The sixteen-year-long war in Mozambique between the Frelimo government and Renamo rebels remains one of the most overlooked and misunderstood of the conflicts that raged across Africa during the height of the Cold War. While usually viewed as mere sideshow to more high-profile wars in Angola, Rhodesia and within apartheid South Africa itself, it nonetheless is noteworthy in its complexity, duration and destructiveness. Before it was all over in 1992 at least one million Mozambicans would be dead, millions more homeless and the country lying in ruins. Ultimately Frelimo would get its victory not on the battlefield but rather at the polling booth in 1994.
Based on more than a decade of meticulous research, a review of thousands of pages of military records and documents, and dozens of in-depth interviews with political leaders, diplomats, generals, and soldiers and sailors, this book tells the story of the war from the perspective of those who fought it and lived it. It follows Renamo’s growth from its Rhodesian roots in 1977 as a weapon against Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwean nationalist guerrillas operating from Mozambique through South African patronage in the early 1980s to Renamo’s evolution as a self-sufficient nationalist insurgency.
In tracing the ebb and flow of the conflict from the rugged mountains and savannah forests of central Mozambique across the hot, humid Zambezi River valley and down to the very outskirts of the Mozambican capital in the far south, it examines the operational strategy of Frelimo and Renamo commanders in the field, the battles they fought and the lives of their troops. In doing so it highlights personal struggles, each side’s successes and failures, and the missed opportunities to decisively turn the tide of war. Accordingly, this book provides the first real comprehensive military history of a war too long neglected and underappreciated in the chronicles of modern African history.