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MARCH 2015


In the face of numerous challenges, diplomacy played a vital role

in post-independence Mozambique and the Southern Africa region.




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