U.N. Security Council Brokers Peace in Mozambique Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The United Nations Operation in Mozambique pacified that nation after nearly two decades of civil war. Peacekeeping troops, police, and civil administrators demobilized the contending national and international forces in the country, organized a reconstituted national defense force, and organized a national electoral process to sustain the peaceful, constitutional transfer of political power.

Summary of Event

On December 16, 1992, the United Nations Security Council established the United Nations Operation in Mozambique, known as ONUMOZ (from its name in French, Opération des Nations Unies au Mozambique). The agency was given extraordinary responsibility. Its duties were to demobilize the country after nearly two decades of civil war and supervise elections that would support its transition to a multiparty democracy. The basis for the mandate of ONUMOZ was the peace agreement signed in Rome on October 4, 1992, between the two contenders in the civil war, Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (the Mozambique Liberation Front, or FRELIMO) FRELIMO and the Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (the Mozambican National Resistance, or RENAMO). RENAMO The former was headed by Joaquim Chissano, the president of Mozambique; the latter was led by Afonso Dhlakama. United Nations Operation in Mozambique United Nations;peacekeeping Civil wars;Mozambique Mozambique;U.N. peacekeeping [kw]U.N. Security Council Brokers Peace in Mozambique (Dec. 16, 1992) [kw]Security Council Brokers Peace in Mozambique, U.N. (Dec. 16, 1992) [kw]Council Brokers Peace in Mozambique, U.N. Security (Dec. 16, 1992) [kw]Peace in Mozambique, U.N. Security Council Brokers (Dec. 16, 1992) [kw]Mozambique, U.N. Security Council Brokers Peace in (Dec. 16, 1992) United Nations Operation in Mozambique United Nations;peacekeeping Civil wars;Mozambique Mozambique;U.N. peacekeeping [g]Africa;Dec. 16, 1992: U.N. Security Council Brokers Peace in Mozambique[08460] [g]Mozambique;Dec. 16, 1992: U.N. Security Council Brokers Peace in Mozambique[08460] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;Dec. 16, 1992: U.N. Security Council Brokers Peace in Mozambique[08460] [c]United Nations;Dec. 16, 1992: U.N. Security Council Brokers Peace in Mozambique[08460] [c]Government and politics;Dec. 16, 1992: U.N. Security Council Brokers Peace in Mozambique[08460] Machel, Samora Chissano, Joaquim Dhlakama, Afonso

In 1974, the authoritarian regime that had governed Portugal for nearly half a century was overthrown. The new Portuguese regime granted independence to the country’s colonies, most of which were in Africa. Among these was Mozambique, on the southeast coast of Africa. To the north of Mozambique lay Tanzania; to the northwest, Malawi and Zambia; to the west, Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe); and to the south, Swaziland and South Africa. The country was of strategic geopolitical and economic importance. Its location made it a crucial center for controlling access both to the Indian Ocean and the interior of Southern Africa. The Zambezi River, the fourth-longest river in Africa, penetrated the interior of the country, which was rich in strategic minerals. The rival interests of Mozambique’s neighboring countries and of international powers provoked a prolonged series of conflicts that continued for much of the final part of the twentieth century, producing the bloodiest warfare in the modern history of the region.

FRELIMO had emerged in the decade of the 1960’s as an anticolonialist, armed independence movement. It was supported by Tanzania, a newly independent former British colony created from the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. FRELIMO thus concentrated its combat efforts in the north of Mozambique. With the achievement of Angolan independence in 1975, FRELIMO became the government of the new country. Initially, it was under the Marxist leadership of Samora Machel, the first president of Mozambique, who was supported internationally by the Soviet Union. After his death in an airplane crash in 1986, party leadership and the presidency of the country passed to Joaquim Chissano, who led the country away from its Marxist orientation.

Just as Mozambique had received support for independence from Tanzania, so the new country supported the opposition movements to the white-dominated governments of Rhodesia and South Africa. Rhodesia, therefore, sought to destabilize the Mozambique government. It supported the foundation of RENAMO under the leadership of the anti-Communist guerrilla fighter Afonso Dhlakama and provided RENAMO with arms, funding, and a safe haven. However, the white-dominated regime of Rhodesia collapsed, and in 1980 the victors renamed the country Zimbabwe. South Africa and the United States thereby became the principal supporters of RENAMO.

During the decade of the 1980’s, an unprecedented crescendo of violence grew in Mozambique as neighboring countries and regional and international powers fought there. Beyond the conflict between FRELIMO and RENAMO, there was the alliance known as Front Line States (those countries bordering South Africa) backing Mozambique under FRELIMO and South Africa backing RENAMO and its counterrevolution effort. Furthermore, FRELIMO had the international support of the Soviet Union and China; RENAMO had the support of the United States.

