This Angry Land – Story behind the story

What a story!

It started for me with a mundane train journey from Southampton to London. I was reading a booklet by charity workers Mark and Helen van Koevering from Christian Aid. They had witnessed and survived two vicious attacks by right-wing Renamo guerrillas in the remote villages of Mozambique.

Author preparing for
trouble in Mozambique

This massive angry land, a former Portugese colony, lay squeezed between apartheid South Africa and the western seaboards of the India Ocean.

Mark and Helen survived their ordeals and eventually married. By the time my train pulled into Waterloo their account had done its job. I knew I had my next story. It just had to be written.

Just getting into Mozambique wasn’t easy. I had to pull in various favours to get a visa. I had friends in Defence Systems International, a highly-regarded company which provided British contract soldiers – often ex-Special Forces – to train elite Mozambique troops with impressive results. It was DSI on whom I had to rely to get me to the front line.

Before I left for such a dangerous place, another friend managed to get me some firearms training on an army firing range.

Makeshift airstrip in Mozambique

Makeshift airstrip in Mozambique

It was there I learned that if at anytime someone is going to try to kill you, pray that they are firing a sub-machine gun on full auto. If your enemy hits you, it will be your extreme bad luck. The man in the moon, though, should look out. I was not popular for blowing holes high up on the recently-painted walls of the range. I also handled assault rifles, automatics and, my favourite, a .45 revolver.

In the event, on a frontline base in remote Mozambique with the guerrillas hiding in the surrounding hills, the weapon at my bedside was a Kalashnikov AK47. It was without a magazine.

It is maybe not surprising to discover that the so-called ‘civil war’ was nothing of the kind. It was in fact, like Angola, the cockpit of the Cold War. And it was where the old Soviet Union and the United States fought their war by proxy.

In order to protect vital strategic interests, the Americans had teamed up with the beleaguered apartheid South Africa to harness the evil Renamo guerillas to fight the left-leaning Mozambique government. It was not a very edifying discovery, and it is one that to this day has been very little reported.

The other amazing links unearthed were those of MI5 with the governments of both South Africa and Zimbabwe, and the Provisional IRA with the Communist ANC of South Africa.

Happily today, Mozambique is just beginning to recover and flourish with wonderful prospects for both the agricultural trade and tourism. The people are especially known to be friendly and hard-working. With over 20 tribal languages spoken, it is regarded by young men as a bonus that there is a very good chance they will be unable to hold a conversation with their mother-in-law! (A Mozambiquan joke).

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