94. Paper Prepared in the Department of State1


A. Summary

Mozambique is a Portuguese colony bordered by both white and black-dominated militant states. It is an important transportation hub, but its colonial status and geographic position render it inherently unstable for the foreseeable future. Lisbon’s rule over the territory is opposed by independent African states, particularly those on Mozambique’s borders. A nationalist African insurgency in its sixth year, while thus far unsuccessful, shows no sign of abating. U.S. association with Portugal as a NATO ally creates problems for USG relations with independent Africa. At the same time, differences between the U.S. and Portugal over the latter’s African policies have adversely affected our bilateral relations with Lisbon.

While concrete U.S. interests in Mozambique are small, the territory’s geography and transit facilities render it important within the context of our concern with the over-all southern African problem. Our policy objectives over the near term should be generally concerned with the lessening of border tensions, the development of local institutions with significant African participation, the limiting of South African and Rhodesian influence, and an increased understanding of U.S. policy by both black and white Mozambicans. There is little we can do to attain these objectives except to try to maintain some influence in Lisbon and in the black African states most directly concerned. We should continue to remain outside the conflict and maintain our arms embargo.

B. Background


Political/Security. Despite occasional references to increased autonomy for Mozambique from Portuguese Prime Minister Marcello Caetano, Lisbon continues to control tightly the political-economic life and administration of the province. Internal right-wing pressures, led by the military to maintain the present colonial policy have apparently precluded any significant GOP policy changes in this area for the foreseeable future.

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Although the US, like the UN, treats Mozambique as a non-self-governing area and thus feels Portugal has international obligations under Article 73e of the UN Charter to promote the political, economic, social, and educational development of the territory and to submit reports to the UN, Portugal regards Mozambique as a “province” being an integral part of the Portuguese nation. There is little separatist sentiment among Mozambique’s 200,000 whites. Unlike South Africa and Rhodesia, as a matter of national policy, Portugal does not discriminate on the basis of race. The Government’s direction in Mozambique is rather defined as the development of a completely integrated “multi-racial” society. Many centuries neglect of the territory’s African population as well as its present colonial status have, however, created de facto white minority rule in Mozambique, at least for the time being.

The FRELIMO liberation movement, seeking an end to Portuguese rule, is conducting insurgent operations in the territory’s extreme north and northwest. The movement operates from the neighboring African countries of Zambia and Tanzania—but has not been permitted to establish bases in strategically-situated Malawi. It receives support from the OAU and communist nations. FRELIMO’s tribal base is largely restricted to the fiercely independent Makondes near the Tanzanian border; as a result, the movement has not found significant support among Mozambique’s 7.8 million Africans, who are mostly rural and apolitical.

Although FRELIMO’s guerrillas probably do not number over 5,000 in the territory at any one time, the insurrection will probably continue to be a difficult and costly security problem for the Portuguese for the foreseeable future. (Portugal devotes about 38 percent of its budget to defense.) To date, however, a largely expenditionary Portuguese force of about 50,000 men (25 percent African) and some native irregulars have been able to contain it. The Portuguese military effort has been supplemented by an African resettlement program which has served to exploit tribal divisions and thus limit the rebellion’s scope. Rhodesia’s Air Force occasionally provides air support for Portuguese operations.

A major security concern at present is the insurgent threat to the Cabora Bassa dam project in Tete district. Any FRELIMO successes near Cabora Bassa could shake international confidence in the project’s feasibility and possibly endanger its completion.

With South Africa, Portugal has refused to observe UN international sanctions on Rhodesia, arguing that coastal states have an obligation to serve landlocked neighbors. The GOP’s real concern, however, is twofold: to protect the security of its African territories while discrediting UN economic sanctions as a means to pressure the south [Page 220] ern African regimes; and to protect income to Mozambique from transit charges, which traditionally account for a major source of earnings for the territory. By allowing Mozambique’s port and rail facilities to continue to carry a substantial portion of Rhodesian trade with the outside world, Portugal has become a major partner with South Africa in support of the Smith regime’s defiance of the international community.


Economic. Mozambique’s economy has been growing modestly but steadily over the past decade. GDP is increasing about five percent a year at present. Agriculture is the major activity and sugar, cashew, and cotton represent the province’s principal exports. Transit trade from Mozambican ports to South Africa, Rhodesia and Zambia also continues to represent an important source of income despite Rhodesian sanctions. Mozambique’s mineral resources are uncertain, although active exploration for offshore oil is under way.

Although defense spending takes a large percentage of provincial governmental expenditure, the Mozambican insurgency has stimulated increased private investment as well as improvements in health and education facilities. A number of new infrastructure projects are with South African assistance at Cabora Bassa. Mozambique’s principal economic problem continues to be a traditional balance of payments deficit with metropolitan Portugal.

Foreign Relations. All foreign relations for Mozambique are handled by the central government in Lisbon. Civilian and military intelligence officials in Mozambique maintain quasi-diplomatic contacts with South African, Rhodesian and Malawian counterparts.

