oil and mineral prospecting found a warm welcome in Mozambique.

Faced Strong Opposition

Starvation was not Chissano's only problem. Equally urgent was the Resistencia Nacional Mocambicana (Mozambique National Resistance, or RENAMO), an anti-government terrorist force that originated with Rhodesian and Portuguese intelligence officers, then spread to longtime FRELIMO opponents. The opposition brushfire expanded fast, aided by RENAMO troop training in Rhodesia and South Africa. It is widely believed that the South African government, then run by the white minority, felt threatened by even the smallest prospect of economic stability in Mozambique and feared that the former Portuguese colony—a struggling, but nevertheless independent nation—would fuel the progress of the African National Congress (the ANC; South Africa's black liberation organization) in obtaining black majority rule.

Beginning in the early 1980s, RENAMO was led by Afonso Dhlakama, a man Chissano knew well. Like his short-lived predecessor, Andre Matzangaisa, he had been expelled from the FRELIMO ranks in Chissano's own 1974 anti-corruption purge and had then plunged enthusiastically into a brutal campaign to disrupt Mozambique's population and economy. Within a year Dhlakama's troops had earned a blood-spattered reputation as the "locust people" for the ways in which they destroyed everything in their path. Operating country-wide, they went on an eight-year rampage that destroyed 1,800 schools, 720 health posts, 900 shops, and 1,300 vehicles and left newspaper readers reeling at gruesome eyewitness accounts of crushed skulls and mutilated faces, wholesale village massacres, and children boiled alive to punish parents for failing to cooperate with RENAMO troops.

Samora Machel did not live to see the full extent of this savagery. On October 19, 1986, he died in a Soviet civilian aircraft that crashed just over the border of South Africa while on its way home from Zambia. Accounts of the tragedy varied considerably. Causes mentioned by the South African media included stormy weather, outdated navigational equipment, and high alcohol levels in the bloodstreams of the Soviet crew members. Mozambican reports, on the other hand, tended to dwell on the delayed reports of the president's death, the removal of the aircraft's black box from the wreckage by the South African authorities, and the possibility that a high-frequency radio broadcasting beacon had been used to lure the aircraft off course.

Became President

On November 4, 1986, 47-year-old Joaquim Alberto Chissano succeeded Samora Machel as Mozambique's president, head of the FRELIMO party, and chief of the armed forces. Characteristically, he took office with a minimum of ceremony and a reassuring announcement that he would not make any drastic political changes. Strengthening the unsteady economy was his top priority. The high cost of anti-RENAMO defense and repeated repairs to government buildings and public transportation cut deep into the country's budget; education programs were therefore shelved, and agricultural projects were abandoned because manpower had been diverted to the army.

In 1987 Chissano established an economic recovery program in an effort to buttress the 679,000 metric tons of food aid needed to keep Mozambique alive for a year. He obtained a huge loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and devalued Mozambique's unit of currency to a fraction of its original value. In other moves, he laid off 14 percent of government employees and lifted price controls on all agricultural produce.

While all these measures were helpful, they were not enough to rebuild the shattered economy. The key was to find a way to end the war with RENAMO. Chissano's resolute policy of political nonalignment now made it possible to ask both Western and Communist countries for help in the search for peace. Both sides of the political spectrum responded. Nevertheless, by 1990 President Chissano recognized that conquering the fiercely nationalistic RENAMO was more likely at the bargaining table than on the battlefield. He announced several radical changes, most notably a deliberate shift from Marxist-Leninist ideology to multiparty democracy. He also changed his previous policy of refusing to deal with RENAMO.

Acceding to Dhlakama's demands, Chissano readily gave him a Maputo house to use as his official headquarters and allocated 15,000 places in the 30,000-strong Mozambican army to former RENAMO troops. Feeling that RENAMO could make a real contribution as an opposition party, Dhlakama signed a peace pact with Chissano on October 5, 1992. But Mozambique's troubles were not yet over. Six thousand international UN peacekeepers patrolled city streets until 1994 when peace had took hold.

Made Mozambique a Democracy

That same year Mozambique held its first multiparty elections. Chissano won the election, becoming the country's first democratically elected president. Refugees who had slipped over the borders of neighboring countries began to return home, offers of help in rebuilding the country came from overseas, and the formerly hostile country of South Africa—having ended its practice of providing covert aid to RENAMO—began making lucrative investments in the new regime. Under Chissano's leadership, Mozambique began steady progress and in 1997 he won an Africa Laureate for his work restoring his country's peace. Chissano was elected to a second term in 1999. During his tenure he attracted foreign investment in order to speed Mozambique's economic growth and also negotiated debt forgiveness to alleviate the country's payments on foreign loans.

