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Eduardo Mondlane
Eduardo Mondlane.jpg
Born(1920-06-20)20 June 1920
Nwajahani, Mandlakazi, Mozambique
Died3 February 1969(1969-02-03) (aged 48)[1]
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Years of service1963–69
Rank1st President of FRELIMO
Commands heldFRELIMO
Battles/warsMozambican War of Independence

Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane (20 June 1920 – 3 February 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. He was an anthropologist by profession but worked as a history and sociology professor at Syracuse University.[2]

Early life

The fourth of 16 sons of a tribal chief of the Bantu-speaking Tsonga tribe, Mondlane was born in "N'wajahani", district of Mandlakazi in the province of Gaza,"[3] in Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique) 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 organisation'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 an MA and a PhD from Northwestern University and married Janet Rae Johnson, a white American woman from Indiana who then lived in the Chicago suburbs.[4]

Anthropology career

Mondlane began working in 1957 as research officer in the Trusteeship Department of the United Nations which enabled him to travel to Africa.[4] He resigned from his post that year to be allowed to participate in political activism which his UN post did not allow. He became an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Syracuse University and helped develop the East African Studies Program there. In 1963, he resigned from his post at Syracuse to move to Tanzania to fully engage in the liberation struggle.[4]

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, recognising 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.[5] 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 guerrilla 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 re-elected party President, and a strategy of protracted war based on support among the peasantry (as opposed to a quick coup attempt) was adopted.


In 1969 a bomb was planted in a book sent to him at the FRELIMO Headquarters in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It exploded when he opened the package in the house of an American friend, Betty King, killing him.[6] Both the Portuguese intelligence or the Portuguese secret police PIDE/DGS and elements of FRELIMO, have been accused by different historians of this assassination. Former PIDE Agent Oscar Cardoso claims that PIDE Agente Casimiro Monteiro planted the bomb that killed Eduardo Mondlane.

Legacy and homages

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 finalising 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 25 June 1975, Portugal handed over power to FRELIMO and Mozambique became an independent nation.

Eduardo Mondlane University

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.[7]

Eduardo Mondlane Lecture Series

Syracuse University's Africa Initiative hosts the Eduardo Mondlane Brown Bag Lecture Series that invites speakers world wide to participate in Africana studies.


  • Eduardo Mondlane, The Struggle for Mozambique. 1969, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
  • Helen Kitchen, "Conversations with Eduardo Mondlane", in Africa Report, No. 12 (November 1967), p. 51.


  1. ""In memory of Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane '53"". Alumni News & Notes. Retrieved 24 November 2014. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  2. "Eduardo Mondlane | South African History Online". Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  3. Cossa, Jose. 2012. "Reviving the Memory of Eduardo Mondlane in Syracuse: Links between Syracuse and a Mozambican Liberation Leader," Peace Newsletter #819 (November–December), pp. 11–12. Syracuse Peace Council.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane '53". Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  5. Kenneth Maxwell, The Making of Portuguese Democracy, Cambridge University Press, 1995, ISBN 0-521-58596-1, ISBN 978-0-521-58596-5
  6. João Vaz de Almada, "Moçambique tem de descobrir Eduardo Mondlane", Verdade, 31 January 2009.
  7. [1][dead link]

External links

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