THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
In the face of numerous challenges, diplomacy played a vital role
in post-independence Mozambique and the Southern Africa region.
BY WI L LARD D
Willard DePree is a retired member of the Senior For-
eign Service and a former ambassador to Mozambique
(1976-1980) and Bangladesh (1987-1990). He joined
the State Department Foreign Service in 1956, serving
overseas in Cairo, Nicosia, Accra and Freetown, in ad-
dition to assignments inWashington, D.C.
ell before I presented my
letter of credence as U.S.
ambassador to Samora
Machel, president of
the People’s Republic of
Mozambique, on April
16, 1976, it was already
clear that my assignment
would be a challenging
one. Nine months earlier, on July 25, 1975, the State Department
had informed Machel’s government that we wished to send an
ambassador to Maputo—yet it took more than three months for
him to approve the request.
The delay reflected stark divisions within the ruling party,
the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique. Many officials were
unhappy with the U.S. government’s past support of the Por-
tuguese during FRELIMO’s struggle for independence. Others
resented Washington’s refusal to take a more active role in press-
ing for black-majority rule in Rhodesia and South Africa.
Some, including President Machel himself, were also angry
about our support of ethnic groups in Angola who had taken up
arms to prevent FRELIMO’s close ally, the Marxist Movement for
the Liberation of Angola, from coming to power. Others feared
the CIA might use the embassy as a springboard from which to
create problems for Mozambique.
They were not the only critics of the diplomatic overture,
either. Some members of Congress rallied behind the efforts of
Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) to block the opening of an embassy
in Mozambique. Their argument could be summed up as: “Why
should we spend U.S. taxpayer money opening an embassy in an
unfriendly, Marxist country? What cooperation can we expect
from a government that refers to the Soviet Union, China, Cuba,
Vietnam and North Korea as ‘our natural allies’ and is so sharply
critical of U.S. Africa policies?”
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s determination to proceed