Chissano's admired position among African leaders was recognized in 2003 when he was appointed president of the African Union and began traveling the world to speak of Africa's plight and gain supporters. When the world had turned its attention to the war in the Middle East in 2003, Chissano helped refocus efforts on aid to Africa and personally contacted international businessmen with pitches for investing in his country.

Stepped Down

Though he was well-liked and his country continued along a path of progress, Chissano announced that he would not run for the final five-year term the Constitution allowed him in 2004. His decision shocked many, for African leaders have a history of holding fast to their offices. Indeed, Chissano's decision put pressure on the enduring leaders of neighboring countries such as Zimbabwe and Malawi. But on February 2, 2005, Chissano gladly stepped down in order for his handpicked successor and the winner of the election Armando Guebuza to take office. Chissano's influence in Africa had yet to dim, however. He continued work for the United Nations as a special envoy, and by May 2005 Chissano had accepted board memberships at both African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) and Harmony Gold, two huge mining concerns in South Africa.

Sources

Books

Africa Contemporary Record, edited by Colin Legum, Africana Publishing Company, 1992.

Africa South of the Sahara: 1994, 23rd edition, Europa, 1994.

Africa Today, Africa Books Ltd., 1991.

Azevedo, Mario, Historical Dictionary of Mozambique, African Historical Dictionaries, Scarecrow Press, 1991.

Finnegan, W., A Complicated War: The Harrowing of Mozambique, University of California Press, 1992.

Henriksen, Thomas H., Revolution and Counterrevolution: Mozambique's War of Independence, 1964–1974, Greenwood Press, 1983.

Mondlane, Eduardo, The Struggle for Mozambique, Zed Press, 1969.

Mozambique: A Country Study, edited by Harold D. Nelson, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1985.

Periodicals

African Business, August-September 2003, p. 32.

Africa Report, January-February 1981, p. 19; January-February 1983, p. 42; May-June 1984, p. 24; January-February 1985, p. 41; January-February 1986, p. 77; January-February 1987, p. 25; July-August 1987, p. 61; September-October 1987, p. 48; November-December 1987, p. 65; July-August 1988, p. 55; November-December 1990, p. 39; May-June 1992, p. 30; November-December 1992, p. 31; March-April, 1993, p. 47; July-August 1993, p. 40; September-October 1993, p. 46; November-December 1993; p. 7; March-April, 1994, p. 47.

Courier, March-April 1989, p. 27.

Economist, September 17, 1988, p. 43; March 31, 1990, p. 37; April 21, 1990, p. 47.

Finance Week, South Africa, May 4, 2005, p. 32.

Global Information Network, June 7, 2002, p. 1.

International Herald Tribune, December 4, 1975, p. 5.

Jet, November 24, 1986, p. 24.

Los Angeles Times, November 4, 1986, p. 16; January 8, 1991, p. H4.

Newsweek, November 3, 1986, p. 42.

New African, August-September 2003, p. 16.

New York Times, May 25, 1975, p. A7; June 25, 1975, p. 3; November 4, 1986, p. A5; August 2, 1990, p. A9; October 5, 1992, p. A7; February 22, 1993, p. P1.

Time, May 26, 1975, p. 31; November 17, 1986, p. 67.

On-line

"Mozambique: Country Reports on Human Rights," U.S. Department of State, www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/af/8394.htm (January 3, 2006).

"Joaquim Chissano Expresses Hope for Future of Africa," Harvard Gazette Archives, www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2004/09.23/13-mozambique.html (January 3, 2006).

Other

Additional information for this profile was provided by Dr. William J. Nottingham.

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Chissano, Joaquim 1939–

Joaquim Chissano 1939

President of Mozambique

At a Glance

Marked for Leadership

The Birth of FRELIMO

A Transitional Government Established in Mozambique

The Struggle Continues!

The Land of the Locust People

The Death of Machel Brings Chissano to the Helm

Sources

President Joaquim Chissano has devoted his life to carving a stable, independent Mozambique from a former Portuguese colonial backwater. Chissano is responsible for Mozambiques foreign policy of political nonalignment, which has earned him firm friendships with both western and Marxist regimes and has even enabled him to replace neighboring South Africas hostility with constructive cooperation. An articulate leader who is fluent in Portuguese, English, French, and Swahili, Chissano maintains a deliberately understated profile. His major achievement has been piloting Mozambique through the transition from a Communist to a capitalist ideology.

During the 1950s Mozambique was a tourists paradise. Crowds of vacationers, mainly from Portugal and South Africa, were attracted by its majestic wildlife, golden beaches, the warm blue waters of the Indian Ocean, and the glittering nightclubs of Lourenço Marques (which would later become the capital city of Maputo). But beneath the stunning surface of this southeast African territory lay an indigenous society deeply divided by ten language groups, ancient ethnic rivalries, and ongoing conflict between rural and urban blacks.

