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Why Does the Flag of Mozambique Have a Gun on It?

In South-East Africa- bordering Zimbabwe, Eswatini, South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, and Malawi- lies the Republic of Mozambique (normally known just as Mozambique). Traditionally the economy has relied on fishing and agriculture, despite processing a bounty of natural resources. The sovereign state has seen much economic upturn; however, this hasn’t much changed the lives of most residents; Mozambique remains one of the poorest countries in the world, possessing a measly HDI score of 0.446- the 7th lowest score out of all countries as of 2022.

Sadly, for Mozambicans, there isn’t much which makes their country and culture stand out on the international stage. Mozambique possesses some beautiful beaches- which have been the source of increasing tourism to the country- and has around 30 native species of bird, along with their unique currency: named the metical. As a former Portuguese colony, modern-day Mozambique still holds influences from its past, such as speaking Portuguese, and having a cuisine similar to that of its former colonizers.

Perhaps the most unique and recognizable element of interest in Mozambique- is its flag. It is of a horizontal tricolor variety, with the colors, dark green, black, and yellow- supposedly signifying rich soil, Africa, and natural minerals. Bordering the black horizontal are 2 thin white horizontal strips connoting peace. Almost in a seemingly juxtaposing manner, a red triangle is found on the left of the flag, and on top of it, a star, hoe, and amazingly- an AK-47 assault rifle. Mozambique is not the only country to have a weapon on its flag- flags of Angola, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya contain machetes, swords, and spears- however, they are the only country in the world to display a modern firearm on their flag. As unique and quirky as this vexillology may be; the rifle represents a dark past of war and bloodshed.

Mozambique was a former Portuguese colony that flew the Portuguese flag from 1498; however, as increasingly communist and anti-colonization sentiments swept through colonially ruled Africa- this was all about to change! A band of Mozambique’s indigenous population- tired of being downtrodden in their native land- formed a group of guerrilla fighters: named ‘The Front for the Liberation of Mozambique’ or FRELIMO for short. Following almost 10 years of fighting and an estimated 50,000 civilian casualties, along with even higher numbers of military deaths; FRELIMO had wrestled control of the county from the Portuguese. Within a year 250,000 Portuguese had left their former colony by expulsion.

The fighting, unfortunately, did not end there in Mozambique; 2 years later, an over 15-year-long civil war ended in a stalemate between FRELIMO and the anti-communist RENAMO- casualties soared past 1,000,000.

In 1974-1975, Mozambique flew a flag pre their independence; this flag most resembles the current flag- the only difference being a lack of Marxist symbolism derived from FRELIMO’s emblem. This symbology was eventually seen on the first flag of the country after its independence; superimposed toward the top left corner of the flag. The horizontal tricolor was changed to 4 irregular, triangular shapes, converging on the top of the hoist side- similar to the modern-day flag of Seychelles. After a couple of attempts in 1983, the South-East African country settled on that flag which it keeps to this day.

Mozambique started a new democratic era in 1994 when they held elections. In the years since, the national flag has been taken issue with many times over, with many seeing the symbology as outdated and unfit for purpose in the modern day. Increasing pressure from opposing parties leads to a design competition- with the winning flag design becoming the new flag of Mozambique. Over 150 entries were received, and the design of architect and graphic designer Jose Forjaz was chosen. Forjaz envisaged a flag with a less violent image, he changed the weapon for a red ball- symbolizing the blood of the many dead, in the mission for independence and peace. Unfortunately for Forjaz, his winning design was blocked in parliament- the flag remains as it was to this present day.

With ruling party FRELIMO seeing the rifle as a symbol of independence, rather than one of violence, and refusing to accept any other form of the flag- change doesn’t look likely. However, this doesn’t stop many citizens from flying their flag, one without weapons, as they look to move on from the tragedies of the past and onto a brighter, happier, and more beneficial future for Mozambique.

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