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|Secretary-General||Roque Silva Samuel|
|Founded||25 June 1962|
|Merger of||MANU, UDENAMO and UNAMI|
|Headquarters||Dar es Salaam (1962–1975)|
|Youth wing||Mozambican Youth Organisation|
|Women's wing||Mozambican Women Organisation|
|Veteran's League||Association of Combatants of the National Liberation Struggle|
|Political position||Centre-left to left-wing|
|International affiliation||Socialist International|
|African affiliation||Former Liberation Movements of Southern Africa|
|Slogan||Unity, Criticism, Unity|
|Assembly of the Republic|
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The Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) (Portuguese pronunciation: [fɾeˈlimu]), from the Portuguese Frente de Libertação de Moçambique is the dominant political party in Mozambique. Founded in 1962, FRELIMO began as a nationalist movement fighting for the independence of the Portuguese Overseas Province of Mozambique. Independence was achieved in June 1975 after the Carnation Revolution in Lisbon the previous year. At the party's 3rd Congress in February 1977, it became an officially Marxist–Leninist political party. It identified as the Frelimo Party (Partido Frelimo).
The Frelimo Party has ruled Mozambique since then, first as a one-party state. It struggled through a long civil war (1976–1992) against an anti-Communist faction known as Mozambican National Resistance or RENAMO. The insurgents from RENAMO received support from the then white-minority governments of Rhodesia and South Africa. The Frelimo Party approved a new constitution in 1990, which established a multi-party system. Since democratic elections in 1994 and subsequent cycles, it has been elected as the majority party in the parliament of Mozambique.
Independence war (1964–1974)
After World War II, while many European nations were granting independence to their colonies, Portugal, under the Estado Novo regime, maintained that Mozambique and other Portuguese possessions were overseas territories of the metropole (mother country). Emigration to the colonies soared. Calls for Mozambican independence developed rapidly, and in 1962 several anti-colonial political groups formed FRELIMO. In September 1964, it initiated an armed campaign against Portuguese colonial rule. Portugal had ruled Mozambique for more than four hundred years; not all Mozambicans desired independence, and fewer still sought change through armed revolution.
FRELIMO was founded in Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika on 25 June 1962, when three regionally based nationalist organizations: the Mozambican African National Union (MANU), National Democratic Union of Mozambique (UDENAMO), and the National African Union of Independent Mozambique (UNAMI,) merged into one broad-based guerrilla movement. Under the leadership of Eduardo Mondlane, elected president of the newly formed Mozambican Liberation Front, FRELIMO settled its headquarters in 1963 in Dar es Salaam. Uria Simango was its first vice-president.
The movement could not then be based in Mozambique as the Portuguese opposed nationalist movements and the colony was controlled by the police. (The three founding groups had also operated as exiles.) Tanzania and its president, Julius Nyerere, were sympathetic to the Mozambican nationalist groups. Convinced by recent events, such as the Mueda massacre, that peaceful agitation would not bring about independence, FRELIMO contemplated the possibility of armed struggle from the outset. It launched its first offensive in September 1964.
During the ensuing war of independence, FRELIMO received support from China, the Soviet Union, the Scandinavian countries, and some non-governmental organisations in the West. The mobilization of all, regardless of gender, motivated the initial inclusion of women into the war. Initially women were used to carry goods from Tanzania, but over time they were tasked with "making the first contacts with the population in a new area." Women were expected to engage with the locals and politicize them. This discourse helped legitimize female cadres as real revolutionaries.
Frelimo founded the Women's Detachment, a part of the Department of Defense, as a way to encourage the mobilization of women and enlarge Frelimo's support. Women cadres brought "a new and decisive force to the revolutionary struggle."
Frelimo's initial military operations were in the North of the country; by the late 1960s it had established "liberated zones" in Northern Mozambique in which it, rather than the Portuguese, constituted the civil authority. In administering these zones, FRELIMO worked to improve the lot of the peasantry in order to receive their support. As liberated areas grew, colonial governmental structures were replaced, as Frelimo activists and local chiefs assumed roles of authority. Traditional leaders were accustomed to controlling “the productive and reproductive capacity of women.” They “rejected women’s rights to participate in armed struggle and defended the bride price system, child marriage and polygamy.” These traditional practices “were all viewed as incompatible with the tenets of revolutionary society.” Over time, traditional power structures were delegitimized by their association with Portuguese colonization and their inability to accommodate key components of revolutionary ideology. Frelimo encouraged the creation of collectives and greatly increased peasant access to education and health care. Often FRELIMO soldiers were assigned to medical assistance projects.