The rural peoples were usually subsistence farmers who tended to live by tribal tradition. Their education, if any, came from the rudimentary schools designed to give black children a smattering of Portuguese language and culture before they entered primary school; 1955 statistics showed that only 25, 472 students had managed to achieve a primary school education which, at most, could earn them blue-collar status. As a result, rural dwellers were often left with no other options than to work under contract in the South African gold mines or migrate to the neighboring British-held territories of Nyasaland or Rhodesia.

Urban blacks in the Portuguese-held territory, however, fared somewhat better. With greater access to education, many were taught to read and write Portuguese well enough to hold factory or office jobs. Those Africans who seemed willing to forsake their tribal heritage in favor of the Portuguese culture, customs, and lifestyle were accepted as assimilados, an elite group of black Mozambicans who were able to straddle the line between racesand who would later play an integral part in the rise of black nationalism and the successful fight for independence from Portugal.

At a Glance

Born Joaquim Alberto Chissano, October 22, 1939, in Malehice, Chibuto District, Gaza Province, Mozambique; married Marcelina Rafael; children: four. Education: Attended secondary school in Maputo, Mozambique; studied medicine briefly in Lisbon, Portugal.

Lecturer, then president, of Nucleus of Mozambican African Secondary Students (NESAM), c. 1960; founder and head of National Union of Mozambican Students (UNEMO), 1961. Frente de Libertaçāo de Moçambique (Front for ihe Liberation of Mozambique; FRELIMO), founding member, 1962; minister of defense, 1964-74: chief FRELIMO representative in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 1969-74. Prime minister in transitional government of Mozambique, 1974-75. Republic of Mozambique, minister of foreign affairs, 1975-86; president and commander in chief of the armed forces, November 4, 1986.

Addresses: Office Office of the President, Avda Julius Nyerere, Maputo, Mozambique.

Joaquim Alberto Chissano was born into this splintered society on October 22, 1939. He showed his potential early. One of the first black children from the southern Gaza Province to attend primary school, he soared over the barriers of the Portuguese educational system to graduate in record time from the Liceu Salazar secondary school in the countrys capital, Lourenço Marques.

Chissano was a high school student when he first met American-trained Mozambican anthropologist Eduardo Mondlane. Mondlanes job as a United Nations (UN) researcher took him to many corners of the world. Having ample opportunity to compare his downtrodden compatriots with independent people living elsewhere, he concluded that their future could never improve unless the strangle-hold of Portuguese colonialism were shattered.

Chissano met Mondlane in Lourenço Marques, where Mondlane had started a high school discussion group called the Nucleus of Mozambican African Secondary Students (NESAM). Before long, young Chissano became an eager acolyte, participating at first in spirited debates about Mozambiques politics and other social issues, and later stepping into the associations presidency.

Marked for Leadership

At the end of 1960, Chissano left for college in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. Though still in his early twenties, he was already marked for leadership by having achieved a level of education far beyond that of most black Mozambicans. His finely honed debating skillscombined with an ability to ignite political fervor in others earned him respect among Mozambiques nationalists, many of whom had fled to other African countries as Portuguese repression intensified.

Chissano found many political soulmates in Lisbon, where anti-government discussions among students from Angola and other Portuguese colonies took place regularly. Vocal opponents of colonialism, however, faced serious consequences. Uneasy over the newly minted independence of Mozambiques neighbor, Tanzania, the Portuguese government had decided to take precautions against its own demise by stepping up the activities of its powerful and often brutal secret police, known as PIDE. Chissano and his friends soon found themselves the target of unwelcome PIDE attention. Incessantly watched, sometimes bullied, they quietly began to look for a way to leave Portugal.

Their plight came to the attention of CIMADE, a French ecumenical group whose service to humanitys refugees had begun in Nazi leader Adolf Hitlers concentration camps. Having an acquaintance with secret police squads in several parts of the world, CIMADE immediately began to plot the escape of Chissano and the other dissidents.

On Friday, June 30, 1961, Joaquim Chissano and several other students were spirited out of Portugal and smuggled over the Spanish border in a complicated rescue mission involving rented cars, forged papers, and a night in a San Sebastian jail. Bound for Paris, they were led by Dr. William J. Nottingham, an experienced guide who had previously brought 41 students out of Lisbon, as he put it, under the noses of the PIDE. Dr. Nottingham, who recently retired from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, shared a vivid memory about the refugees arrival: There were only five Mozambican students in the group, he recalled, but Mondlane showed up in Paris to greet them.

With Mondlanes help, Chissano formed and headed a second youth group called the National Union of Mozambican Students (UNEMO). Intended specifically to alert foreign sympathizers to Mozambiques plight, UNEMO undertook the additional goal of helping students to obtain scholarships for overseas study.

