Mozambique Religion

Freedom of religion prevails both according to the constitution and in practice. More than half of the residents profess Christianity. Catholics are slightly more than Protestants, but missionary Protestant communities are attracting more and more followers. Almost a fifth of Mozambican people are Muslim.

Traditional African religions still have many followers, although both Christianity and Islam are gaining ground. At the same time, many Christian and Muslim Mozambicans are often influenced by local religious traditions, such as the worship of spirits and natural phenomena.

Islam has more than a thousand years of history in the country. The Muslims have traditionally lived in northern Mozambique, especially along the coast, but since the early 1990s Islam has gained more followers even in the south.

The Christians are mainly in the southern and central parts of the country. The Portuguese brought Catholicism to the area over 450 years ago. The Catholic Church supported the Portuguese colonial regime until independence in 1975.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the pronounced Atheist Freelim regime (see Modern History) made life difficult for all religious groups. There was direct persecution. As a result, the religious community supported the opposition Renamo guerrilla. It was not until the late 1980s that the regime’s attitude toward the religious was softened. Nowadays, there is a relaxed relationship between the ruling party Frelimo and the religious community. However, political parties based on religious affiliation are prohibited.

  • Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Mozambique, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.

2020

June

Long prison sentence for murder of election observer

June 18

The verdict falls to the four members of a special police force arrested after the murder of election observer Anastacio Matavele last year (see October 15, 2019). Three of the men are sentenced to 24 years in prison, the fourth police receive 23 years in prison. They are also sentenced to pay damages to Matavelle’s family. Matavele was the coordinator for various organizations that monitored the election and revealed several cases of electoral cheating.

May

The army kills more jihadists

Interior Minister Amad Miquidade reports that the military has today killed 50 suspected jihadists in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. In May, armed Islamists conducted 20 attacks against 11 villages in the area, according to Miquidade. The Islamic State has taken on the death. In April, the army reported that it killed 120 insurgents and that the situation in Cabo Delgado was under control. The unrest has been ongoing since 2017 and has intensified in recent months. About 200,000 people have fled their homes to secure themselves. The oil company Exxon Mobil decided in April to put the investment on a natural gas plant in northern Mozambique on ice. The decision may delay gas extraction by several years.

April

The state of emergency is extended

April 29

In an effort to reduce the rate of corona proliferation, President Filipe Nyusi extends the state of emergency by one month. The decision continues to mean limited freedom of movement for the country’s residents, closed schools and entry bans for foreign nationals. On the same day, the interior minister announces that the Mozambican army has killed 129 suspected militant jihadists in Cabo Delgado in the past month and that the military is now in control of the situation. Militant Islamists have carried out a series of attacks against residents in the north since 2017. Over 900 people have been killed.

Massacre of villagers in the north

April 21

An Islamist group raging in northern Mozambique kills 52 young villagers in a massacre. Some of them have been shot, others have been decapitated. According to the police, the murders are a revenge campaign against the residents refusing to join the Islamists. So far, the government has not commented on the unrest in the north more than in exceptional cases and has blamed the crime on criminal leagues. A few days after the massacre, however, for the first time, the National Council for Defense and Security recognizes that the attacks can be linked to the Islamic State terrorist organization.

Jihadists want to create caliphate in the north

April 13

The group that has attacked villages and towns in the province of Cabo Delgado for two years proclaims that the movement’s goal is to make the northern part of the country a Muslim caliphate (kingdom). In a movie clip, the organization’s leader appears open, without hiding his face. The group has previously acted without clarifying its purpose. In recent attacks, jihadists have attacked villages, robbed banks and destroyed hospitals and schools. They have hoisted their black and white flag in several communities.

Journalist disappeared in the north

April 17

Radio journalist Ibraimo Abu Mbaruco has disappeared and the international legal organization Reporters Without Borders (RUG) fears that he will be kept in isolation, probably by the country’s security forces. Mbaruco has reported on the attacks in northern Mozambique (see April 13 and March 28, 2020). He disappeared a few days ago after work and has not been heard or seen since. The government has tried to silence the unrest by not commenting on it publicly. Since the attacks began in 2017, at least five journalists and activists who have illuminated conditions in the north have been arrested by the country’s military.

March

Many arrested after new attacks

March 28

About 50 suspected jihadists have been arrested following two attacks against Cabo Delgado province. Exactly who is behind the violence that has been going on since 2017 is not entirely clear, but the Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP) has taken on the latest raids as a large number of masked men broke into government buildings, military barracks and shops. They disappeared with food, weapons and other equipment. Legal groups have criticized the government for not doing enough to protect the civilian population, something the Defense Minister rejects. Two weeks ago, the US accused the country’s security forces of extrajudicially and arbitrarily killing people they suspect are behind the attacks.

Migrants are choking to death

24th of March

At a checkpoint 30 miles south of the Malawi border, 64 illegal migrants are found dead in a truck container. The dead are from Ethiopia and the probable cause of death is suffocation. Mozambique has a reputation for being a smuggling corridor for migrants who want to travel to South Africa. The container also contained 14 people who survived the transport.

Renamo ready to continue disarming

March 20

Ossufo Momade, leader of the opposition movement Renamo, says the organization is ready to resume the disarmament of 5,000 soldiers. The former rebel group, which today is the country’s largest opposition party, fought between the years 2013 and 2016 against the Frelimo government party. According to the peace agreement, Renamo’s soldiers must be disarmed and reintegrated into society (see Aug. 6, 2019). The process was delayed due to the elections last year.

February

Increased concern after executions in the north

February 29th

Two men are found shot and beheaded in Pemba, the capital of the northern province of Cabo Delgado. Police suspect the two men were killed for refusing to join the group of jihadists who have been terrorizing the province since 2017 (see Feb. 21, 2019 and April 25, 2019). According to the UN, at least 100,000 people are on the run and in recent weeks the number of assaults has increased. In June, the Islamic State (IS) took on some 20 attacks against military targets, but there is no evidence that IS supports jihadists in northern Mozambique neither financially nor militarily. Energy companies that build the large natural gas extraction plant in the area are calling for increased military protection.

January

Ex-rebel leaders in interrogation of deadly attacks

January 21st

The prosecutor calls Elias Dhlakama, brother of deceased Renamo leader Afonoso Dhlakama, for questioning. He is one of several Renamo politicians suspected of supporting the deadly attacks that have occurred in the country’s central parts in recent months. Elias Dhlakama, a former guerrilla leader and now MP, does not obey the call but invokes political immunity. The rebel group Renamo, which fought in a bloody civil war against the Frelimo government party between 1976 and 1992, is today Mozambique’s largest opposition party. In 2013 to 2016, new battles were fought between the parties and in August last year they entered into a new peace agreement (see 6 Aug 2019).

The president is sworn in for another five years

January 15

Frelimos Filipe Nyusi swears presidential speech. The results of the October 2019 election have been called into question by the opposition, which claims that Nyusi’s overwhelming victory was only possible with the help of widespread electoral fraud. In its installation figures, Nyusi promises to fight corruption and ensure that future revenues from the country’s large natural gas deposits in the northern part of the country all benefit. In 2016, a major loan and corruption scandal was revealed that triggered the biggest financial crisis in the country since independence (see April 19, 2016). Despite this, Frelimo has managed to keep the grip on the electorate. Extraction of the gas deposits is planned to start in 2022, but the terrorist attacks in the area are increasing and may delay the project.

Mozambique Religion