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Policy Thoughts

07 July, 2015


Remembrance of Mueda’s Martyrs and National Unity in Mozambique


by Carla Bringas


June is not only the beginning of the cool season in Mozambique but it is also a month that brings up strong memories over the country’s struggle for independence. On 16 June, President Nyusi spoke at the commemoration ceremony for the Mueda’s martyrs in Cabo Delgado in front of a crowd of hundreds that gathered at the scene of the killings. As every year, a theatre play version of the massacre is also performed in remembrance of the Mueda’s martyrs.

In his speech, Nyusi called for “national unity” among Mozambicans in order to consolidate a patriotic spirit that would foster pacific coexistence, solidarity, tolerance and inclusivity. “The remembrance of this important historical event must inspire Mozambicans to work together towards peace and progress”, stated Nyusi. He referred to it as “the Mueda Massacre”, an event that catalyzed the collective will for independence and freedom and involved the sacrifice and massacre of Mozambican martyrs.




A mural commemorating Mozambique's independence

In Mozambican history, the Mueda Massacre is a turning point in the war for independence. However, there is a disagreement between Portuguese and Mozambican archives on the number of causalities. While Portuguese’s archives show 14 deaths, Mozambican records show the death of around 600 protesters killed by Portuguese troops. The source about Mueda case, on the Mozambican side, was the testimony by Joaquim Alberto Chipande, published first in Mozambique Revolution and later in Eduardo Mondlane’s book, Struggle for Mozambique. The testimony of Chipande (who became one of the most powerful military chiefs of Frelimo (Mozambique Liberation Front) is probably the most important source used by international journals and academic researchers. The story can be summarized as follows:

"On 16th June 1960, a large crowd of Maconde people gathered in Mueda, the district capital of the Maconde area, to hear a MANU (Mozambique African National Union) delegation which had come to ask for independence. MANU was a Dar Es-Salaam-based ethno-nationalist association; in spite of its name – Mozambique African– it was in fact a Maconde African Union. The District Commissioner in Mueda, Garcia Soares, had invited the Cabo Delgado Governor, Teixeira da Silva, to answer this independence claim. The MANU leaders were Faustino Vanomba and Kibirite Diwane. But Teixeira da Silva only spoke about social and economic progress, and arrested F. Vanomba and K. Diwane. The crowd began to throw stones at the Portuguese people present. The army, which was hidden nearby, came and fired shots at the crowd, causing about –arguably- 600 deaths. After the massacre, the administration prohibited the cotton cooperative movement and MANU built itself on the planalto but later abandoned its ethno-nationalist tendency to join FRELIMO." From Cahen, M. (2000). The Mueda Case and Maconde Political Ethnicity. In: Africana Studia (Porto), No 2, Nov 1999, pp. 29-46.

The event is used by many historians to underline the brutality of the Portuguese colonial regime and led many people to conclude that independence could not be achieved relatively peacefully as was happening in some of the colonies of other European colonizers. By the end of the 1960s, three nationalist movements existed, each with its own geographic, ethnic and/or class base: The MANU, based in Mombasa, Kenya and composed of the Makonde ethnic group from Cabo Delgado province; the African Union of Independent Mozambique (UNAMI), based in Blantyre, Malawi and composed of people from Tete province; and the Union National Democratic of Mozambique (UDENAMO), formed by migrant workers and students from central and southern Mozambique. These movements sprang up after the Mueda massacre and unified efforts among these groups started in order to resist the Portuguese.

The event that was crucial to the consolidation of the three groups was Tanganyika’s independence, achieved in December 1961. At the urging of Julius Nyerere and other figures from Africa liberation movements, representatives of the three groups met in Dar es Salaam in June 1962 and formed FRELIMO, electing Eduardo Mondlane (who was living in the US at the time and was not associated with MANU, UNAMI or UDEAMO) as their president. Because of the wide ethnic and ideological diversity within the new organization, there was a great deal of debate over a number of issues such as the utilization of female cadres, the accommodation of traditional authorities (seen by some as collaborators with the Portuguese) and the acceptance of traditional practices, not to mention the broader issue of whether or not to purse socialism as a means of producing a more just and equitable society. These debates assisted the formulation of FRELIMO’s ideology and eventually moved the organization beyond mere liberation rhetoric towards a vision of a free and independent Mozambique. FRELIMO’s first insurgencies occurred in September 1964 in Cabo Delgado and Niassa, the two northern provinces of Mozambique bordering Tanganyika, and they soon had control of these remote areas and proclaimed them liberated zones. Two years after the killings, FRELIMO was created and in 1964 launched its independence war. Mozambique finally became independent from Portugal on 25 June 1975.

Mueda, the birthplace of Nyusi, remains a stronghold of the FRELIMO party, which has ruled the mineral resource-rich country for the past 40 years. Currently, the country is dealing with the strong opposition party RENAMO (Mozambique National Resistance) and many fear that current peace is somewhat superficial. RENAMO has not only rejected the 2014 elections but also is seeking to take power in six northern and central provinces and aims to set up autonomous “provincial municipalities”, which is illustrated in a bill presented to the parliament earlier this year.




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