The Birth of FRELIMO

UNEMO was not the only group working for international recognition of Mozambique. Several small liberation groups were gaining support across Mozambiques borders with Malawi and Tanzania. In June of 1962 these small groups united under Mondlanes presidency, forming an organization called Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (or the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, commonly referred to as FRELIMO).

Chissano joined the Tanzania-based FRELIMO as Mondlanes secretary, a post that brought him automatic membership in the Central Committee. As the fight for independence progressed, FREUMO was forced to look outside of Africa for military assistance. By the end of 1963, the Central Committee had secured weapons and instructors in guerrilla warfare techniques from China and the Soviet Union. A hit-and-run combat campaign was devised against the better-equipped Portuguese Army, and well-concealed bases for FREUMOs soldiers were set up in the dense forests of the Cabo Delgado Province straddling the Mozambique-Tanzania border.

By mid-1964 FREUMO had 250 trained soldiers poised to strike. Their first act of sabotage came on the moonless night of September 25, when they destroyed a Portuguese administrative post in Cabo Delgado Province. After this initial success, the hit-and-run strategy rapidly gained momentum. Railway lines were blown up, repaired, and blown up again. Beira and Lourenço Marques, the countrys principal ports, were systematically isolated. Plastic landmines made road travel so hazardous that by the end of 1965 the white farming population was driven away from a 3,000-square mile area stretching between the Tanzanian and Malawi borders. For more than half a dozen years, FREUMO continued its war for independence, using a guerrilla-based military campaign that brought them control of the entire northern section of Mozambique by late 1973.

But several other historical events converged in the late 1960s to make the tide of Mozambiques history begin to flow more swiftly. For Chissano, the 1969 assassination of his comrade, Eduardo Mondlane, propelled him into the spotlight. As the more radical forces of FREUMO clashed with the more moderate members, Chissano became a voice of reason in the midst of political chaos. Mondlanes replacement, former defense secretary Samora Machel, had been Chissanos Central Committee co-member since 1965; the two men had enjoyed a close working relationship, which became even closer when Chissano was appointed FREUMOs chief representative in Tanzania.

At the same time, the Portuguese government was undergoing its own changes. Longtime Premier Antonio de Oliveira Salazar was replaced by Dr. Marcello Caetano, who, by April of 1974, had been ousted from power by a coup. The military regime that took his place, however, was unable to maintain its grip on Portugals African colonies. The antiquated Portuguese economy was severely strained and eventually collapsed.

A Transitional Government Established in Mozambique

Negotiations for a joint Portuguese-FREUMO transitional government began immediately. On September 8, 1974, both sides signed the Lusaka Agreement, which set June 25, 1975, as the date for independence and assured FREUMO a smooth passage to power by allotting them six out of ten cabinet posts, plus the prime ministers slot, which went to Joaquim Chissano. Standing in for president-to-be Samora Machel, who had decided to remain in Tanzania until May of 1975, Chissano got off to a brisk start.

Leaving no doubt in the Mozambican peoples minds about the new regimes single-party, Marxist ideology, Chissano took over two of the new republics six newspapers and let his citizens know that no political opposition would be tolerated. Next, he nationalized medicinea drastic move that touched off an exodus of medical personnel, leaving only 100 trained physicians to care for the countrys entire population. Soon after, the legal system, agricultural estates, and most profitable businesses followed suit, causing so many white minority professionals to leave that the countrys nonblack population sank from 200,000 to about 40,000 by the time independence day arrived.

As Miles Smith-Morris put it in Africa South of the Sahara: 1994, The situation in 1974-75 was chaotic, as the Portuguese fled the country. The exclusion of Africans by the colonial regime from almost all positions in the modern sector created a dearth of middle-level managers and others who could fill the vacuum left by the exodus of the Portuguese. Black Mozambicansthe majority of whom were denied education and training under Portugals dominationwere left with few resources to revive their staggering nation.

As the countrys administrative infrastructures caved in, Chissano began to substitute as best he could. He encouraged each local population to select dynamizing groups, or civic action squads, whose standing with their own constituents gave them the authority to protect their districts against vandalism, and whose popularity gave them the authority to dispense advice about ways to increase and collectivize crops. At the same time, he made sure these leaders were loyal to FRELIMO, so that they could spread the politically-correct ideology wherever they went.

The Struggle Continues!

A few minutes after the rainy midnight of June 25, 1975, the new flag went up in Maputo, formerly known as Lourenço Marques. Joaquim Chissano, the newly appointed foreign minister, listened intently as President Samora Machel uttered three eerily prophetic words: The struggle continues! Domestically, Mozambiques day-to-day strugglecompounded by a 90 percent illiteracy rate, a near-starving population, and a nonexistent economywas typical of many newly independent African states. But Mozambique was more deeply split by tribal and linguistic differences than its neighboring nations; in addition, the concept of democracy was so foreign to Mozambicans that many expected their income and their prospects to rise immediately. Chissano set them straight at once. You must not think that FRELIMO will drop like a god from the sky to solve all your problems, he warned in a speech quoted by Time magazine in 1975.

