On the relations between Mozambique and the GDR
The GDR’s relations with Mozambique go back to the time of the beginning liberation struggle of the Mozambican people against the almost 5oo-year-old Portuguese colonial rule in the sixties of the last century. Both German states were integrated into the two existing world systems and included in the Cold War. Thus a natural alliance with FRELIMO (Mozambican Liberation Front), which emerged from various ethnic liberation organizations in 1962 and was headed by former UN employee Eduardo Mondlane, arose for the GDR, which was striving for socialism.
In the interest of a socialism-friendly world order and its anchoring also on the African continent, the GDR formed a foreign policy which should create favorable conditions for its own development and bring international recognition. This included anti-imperialist solidarity and help in overthrowing the surviving colonial system.
During international meetings, contacts were strengthened with FRELIMO, which took up the armed struggle against the Portuguese in 1964 and could count on the support of the GDR in this regard from 1967 onwards.
With the expansion of this liberation struggle, the GDR, with its limited economic capacity, soon reached the limits of its possibilities.
After the murder of Mondlane, Samora Moises Machel took over the leadership of FRELIMO and led Mozambique into independence on 25 June 1975.
Meanwhile, the colonial yoke had been shaken off in many other African states. In the GDR, names such as Nelson Mandela, Patrice Lumumba, Julius Nyerere, Agostino Neto and Samora Machel became well-known and symbols of the anti-colonial liberation struggle.
The government of the young state of Mozambique faced enormous challenges in the fight against hunger, nudity, disease, illiteracy, tribalism, racism and oppression.
The then Southern Rhodesia and the apartheid state of South Africa tried to stop the development in Mozambique, which was dangerous for them. Initially, they supported militarily and financially armed gangs that had been carrying counterrevolution into the country from northern Mozambique since 1976. South Africa’s involvement increased to an undeclared war against the young neighbouring state.
In the GDR, it was assumed that relations with Mozambique would benefit both sides. The plan was to import coal from Mozambique into the GDR and to export trucks, agricultural machinery and equipment. In return, licenses were granted to the East German state to catch deepwater prawns, among other things. The GDR provided Mozambique with its extensive experience in hard coal mining, agricultural production, transport and education. This was done above all by providing experienced qualified specialists who worked as consultants in Mozambican ministries, in banking, in the hard coal mining area of Moatize, in state administration and in selected industrial complexes.
In the education sector, the German Cooperantes helped to design, plan and gradually put into practice a new education system. The “New System of Education” (SNE) envisaged the formation of a “Homem Novo” (“New People”) as the goal of Mozambican society. The 93% illiterate population at the time of liberation were to be qualified to build a liberated society by gradually expanding their school system. Free schooling should be given to the children of the people.
But the construction of new schools, the training of teachers and the production of new textbooks progressed sluggishly. The marauding gangs of the RENAMO (“Mozambican Resistance”) destroyed the newly created infrastructure, destroyed schools, killed teachers, disrupted transport links and forced the state to invest more and more financial resources in military defence. The gangs took unimaginable brutality against the population and did not spare the foreign advisors either.
One of my worst memories is the murder of seven GDR citizens on their way to work at the Unango State Farm in the northern province of Njassa in 1984. There were also two injured, one of whom did not survive.
The security situation in the country deteriorated increasingly despite the 1984 Nkomati Non-Aggression and Good Neighbourliness Agreement with the Republic of South Africa (RSA). The hopes of Mozambicans for peace in the tortured country and for economic cooperation associated with the treaty were bitterly disappointed.
When only one survived in the struggle between the two world systems, Mozambique also experienced a turning point. Although FRELIMO, which declared itself a party in 1977, remained a ruling force after 199o despite party pluralism, the country was caught in the maelstrom of globalisation and in total dependence on the World Bank and the WTO.
The current Prime Minister Luisa Dias Diogo had been a representative of the World Bank in Mozambique since the 1980s. President Armando Guebuza – once a fervent FRELIMO fighter against capitalism and exploitation – is now a multimillionaire and is considered to be the richest man in the country, which the UN has been one of the poorest states in the world for years.
Today, the huge country is in the hands of South African farmers and those expelled from Zimbabwe, who rent it for a mockery money for 99 years. The Mozambican farmer hires himself out as a farm worker and looks with astonishment at the capital Maputo, where a small rich clique with western luxury has established itself and the people from the countryside streaming into the city are increasing the army of the unemployed and taking crime and prostitution to alarming proportions.
Nothing has remained of the former efforts in the field of education. This is also true of the other areas in which GDR advisers were active.
The civil war has ended since the then President Chissano signed a peace agreement with RENAMO leader Dhlakama in Rome in 1992. Meanwhile, the government has launched a development programme for the education sector that would last until 2oo8, as well as an “action plan to reduce absolute poverty”.
In my book “Berichte aus dem Morgengrauen. Als Entwicklungshelfer der DDR in Mosambik” [Reports from the Dawn. As a development aid worker of the GDR in Mozambique], I described the development of the country, especially in the 1980s, and wrote about the hopes and disappointments of the people, their victories and defeats. The undeclared war in South Africa and the deadly actions of RENAMO are described pictorially and their own experiences are interwoven. The consequences of the drought in the first half of the 1980s are depicted, as are the encounters with friendly, peace-loving people and their traditions, their beliefs, their ways of life and their culture. It concludes with a summary of the state of the country as it manifested itself during Maputo’s visit in 2005.
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