The intensity of conflict and a scourge of drought in Mozambique produced nearly six million displaced persons and refugees, approximately one-third of the country’s population. Hundreds of thousands were killed or died of starvation in what was among the largest human-made and natural disasters in modern African history. Land mines Land mines planted throughout the country caused many fatalities and injuries.

The conflict abated toward the end of the 1980’s, and a peace process that was begun in 1992 managed to make some progress. The clergy of the country, particularly the Catholic hierarchy, became increasingly active in efforts to quell the violence. Moreover, the support of the Soviet Union ended as Communism collapsed there. Furthermore, the force of South Africa withered as its white-dominated regime came to an end. FRELIMO relinquished its Marxist orientation and agreed to establish a multiparty system, and RENAMO agreed to transform itself from a guerrilla movement into a political party.

After a series of negotiations in Rome, the Mozambique government and RENAMO signed a peace agreement on October 4, 1992, and on December 16, 1992, the United Nations Security Council authorized ONUMOZ. Its duties were to supervise a cease-fire, demobilize the contending parties, and reconstitute the country’s armed forces. For this purpose, ONUMOZ installed seventy-five hundred peacekeepers in the country; the force comprised troops, police, and civil administrators. Beyond these immediate tasks, ONUMOZ had to organize and supervise national elections that would put into place a framework for a functioning democracy. The Rome peace agreement called for elections to be scheduled for October 27-28, 1994. By that date, a National Elections Commission had been established, and it successfully conducted the elections under the supervision of more than two thousand international observers. ONUMOZ also progressively disarmed RENAMO forces and established the new Mozambican Defense Force.


ONUMOZ effectively achieved most of its objectives during its two-year mission. It disarmed rebel forces, reorganized national defense, and established an electoral framework that incorporated dissidents into a peaceful political process. In the national elections of 1994 and 1999, Chissano defeated Dhlakama for the presidency. The latter claimed that electoral fraud had taken place, and some violence resulted, but the electoral process remained a stable framework for political change. In 2004, the FRELIMO successor to Chissano, Armando Guebuza, defeated Dhlakama for the presidency.

Several factors contributed to the success of ONUMOZ. FRELIMO had adopted a position favorable to market economics and liberal democracy. Moreover, the outside forces that had intervened in the country, the white regime of South Africa and the Communist government of the Soviet Union, had disappeared by the early 1990’s. In addition, numerous countries and international agencies provided financial support in amounts totaling more than one billion dollars to rebuild the country. The overwhelming desire of the Mozambican people was for the conflict to end, as it had devastated the lives of almost everyone in the country. In this regard, therefore, all substantial political sentiment and force favored the peacekeeping efforts of the United Nations.

Commitment by all parties to the maintenance of some form of consolidated and effective national government became fundamental. Mozambique experienced torrential floods during the early years of the twenty-first century after the droughts of the previous decades. The floods devastated the nation’s agriculture, its export sector, and its rural and urban populations. Hidden land mines that had been put in place during the conflict continued to cause fatalities and injuries, and the spread of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) reached epidemic proportions. Following the ONUMOZ peacekeeping project, FRELIMO remained in power into the early years of the twenty-first century. The ultimate test of Mozambique’s democratic resilience will be the continued existence of an opposition party and the peaceful transfer of power between parties through fair elections. United Nations Operation in Mozambique United Nations;peacekeeping Civil wars;Mozambique Mozambique;U.N. peacekeeping

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Cabrita, João M. Mozambique: The Tortuous Road to Democracy. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. A Mozambican journalist living in exile presents a critical analysis of the historical development, policies, and actions of FRELIMO. Includes maps, tables, and bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Chan, Stephen, and Moisés Venâncio. War and Peace in Mozambique. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998. Discusses the background and the conclusion of the Mozambique conflict. Includes text of the peace agreement, election data and analysis of election results, and bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Finnegan, William. A Complicated War: The Harrowing of Mozambique. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992. Presents accounts of the experiences of Mozambican refugees and civil war survivors gathered by the author in field research in his role as a writer for The New Yorker.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Synge, Richard. Mozambique: U.N. Peacekeeping in Action, 1992-94. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 1997. Provides detailed analysis of accomplishments and frustrations of the ONUMOZ mission, based on research in U.N. documentation and interviews with key personnel. Includes maps and bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">United Nations. The United Nations and Mozambique, 1992-1995. New York: Author, 1995. Presents an official overview of ONUMOZ operations with compilation of relevant documents.

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Categories: History