Realizing that his nations desperate needs could only be solved with outside help from both capitalist and Communist quarters, the new government sent out a strong international message of political nonalignment. Still, Mozambique came to rely more heavily on Soviet aid in the months following independence. The Soviets supplied the country with thousands of outdated but badly needed missiles, MIG-17 fighter aircraft, and tanks. Other contributions from Communist governments came from East Germany, Algeria, Libya, and Iraq, which agreed in 1978 to supply Mozambique with oil at below world prices. Even pro-western Italy, Holland, and France, with far looser ties to Marxist Mozambique, supported the Machel government with generous imports of petroleum products, manufactured consumer goods, and food.

Yet the economy continued to plummet. Within a couple of post-independence years, the loss of skilled manpower began to show up in inefficiently managed stores, an unreliable transport system, and failing agricultural estates that could no longer be run without expensive, imported machinery.

Maintaining these systems drained Mozambiques treasury. Pressure mounted even further after 1976, when UN trade sanctions against white-ruled Southern Rhodesia forced Mozambique to close its borders with the neighboring country, reducing both revenue and job opportunities for black Mozambicans. A little later, South Africa chopped 80,000 mineworkers from a previous 120,000-strong quota, depleting already meager cash resources. By 1980 Machel was forced to acknowledge that rural Mozambique could not support an economic model originally designed for the more sophisticated, urban Soviet Union. Desperately needing economic aid, he was forced to rethink his policy of idealistic Marxism by strengthening ties with the West.

Chissanos part in this was to forge fruitful relationships with western governments. His mission was complicated by the recent expulsion from Mozambique of four American diplomats accused of spying for the CIA; but he did not let the acrimonious aftermath stand in his way. Spurred onward by the worst drought ever to hit southern Africa, he went to Washington, D.C., to find help for his starving people. By 1984 Mozambique had become the worlds largest recipient of U.S. food aid. In return, American mining companies seeking fresh fields for oil and mineral prospecting found a warm welcome in Mozambique.

The Land of the Locust People

Starvation was not Chissanos only problem. Equally urgentwas the Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (Mozambique National Resistance, or RENAMO), an anti-government terrorist force that originated with Rhodesian and Portuguese intelligence officers, then spread to longtime FRELIMO opponents. The opposition brushfire expanded fast, aided by RENAMO troop training in Rhodesia and South Africa. It is widely believed that the South African government, then run by the white minority, felt threatened by even the smallest prospect of economic stability in Mozambique and feared that the former Portuguese colonya struggling, but nevertheless independent nationwould fuel the progress of the African National Congress (the ANC; South Africas black liberation organization) in obtaining black majority rule.

Beginning in the early 1980s, RENAMO was led by Afonso Dhlakama, a man Chissano knew well. Like his short-lived predecessor, Andre Matzangaisa, he had been expelled from the FRELIMO ranks in Chissanos own 1974 anti-corruption purge and had then plunged enthusiastically into a brutal campaign to disrupt Mozambiques population and economy. Within a year Dhlakamas troops had earned a blood-spattered reputation as the locust people for the ways in which they destroyed everything in their path. Operating countrywide, they went on an eight-year rampage that destroyed 1,800 schools, 720 health posts, 900 shops, and 1,300 vehicles and left newspaper readers reeling at gruesome eyewitness accounts of crushed skulls and mutilated faces, wholesale village massacres, and children boiled alive to punish parents for failing to cooperate with RENAMO troops.

The Death of Machel Brings Chissano to the Helm

Samora Machel did not live to see the full extent of this savagery. On October 19, 1986, he died in a Soviet civilian aircraft that crashed just over the border of South Africa while on its way home from Zambia. Accounts of the tragedy varied considerably. Causes mentioned by the South African media included stormy weather, outdated navigational equipment, and high alcohol levels in the bloodstreams of the Soviet crew members. Mozambican reports, on the other hand, tended to dwell on the delayed reports of the presidents death, the removal of the aircrafts black box from the wreckage by the South African authorities, and the possibility that a high-frequency radio broadcasting beacon had been used to lure the aircraft off course.

On November 4, 1986, 47-year-old Joaquim Alberto Chissano succeeded Samora Machel as Mozambiques president, head of the FRELIMO party, and chief of the armed forces. Characteristically, he took office with a minimum of ceremony and a reassuring announcement that he would not make any drastic political changes. Strengthening the unsteady economy was his top priority. The high cost of anti-RENAMO defense and repeated repairs to government buildings and public transportation cut deep into the countrys budget; education programs were therefore shelved, and agricultural projects were abandoned because manpower had been diverted to the army.