Its members' practical experiences in the liberated zones resulted in the FRELIMO leadership increasingly moving toward a Marxist policy. FRELIMO came to regard economic exploitation by Western capital as the principal enemy of the common Mozambican people, not the Portuguese as such, and not Europeans in general. Although it was an African nationalist party, it adopted a non-racial stance. Numerous white people were members.
The war of liberation was viewed as a rejection of “obstructionist, traditional-feudal and capitalist practices.” The transformation of “social and economic relations” had significant implications for women. Women’s liberation was “not an act of charity,” but rather “a fundamental necessity for the revolution, the guarantee of its continuity and the precondition to its victory.” This perspective recognizes the immense labor force that women constitute. Frelimo acknowledged that women’s involvement in the formal economy would result in an economically stronger Mozambique. The population was encouraged to view women’s emancipation as vital to the amelioration of Mozambique’s society.
The early years of the party, during which its Marxist direction evolved, were times of internal turmoil. Mondlane, along with Marcelino dos Santos, Samora Machel, Joaquim Chissano and a majority of the Party's Central Committee promoted the struggle not just for independence but to create a socialist society. The Second Party Congress, held in July 1968, approved the socialist goals. Mondlane was reelected party President and Uria Simango was re-elected vice-president.
After Mondlane's assassination in February 1969, Uria Simango took over the leadership, but his presidency was disputed. In April 1969, leadership was assumed by a triumvirate, with Machel and Marcelino dos Santos supplementing Simango. After several months, in November 1969, Machel and dos Santos ousted Simango from FRELIMO. Simango left FRELIMO and joined the small Revolutionary Committee of Mozambique (COREMO) liberation movement.
FRELIMO established some "liberated" zones (countryside zones with native rural populations controlled by FRELIMO guerrillas) in Northern Mozambique. The movement grew in strength during the ensuing decade. As FRELIMO's political campaign gained coherence, its forces advanced militarily, controlling one-third of the area of Mozambique by 1969, mostly in the northern and central provinces. It was not able to gain control of the cities located inside the "liberated" zones but established itself firmly in the rural regions.
In 1970 the guerrilla movement suffered heavy losses as Portugal launched its ambitious Gordian Knot Operation (Operação Nó Górdio), which was masterminded by General Kaúlza de Arriaga of the Portuguese Army. By the early 1970s, FRELIMO's 7,000-strong guerrilla force had opened new fronts in central and northern Mozambique. It was engaging a Portuguese force of approximately 60,000 soldiers in over 4 provinces.
The April 1974 "Carnation Revolution" in Portugal overthrew the Portuguese Estado Novo regime, and the country turned against supporting the long and draining colonial war in Mozambique, Angola and Guinea-Bissau. Portugal and FRELIMO negotiated Mozambique's independence, which resulted in a transitional government until official independence from Portugal in June 1975.
FRELIMO established a one-party state based on socialist principles, with Samora Machel re-elected as President of FRELIMO and subsequently the First President of the People's Republic of Mozambique. The new government first received diplomatic recognition, economic and military support from Cuba and the Socialist Bloc countries. Marcelino dos Santos became vice-president of FRELIMO and the central committee was expanded.
At the same time FRELIMO had to deal with various small political parties that sprung up and were now contesting for control of Mozambique with FRELIMO along with the reaction of white settlers. Prominent groups included FICO ("I stay" in Portuguese) and the "Dragons of Death" which directly clashed with FRELIMO. Government forces moved in and quickly smashed these movements and arrested various FRELIMO dissidents and Portuguese collaborators who were involved in FICO, the Dragons and other political entities that conspired or aligned against FRELIMO. These included prominent dissidents such as Uria Simango, his wife Celina, Paulo Gumane.
Socialist period (1975–1989)
Mozambique's national anthem from 1975 to 1992 was "Viva, Viva a FRELIMO" (English: "Long Live FRELIMO").
