Mozambique says farewell to Kalashnikov gun

The Kalashnikov gun depicted on the country's national flag symbolizes the fight for independence

The parliament of Mozambique is violently debating about changing the national symbol, and this seems to be quite a problem for the African country today. The opposition demands that the national flag that Mozambique has been having within the past 22 years must be changed, to be exact they want an image of Kalashnikov gun to be taken off the flag.Mozambique flag

Today, the national flag of Mozambique looks like this: a vertical triband of vert, nero and yellow with white thin stripes between vert/nero and nero/yellow stripes, and a red triangle at the hoist extended to about 3/7 of the width, charged with a centered yellow star bearing the country's lesser arms: a rifle and a hoe crossed saltire over an open book, all in proper colors. If the red triangle were empty Mozambique would have been quite happy with the national flag all the time. But the opposition strongly objects to the Kalashnikov assault rifle on the flag. When the flag was designed in 1983, the symbols (the book, the hoe and the gun) stood for education (while 65 percent of the adult population are illiterate), agriculture and fighting for independence symbolized by the Kalashnikov gun. The previous national flag of the African country that was effective in 1975-1983 had the same symbols arranged in a different way. At that, designer of the machine-gun, hero of Russia General Mikhail Kalashnikov highly appreciated the honor that the African country showed when put the Kalashnikov gun among other symbols of its national flag.

The parliamentary opposition insists that a civilized country, and Mozambique certainly believes it is a civilized state, must not have a national flag with a machine-gun depicted on it. The New Zealand Herald cited spokesperson for RENAMO, Mozambique's main opposition party Eduardo Namburete  as saying that the national symbols no longer indicate the present-day reality as they were adopted against a different historical background. Today, symbols of the present-day reality must be depicted on the flag, he added.

The opposition sounds reasonable indeed: today Mozambique is the only country in the world having a modern weapon depicted on its national flag. But the ruling party of Mozambique, FRELIMO, would not take the Kalashnikov gun off the flag. All November long leaders of the ruling party carried out a PR campaign all about the country to make the population understand that taking the machine-gun off the national flag would mean rewriting of history and betrayal of the ideas defended during the war for independence. Mozambique writer and liberation war veteran Lina Magaia says: “I cannot accept changing national symbols. These are issues like mother and son. Mozambique was born out of the liberation war and those foundations are described by the flag.”

Mozambique has been a Portuguese colony since the 16th century. Colonialists took thousands of slaves from Mozambique to Brazil which gave rise to African revolts in the 19th century. In 1962, partisans joined into the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) which started an armed struggle in 1964. In 1975, Mozambique became independent, but soon after that a civil war broke out in the country. The inimical parties concluded an agreement on free election in 1994 when FRELIMO was the triumphant. In other words, the dramatic story is very important for the party that was fighting for independence of the country. The new constitution of Mozambique adopted at the beginning of 2005 stipulates that national symbols of the country must be changed within the current year, however the parliament must obligatorily approve of changing them. 160 seats out of the 250 seats in the parliament belong to FRELIMO, the party saying it will not let the Kalashnikov gun be taken off the flag but they are ready to listen to what their opponents say on the issue.

Meanwhile, the population of Mozambique is closely watching the heated discussion. They think at that it would be better for the government to focus on improving people's living conditions instead of arguing about the national flag design. Today, many of Mozambique citizens have to leave for South African Republic in search of a job.

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Author`s name Olga Savka