In 1987 Chissano established an economic recovery program in an effort to buttress the 679, 000 metric tons of food aid needed to keep Mozambique alive for a year. He obtained a huge loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and devalued Mozambiques unit of currency to a fraction of its original value. In other moves, he laid off 14 percent of government employees and lifted price controls on all agricultural produce.

While all these measures were helpful, they were not enough to rebuild the shattered economy. The key was to find a way to end the war with RENAMO. Chissanos resolute policy of political nonalignment now made it possible to ask both western and Communist countries for help in the search for peace. Both sides of the political spectrum responded. Nevertheless, by 1990 President Chissano recognized that conquering the fiercely nationalistic RENAMO was more likely at the bargaining table than on the battlefield. He announced several radical changes, most notably a deliberate shift from Marxist-Leninist ideology to multiparty democracy. He also changed his previous policy of refusing to deal with RENAMO.

Acceding to Dhlakamas demands, Chissano readily gave him a Maputo house to use as his official headquarters and allocated 15,000 places in the 30,000-strong Mozambican army to former RENAMO troops. Feeling that RENAMO could make a real contribution as an opposition party, Dhlakama signed a peace pact with Chissano on October 5,1992.

But Mozambiques troubles were not yet over. There was still a need for 6,000 international UN peacekeepers to patrol city streets in case of trouble. Teachers and educational facilities were in such short supply that many schools had to remain open around the clock to serve students in eight-hour shifts. However, with multiparty elections scheduled for October of 1994, the outlook was much brighter for Mozambique than it had ever been before. Refugees who had slipped over the borders of neighboring countries were beginning to return home, offers of help in rebuilding the country came from overseas, and the formerly hostile country of South Africahaving ended its practice of providing covert aid to RENAMObegan making lucrative investments in the new regime.

Some observers caution that the peace in Mozambique is an uneasy one, and the countrys future is still in question. According to Andrew Meldrum in a 1994 issue of Africa Report, Despite the fact that the Mozambican peace has held for more than a year, full repatriation and resettlement has been delayed because of the countrys uncertain state. As late as mid-February, neither Mozambiques government forces nor RENAMO rebels had demobilized or disarmed the majority of their fighters. With so many armed fighters deployed throughout the country, a return to war is still very possible. The UN will not sanction elections in Mozambique until both sides have demobilized. Only then can Mozambique hope to develop a solid economic, social, and political base.

Sources

Books

Africa Contemporary Record, edited by Colin Legum, Africana Publishing Company, 1992.

Africa South of the Sahara: 1994, 23rd edition, Europa, 1994.

Africa Today, Africa Books Ltd., 1991.

Azevedo, Mario, Historical Dictionary of Mozambique, African Historical Dictionaries, Scarecrow Press, 1991.

Finnegan, W., A Complicated War: The Harrowing of Mozambique, University of California Press, 1992.

Henriksen, Thomas H., Revolution and Counterrevolution: Mozambiques War of Independence, 1964-1974, Greenwood Press, 1983.

Mondlane, Eduardo, The Struggle for Mozambique, Zed Press, 1969.

Mozambique: A Country Study, edited by Harold D. Nelson, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1985.

Periodicals

Africa Report, January-February 1981, p. 19; January-February 1983, p. 42; May-June 1984, p. 24; January-February 1985, p. 41; January-February 1986, p. 77; January-February 1987, p. 25; July-August 1987, p. 61; September-October 1987, p. 48; November-December 1987, p. 65; July-August 1988, p. 55; November-December 1990, p. 39; May-June 1992, p. 30; November-December 1992, p. 31; March-April, 1993, p. 47; July-August 1993, p. 40; September-October 1993, p. 46; November-December 1993; p. 7; March-April, 1994, p. 47.

Courier, March-April 1989, p. 27.

Economist, September 17, 1988, p. 43; March 31, 1990, p. 37; April 21, 1990, p. 47.

International Herald Tribune, December 4, 1975, p. 5.

Jet, November 24, 1986, p. 24.

Los Angeles Times, November 4, 1986, p. 16; January 8, 1991, p. H4.

Newsweek, November 3, 1986, p. 42.

New York Times, May 25, 1975, p. A7; June 25, 1975, p. 3; November 4, 1986, p. A5; August 2, 1990, p. A9; October 5, 1992, p. A7; February 22, 1993, p. P1.

Time, May 26, 1975, p. 31; November 17, 1986, p. 67.

Additional information for this profile was provided by Dr. William J. Nottingham.

Gillian Wolf

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Joaquim Alberto Chissano

Joaquim Alberto Chissano

Joaquim Alberto Chissano (born 1939), one of the leaders of the war of liberation against Portugal, became his nation's first foreign minister when Mozambique won its independence in 1975. Upon the accidental death of President Samora Machel in 1986 Chissano became president.

