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Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane (June 20, 1920-February 3, 1969) served as President of the Mozambican Liberation Front (FRELIMO) from 1962, the year that FRELIMO was founded in Tanzania, until his assassination in 1969.

Early life

The fourth of 16 sons of a tribal chieftain of the Bantu-speaking Tsonga tribe, Mondlane was born in Portuguese East Africa in 1920. He worked as a shepherd until the age of 12. He attended several different primary schools before enrolling in a Swiss-Presbyterian school near Manjacaze. However, he ended his secondary education in the same organization's church school at Lemana in the Transvaal, South Africa. He then spent one year at the Jan Hofmeyer School of Social Work before enrolling in Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg but was expelled from South Africa after only a year, in 1949, following the rise of the Apartheid government. In June 1950 Mondlane entered the University of Lisbon, at Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. By Mondlane's request he was transferred to the United States, where he entered Oberlin College in Ohio at the age of 31, under a Phelps Stokes scholarship . Mondlane enrolled at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio in 1951, starting as a junior, and in 1953 he obtained a degree in anthropology and sociology. He continued his studies at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Mondlane earned a doctorate in sociology from Northwestern University and married Janet Mondlane, née Janet Rae Johnson, a white American woman from Indiana who then lived in the Chicago suburbs.

Political activism

After graduation, Eduardo Mondlane became a United Nations' official. One of António de Oliveira Salazar's most important advisers, Adriano Moreira, a political science professor who had been appointed to the post of Portugal's Minister of the Overseas (Ministro do Ultramar), met Mondlane at the United Nations when both were working there and, recognizing his qualities, tried to bring him to the Portuguese side by offering to him a post in Portuguese Mozambique's administration. However, Mondlane showed little interest in the offer and latter joined the Mozambican pro-independence movements in Tanzania, who lacked a credible leader.[1] In 1962 Mondlane was elected president of the newly formed Mozambican Liberation Front (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique or FRELIMO), which was composed of elements from smaller independentist groups. In 1963 he settled FRELIMO headquarters outside of Mozambique in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. Supported both by several Western countries and the USSR, as well as by many African states, FRELIMO began a guerilla war in 1964 to obtain Mozambique's independence from Portugal. In FRELIMO's early years, its leadership was divided: the faction led by Mondlane wanted not merely to fight for independence but also for a change to a socialist society; dos Santos, Machel and Chissano and a majority of the Party's Central Committee shared this view. Their opponents, prominent among whom were Nkavandame and Simango, wanted independence, but not a fundamental change in social relations: essentially the substitution of a black elite for the white elite. The socialist position was approved by the Second Party Congress, held in July 1968; Mondlane was reelected party President, and a strategy of protracted war based on support amongst the peasantry (as opposed to a quick coup attempt) was adopted.


In 1969 a bomb was planted in a book then sent to him at the FRELIMO general secretariat in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It exploded, killing him. Both the Portuguese intelligence or the Portuguese secret police PIDE/DGS and elements of FRELIMO, have been accused by different historians of this political murder.

Legacy and homages

Main articles: Mozambican Liberation Front, Mozambican War of Independence, and Mozambican Civil War
Mondlane's death was mourned at a funeral in 1969 which was officiated by his Oberlin classmate and friend the Reverend Edward Hawley, who said during the ceremonies that Mondlane "...laid down his life for the truth that man was made for dignity and self-determination."
By the early 1970s FRELIMO's 7,000-strong guerrilla force had wrested control of some countryside areas of the central and northern parts of Mozambique from the Portuguese authorities. The independentist guerrilla was engaging a Portuguese force of approximately 60,000 military, which was almost all concentrated in the area of Cahora Bassa where the Portuguese administration were finalizing the construction of a major hydroelectric dam, one of many facilities and improvements that the Portuguese provincial administration's development commission were rapidly developing since the 1960s. The 1974 overthrow of the Portuguese ruling regime after a leftist military coup in Lisbon, brought a dramatic change of direction in Portugal's policy regarding its overseas provinces, and on the 25th June 1975, Portugal handed over power to FRELIMO and Mozambique became an independent nation.
In 1975 the Universidade de Lourenço Marques founded by the Portuguese and given the name of the capital of Portugal's Overseas Province of Mozambique, Lourenço Marques (now Maputo, Mozambique), was renamed Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, or Eduardo Mondlane University. It is still located in the capital city of independent Mozambique, which is now called Maputo.


  • Eduardo Mondlane, The Struggle for Mozambique. 1969, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books.
  • "Conversations with Eduardo Mondlane", by Helen Kitchen. In Africa Report, #12 (November 1967), p.51.


  1. ^ Kenneth Maxwell, The Making of Portuguese Democracy, Cambridge University Press, 1995, ISBN 0521585961, 9780521585965