Immediately after independence, Mozambique and FRELIMO faced extraordinarily tough circumstances. The country was bankrupt with almost all of its skilled workforce fleeing or already fled, a 95% illiteracy rate and a brewing counter revolutionary movement known as the "Mozambique National Resistance" was beginning its first strikes against key government infrastructure with the assistance of Ian Smith's Rhodesia. As RENAMO grew in strength and started directly terrorising the population, FRELIMO and RENAMO began clashing directly in what would quickly turn into the deadly Mozambican Civil War which did not end until 1992.
Large steps had already been taken towards the construction of a Mozambican socialist society by time of the 3rd Congress in 1977, including the nationalisation of the land, many agricultural, industrial and commercial enterprises, rented housing, the banks, health and education. FRELIMO transformed itself into a Marxist-Leninist Vanguard Party of the worker-peasant alliance at the 3rd Congress of FRELIMO in February 1977. The Congress laid down firmly that the political and economic guidelines for the development of the economy and the society would be for the benefit of all Mozambicans. FRELIMO was also restructured extensively, the central committee expanding to over 200 members and the transformation of FRELIMO from a front into a formal political party, adopting the name "Partido FRELIMO" (FRELIMO Party).
FRELIMO began extensive programs for economic development, healthcare and education. Healthcare and Education became free and universal to all Mozambicans and the government begun a mass program of immunisations which was praised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of the most successful ever initiated in Africa. The scheme reached over 90% of the Mozambican Population in the first five years and led to a 20% drop in infant mortality rates. Illiteracy rates dropped from 95% in 1975 to 73% in 1978. Those who were previously denied access to education because of class, gender, or race were exposed to education. Frelimo’s dedication to accessible education had long-lasting consequences as previously marginalized groups, such as women, were able to engage intellectually and be involved in formal political and economic structures for the first time.
Despite the difficult situation and economic chaos the Mozambican economy grew appreciably from the period of 1977–1983.
However, some serious setbacks occurred, with particular force in the years 1982–1984. Neighbouring states, firstly Rhodesia and then South Africa, made direct armed incursions and promoted the growing RENAMO insurgency which continued to carry out economic sabotage and terrorism against the population. Natural disasters compounded the already devastating situation, with large scale floods in some regions from Tropical Storm Domoina in 1984, followed by extensive droughts.
Some of FRELIMO's more ambitious policies also caused further stress to the economy. Particularly FRELIMO's agricultural policy from 1977-1983 which placed heavy emphasis on state farms and neglected smaller peasant and community farms caused discontent among many peasant farmers and led to a reduction in production. At the 4th Party Congress in 1984 FRELIMO acknowledged its mistakes in the economic field and adopted a new set of directives and plans, reversing their previous positions and promoting more peasant and communal based farming projects over the larger state farms, many of which were either dismantled or shrunk.
As the war with South-African backed RENAMO intensified much of the precious gains to healthcare, education and basic infrastructure by FRELIMO was wiped out. Agriculture fell into disarray as farms were burnt and farmers fled into the cities for safety, industrial production slowed as many workers were conscripted into battle against RENAMO bandits and frequent raids against key roads and railways caused economic chaos across the country. FRELIMO's focus rapidly shifted from socialist construction to maintaining a basic level of infrastructure and protecting the towns and cities as best they could. Despite small scale reforms in the party and state and the growing war Machel continued to maintain a hardline Marxist–Leninist stance and refused to negotiate with RENAMO.
In 1986 while returning from a meeting with Zaire and Malawi, President Samora Machel died in a suspicious airplane crash many blamed on the apartheid regime in Pretoria. In the immediate aftermath the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of FRELIMO assumed the duties of President of FRELIMO and President of Mozambique until a successor could be elected. Joaquim Alberto Chissano was elected as the President of FRELIMO and was inaugurated as the Second President of the People's Republic of Mozambique on 6 November 1986. Despite being considered a "Moderate Marxist" Chissano initially maintained Machel's hardline stance against RENAMO but begun economic reforms with the adoption of The World Bank and IMF's "Economic Rehabilitation Program" (ERP) in September 1987. By 1988 Chissano had relented on his hardliner position and begun seeking third party negotiations with RENAMO to end the conflict.
In 1989 at the 5th Party Congress, FRELIMO officially dropped all references to Marxism–Leninism and class struggle from its party directives and documents and instead Democratic Socialism was adopted the official ideology of FRELIMO while talks continued with RENAMO to broker a ceasefire.