Joaquim Alberto Chissano was born on October 22, 1939, at Chibuto in the province of Gaza in the south of Mozambique. He went through an impoverished childhood, as did the great majority of Mozambicans of his generation. Nevertheless, he was able to go through primary and secondary high school at Tai-Xai and Liceu Salazar in Lourenco Marques (now Maputo), respectively. After lonely school years he emerged as one of the first Black children to graduate from the Liceu Salazar. He then left for Portugal in pursuit of further studies.

After failing anatomy at the end of his first year at a Portuguese university he moved to France, where he soon emerged as one of the founders of the exile organization Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frente de Libertacao de Moçambique), on June 25, 1962. This FRELIMO movement was the merger of three nationalist parties: The Uniáo Democrática Nacional de Moçambique (UDENAMO), the Mozambique African Nationalist Union (MANU), and the Uniáo Africana de Moçambique Independence (UNAMI). In August 1963 he was one of the FRELIMO guerrilla leaders sent to Algeria for training.

Student and Political Activist

Chissano's political career had been shaped during his early school days in Lourenco Marques. He was a member of the Nucleus of African Secondary Students of Mozambique and was the founder of the National Union of Mozambique Students. His involvement in student politics later proved valuable when he entered nationalist politics. The leadership qualities developed during the early period allowed Chissano to emerge as one of the three leading figures in FRELIMO.

In 1963 he became a member of the central and executive committee of the party. Between 1964 and 1974 he was FRELIMO's secretary and minister of defense, and until the death of the first FRELIMO leader, Eduardo Mondlane, who was killed by a parcel bomb on February 3, 1969, Chissano shared the responsibility for security and defense with Samora Moises Machel. Chissano was, however, absent at the time of Mondlane's death.

In the ensuing struggle for leadership following the death of Mondlane, Chissano played a crucial conciliatory role. He brought together Samora Machel, Marcelino dos Santos, and Uria Simango in a temporary uneasy alliance, the Presidential Council. Chissano himself continued to hold the position of secretary and minister of defense.

Chissano was also FRELIMO's representative to the Tanzanian government during the 1964-1974 period.

While in Dar es Salaam he was also the director of the Mozambique Institute (now the Mozambique-Tanzania Centre for Foreign Relations) up to 1973. That position made him the person in charge of conduct and coordination of the liberation war against the Portuguese Army.

As the liberation war intensified, and aided by the April 25, 1974, military coup in Portugal, it became clear that Portuguese colonialism was coming to an end. By September 1974 Portugal agreed to grant Mozambique independence under FRELIMO. Chissano, the moderate of the three leading figures in FRELIMO, was appointed prime minister of the transitional government, which lasted from September 1974 until independence on June 25, 1975. Machel and dos Santos preferred to remain outside the transitional government in order to cushion themselves against the possible short-comings, and even failures, of the new government.

As prime minister of the transitional government, Chissano came directly under Portuguese colonial officials. Directly above him was the governor general, who continued to represent Portugal under the new arrangement. Chissano found himself in a difficult situation, especially in dealing with the Portuguese residents. Other FRELIMO leaders, such as Amando Guebuza, wanted the Portuguese expelled from Mozambique, but Chissano was against unnecessary expulsions of Portuguese people.

Independence Comes to Mozambique

At independence on June 25, 1975, Chissano became Mozambique's minister of foreign affairs, a position he held until the death of Machel in October 1986. During this period he also had a less-publicized role as chief of security, which won him the support of the country's military commanders. In that post he kept a close watch over possible infighting in the party. Although Chissano was a committed Marxist, he was urbane and articulate. A pragmatist, he won wide respect internationally.

Chissano always remained committed to party discipline, even though at times he disagreed with his leader. For instance, because Chissano never trusted the South African government, he neither took active participation in the drawing up of the Nkomati Accord in 1984 nor was involved in the signing ceremony. But as minister of foreign affairs he tried to have good relations with the West, where he found both Great Britain and the United States more sympathetic to the Mozambique situation than to the Angolan government on the other side of the continent.

Chissano, the President

Following the death of President Samora Moises Machel in a plane crash on October 19, 1986, Chissano was elected by the 130-member Central Committee of FRELIMO on November 3 to succeed Machel as president of the party, head of state, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He was sworn into office on November 6. Chissano was a close associate of Machel. They both trained in Algeria, and Chissano had risen during the liberation war to the rank of major general.

In his inaugural speech on November 6 Chissano pledged Mozambique's continued adherence to the Nkomati Accord, even though he had always doubted South Africa's commitment to the agreement. On the home front, Chissano announced that rehabilitation of the economy was the central objective in the economic sphere. Chissano also announced on December 17, 1987, that an amnesty for rebels and a reduction in jail sentences was to be introduced in order to rehabilitate the rebels of the Mozambique National Resistance (MNR) and make political progress.

