The Battle for Mozambique

The Frelimo–Renamo Struggle, 1977–1992

Stephen A. Emerson

Date Published :
February 2014
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Illustration :
60 b/w illustrations and 10 maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781909384927
Pages : 288
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Available


Nominated for the Association of Third World Studies Toyin Falola Africa book award for 2014.
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 under appreciated in the chronicles of modern African history.


"What emerges from the pages of this erudite book is the definitive account of the Mozambican civil war … Stephen Emerson’s thoughtful, incisive and highly readable account of the Mozambican civil war is a must for students, academics and policy-makers who seek to understand Mozambique’s past and future

- Insight on Africa

"It has been over 20 years since the civil war in Mozambique ended, and a comprehensive history of what was one of Africa’s deadliest and most destructive conflicts has been overdue. Stephen Emerson was a defence analyst of southern Africa for the US government during the war years, and The BATTLE FOR MOZAMBIQUE reflects such an eye.... provides important new insights into how guerrilla proxies develop their own agency. It also shows how relatively small amounts of covert support can be decisive in stoking up a proxy war."

- Journal of International Affairs Review

particularly good on Renamo and on Zimbabwean military involvement ..."

- Joseph Hanlon, Mozambique Report

"Emerson’s account of the war goes a very long way in adding to our understanding of a contentious period in a fair and dispassionate way and is well worth the effort of reading. The included photographs also present images of the war’s destruction, but even the words and images cannot do full justice to the lives and opportunities lost and the vast destruction caused by the war. The rapid economic growth of Mozambique in the postwar period has been remarkable, but it will take decades to recover the ground lost in the Battle for Mozambique"

- Journal of the Middle East and Africa

"… this book should be read by all “Mozambicanist” researchers and advanced students”"

- H-Net Reviews

"Stephen Emerson has written the definitive work on the war in Mozambique ...It would be an impressive effort to capture just the fight between these factions vying for control of Mozambique...Emerson goes much further... The Battle for Mozambique benefits from Emerson's decade of research. It reflects his access ti formerly classified Rhodesian military documents coupled with the first hand accounts gleaned from hundreds of hours of interviews with both former Frelimo and former Renamo fighters as well as Rhodesian and South African military and civilian personnel. The descriptions of operations and battles are graphic and bring a reality not seen very often... a must read fro anyone seeking to understand the history and challenges of the African continent."

- Naval War College Review, Autumn 2015

“ … The inclusion of new sources and detailed attention to specific aspects of particular engagements, logistical issues, and military training make this book, despite a few caveats, an engaging and essential read for those interested in the Mozambican Civil War, and of interest to scholars of Southern African history and Cold War-era conflicts more generally.”

- War in History

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