The Zambian and Tanzanian insurgent safehavens have exacerbated relations between these countries and Portugal; Lusaka’s former sub rosa contacts with Lisbon have been a particular casualty of worsening tempers on both sides over the past year.

C. U.S. Interests

U.S. trade with Mozambique is small but growing; in 1969, the U.S. took $16.3 million of the territory’s exports while supplying $26.5 million of its imports. Mozambique is an important producer of the strategic mineral columbo-tantalite, and the U.S. relies on the territory for about 13% of its supply of this metal. American investment is practically non-existent. Several U.S. companies are prospecting for offshore oil.

Mozambique occupies a potentially important strategic position on the Indian Ocean. The territory has a number of large deep-water ports which have become more important with the closure of the Suez Canal. Because our policy excludes U.S. Navy calls at South African ports except in emergencies, the Navy makes heavy use of the facilities [Page 221] at Lourenco Marques for refueling. At present, visits from U.S. destroyers or intelligence ships occur about once a month.

As part of the general problem of Portuguese Africa, Mozambique is a point of friction in our relations with the black African governments and with the Portuguese as well. Both sides are dissatisfied with our essentially middle-of-the-road policy and this manifests itself both in bilateral relations and in the U.N. In the latter case, the General Assembly and the Security Council have called repeatedly on the GOP over the past decade to change its colonial policy. In recent years, resolutions on Portuguese Africa have become more extreme, and the choice for the U.S. has often been to abstain or to oppose them. This irritates the Afro-Asian group which sponsors them and makes it less willing to accommodate us on other matters. An internationally acceptable solution to the Mozambican problem would thus serve our interests by removing an impediment to the realization of more vital U.S. foreign policy aims, whether in Africa, in Europe, or in other areas of the world.

Pacific and equitable long-term solutions to the problems of southern Africa are in the U.S. interest. A deterioration of the present uneasy situation in Mozambique could lead to widespread and bloody racial conflict in the territory and bring South Africa and Rhodesia in as active participants. Such developments would increase African and domestic pressures for the U.S. to intervene actively in the area, and would, in any event, make Mozambique and southern Africa more acute foreign policy problems than at present.

D. U.S. Objectives

Realistic goals over the next five years would be the following:

Avoidance of becoming identified with either the Portuguese or insurgent side.
Improved Portuguese communications and relations with Zambia.
A start in the development of local autonomous political institutions with significant African participation. The successful integration of increased numbers of Africans into the territory’s money economy and urban life.
Limitation of South African and Rhodesian influence to the extent possible.
Increased awareness by Mozambique’s black and white populations of U.S. values, traditions and foreign policy goals, particularly as these are reflected in our attitude towards Africa.
Implementation of our policy so as to minimize, in so far as practicable, adverse effects on our use of our base in the Azores.
Maintain overflight rights and access to port facilities.

E. Courses of Action

There is little that the U.S. can do to influence events in Mozambique. Our policy should oppose Portugal’s use of force as a curative for its African problems while stressing the belief that only moves toward self-determination will promote long-term stability in Mozambique. Corresponding with certain of the objectives listed above, the following are possible specific USG actions which might make a contribution:


(a) Maintain the present embargo on arms for use in Portuguese Africa by either side in the conflicts.

(b) Give public support to equitable, non-violent means of solving disputes in Portuguese Africa.

(c) Continue the present policy of normal trade relations while neither encouraging nor discouraging American investment in Portuguese Africa. Investment guarantees can be considered on a case-by-case basis, however, using the guidelines of 3 (b) below.

In Lisbon and Lusaka, continue informally to stress the advantages of Portuguese-Zambian bilateral contact, and of avoiding recourse to the United Nations in case of disputes.

(a) Continue to discuss informally the future of Portuguese Africa with Portuguese officials.

(b) Consider applications for investment guarantees on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the particular risks and the long-term value of the investment to the indigenous inhabitants.


(a) In public statements in the UN and elsewhere, distinguish Portugal’s racial policies from those of Rhodesia and South Africa.

(b) To the extent possible, encourage any Portuguese moves towards more association with Western Europe and independent Africa, and away from South African and Rhodesian influence.

(c) Maintain friendly, cooperative relations with Portugal.


(a) Continue to supply USIA informational material to the Consulate General in Lourenco Marques. Maintain the small CU exchange program in Mozambique at its present level.

(b) Continue discreet contacts with Mozambique insurgent leaders to keep abreast of possible grounds for negotiation.

(c) Continue to participate, preferably under an international umbrella, in support to Mozambican refugee education; and to grant CUSASP university scholarships to qualified Mozambican refugee students within the limits of the present program.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 1–2 MOZ–US. Secret; Noforn. This paper was approved by the NSC Interdepartmental Group for Africa. Transmitted in CA–5103 to Lourenco Marques on October 2.