Fifth Congress of FRELIMO

During the fifth congress of FRELIMO held in Maputo on July 24 to 30, 1989, Chissano was unanimously reelected as party president by the 700 delegates. At the congress Chissano indicated that he was ready to consider negotiating with the rebels in order to end the 14-year-long war. The congress adopted Chissano's proposals for a negotiated peaceful settlement with the rebels. The congress also adopted his other proposal that people previously excluded from FRELIMO on ideological grounds be admitted into the party. Property owners and local entrepreneurs were also to be admitted.

The fifth congress, the first since 1983, was marked by the conspicuous absence of Marxist-Leninist rhetoric in the FRELIMO works. The congress was more concerned with dealing with the real issues and finding solutions. Thus little time was wasted on Marxist-Leninist rhetoric. This change of direction in Mozambican international alignments was reflected in the March 29, 1989, meeting between British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Chissano in neighboring Zimbabwe at Nyanga where British instructors helped train Mozambican troops. At the meeting the two leaders discussed the possibility of increasing the training program to assist Mozambique in combating the MNR rebels and the increasing pressure coming from South Africa.

President Chissano continued to make amends with the West. He made his first official visit to the United States and met with President George Bush for two hours on March 13, 1990. Since Mozambique abandoned rigid Marxist-Leninist ideology in the course of 1989, the United States, on January 24, 1990, removed Mozambique from the list of Marxist-Leninist nations denied preferential loan and trade agreements. Later that year, on December 2, Mozambique adopted a constitution establishing a multi-party democracy. These moves were encouragements to Mozambique's goal of free-market economics.

The End of Civil War

His early years in office steered Mozambique onto a different political and economic course, and the eventual conclusion of a 16-year-old civil war. Presidential elections were held in 1994, which Chissano won.

In reviewing 1996, Chissano noted his country's improvements in national reconciliation, the justice system and increased efforts at crime control, while improving the economy and lowering the inflation rate. He lobbied Western governments for debt forgiveness to promote political and economic stability throughout Africa. Despite progresses, Mozambique remains one of the absolute poorest in the world. He vowed to develop a strong private sector composed of various races through its ongoing privatization process. Towards national reconciliation, he visited Maringue, a county where the headquarters of the former rebel movement was situated.

While president, Chissano welcomed Chinese Premier Li Peng to discuss bilateral relations. He accepted an award for opening the Mozambique economy to the global marketplace during the "Attracting Capital to Africa" summit in April 1997, sponsored by the Corporate council on Africa. He officially visited Uganda, and granted final approval for a private game reserve planned to be the largest in the world. He called for an international devotion to the issue of children's human rights, acknowledging that Mozambique children have an especially rough time after 16 years of civil war. He also held talks with Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa. He visited France for official meetings. He met with Archbishop Desmond Tutu about regional issues in southern Africa. He signed a controversial deal with Nelson Mandela in which South African farmers would move into Mozambique and farm underdeveloped areas of Mozambique.

In May 1997, the ruling FRELIMO Party reelected head of state Chissano as president of the party and many speculate that he will represent the party in 1999 presidential elections. Chissano was an experienced linguist who spoke fluent Portuguese, French, English, and Swahili. He was married to Marcelina Rafael Chissano, and they had four children.

Further Reading

Biographical material in English on Chissano is scarce. A detailed biographical essay appeared in New African in December 1986, and he is listed in Africa Year Book and Who's Who in Africa 1977, published by Africa Journal Limited, and in African Biographies. Nevertheless, students will find the following material, which generally explores Mozambique's experience since Chissano became president, useful: Keesing's Contemporary Archives, volumes 32-36; The Europa Year Book, 1989, vol. II (earlier volumes are also useful); African Contemporary Record: Annual Survey and Documents, edited by Colin Legum. Mozambique: A Country Study (1984), edited by Harold D. Nelson, is also useful. □

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Chissano, Joaquim Alberto

Joaquim Alberto Chissano, 1939–, Mozambican political leader. A founding member of the Mozambican Liberation Front (Frelimo), he rose to become a major general in the organization, and after Mozambique became independent from Portugal he served as foreign minister in President Samora Machel's government. After Machel's death in 1986, Chissano succeeded him as president and Frelimo party leader. Chissano moved Mozambique toward a market economy, secured (1992) an end to the nation's post-independence civil war with Renamo (see Mozambique), and oversaw the establishment of a multiparty democracy. Chissano was reelected in multiparty contests in 1994 and 1999 and retired as president and then as party leader in 2005. In 2006 he was appointed a UN special envoy, charged with helping end the insurgency in N Uganda. Chissano won the first Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership in 2007.

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