With the removal of the final vestiges of Marxism from FRELIMO at the 5th Congress greater economic reform programs commenced with the help of the World Bank, IMF and various international donors. FRELIMO also believed it needed to reduce all traces of socialist influence, this resulted in the removal of hardline Marxists such as Sergio Viera, Jorge Rebelo and Marcelino dos Santos from positions of power and influence within the party. Additionally FRELIMO begun to revise the history of the Mozambican War of Independence to distort it to suit FRELIMO's new, contradictory pro-capitalist beliefs.
In 1990 a revised constitution was adopted which introduced a multi-party system to Mozambique and ended one-party rule. The revisions also removed all references to socialism from the constitution and resulted in the People's Republic of Mozambique being renamed to the Republic of Mozambique.
The civil war conflict continued under a lessened pace until 1992 when the Rome General Peace Accords was signed. United Nations' peacekeeping operation started in 1992 and ended in 1994, helping to end the civil war. With the end of the civil war elections were scheduled for 1994 under the new pluralistic system. FRELIMO and RENAMO campaigned heavily for the elections. FRELIMO ultimately won the elections with 53.3% of the vote with an 88% voter turnout. RENAMO contested the election results and threatened to return to violence, however under both internal and external pressure RENAMO eventually accepted the results.
In 1992 Frelimo implemented a voluntary quota system like many other “postconflict countries that had left-leaning parties in power with longstanding commitments to gender equality.” Frelimo’s quota system requires that 30% of the candidates running for the National Assembly under Frelimo’s leadership must be women. There is “equal distribution of women’s names (every third name is a woman’s) through the candidate lists.” Equal distribution on lists are called “zebra lists” and this type of list has proven to be important to the success of quota systems. The adoption of the quota system has resulted in steady growth since its implementation. In 1994 women made up 26% of the national parliament, in 1999 they made up 30%, and in 2004, women won 35%, in 2015 women won 40% of the parliamentary seats. Mozambique is ranked twelfth in the world and fourth in Africa for women’s involvement in its national parliament. 
Throughout the mid to late 1990s, FRELIMO moved towards social democratic views, as further liberalisation continued the government received further support and aid from countries such as the United Kingdom and United States. Mozambique became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, despite not being a former British colony, for its role in ensuring the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980.
At the elections in late 1999, President Chissano was re-elected with 52.3% of the vote, and FRELIMO secured 133 of 250 parliamentary seats. Owing to accusations of election fraud and several cases of corruption, Chissano's government was widely criticised. But, under Chissano's leadership, Mozambique has continued to be regarded as a model of fast and sustainable economic growth and democratic changes.
In early 2001 Chissano announced his intention to not stand for the 2004 presidential election, although the constitution permitted him to do so.
In 2002, during its 8th Congress, the party selected Armando Guebuza as its candidate for the presidential election held on December 1–2, 2004. As expected given FRELIMO's majority status, he won, gaining about 60% of the vote. At the legislative elections of the same date, the party won 62.0% of the popular vote and 160 of 250 seats in the national assembly.
RENAMO and some other opposition parties made claims of election fraud and denounced the result. International observers (among others, members of the European Union Election Observation Mission to Mozambique and the Carter Center) supported these claims, criticizing the National Electoral Commission (CNE) for failing to conduct fair and transparent elections. They listed numerous cases of improper conduct by the electoral authorities that benefited FRELIMO. However, the EU observers concluded that the elections shortcomings probably did not affect the presidential election's final result.
FRELIMO has received support from the governments of Tanzania, Algeria, Ghana, Zambia, Libya, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Cuba, China, the Soviet Union, Egypt, SFR Yugoslavia and Somalia.
Mozambican presidents representing the Frelimo Party
- Samora Machel: 25 June 1975 – 19 October 1986
- Joaquim Chissano: 6 November 1986 – 2 February 2005
- Armando Guebuza: 2 February 2005 – 15 January 2015
- Filipe Nyusi: 15 January 2015 – present
Other prominent members
- José Ibraimo Abudo, Justice minister since 1994
- Isabel Casimiro, Frelimo MP, sociologist and professor
- Basilio Muhate, Chairman of Frelimo Youth Organization since 2010
- Sharfudine Khan, Ambassador of Mozambique (After Liberation)
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