For most of her life, Gra,ca Machel has lived in a nation at war. Once known as Portuguese East Africa, Mozambique won independence in 1975 after a ten-year armed struggle by the Mozambican Liberation Front (known by its Portuguese acronym Frelimo). Her husband, Frelimo leader Samora Machel, became the republic's first president and helped install an avowedly Marxist government.
``He was a very strong ideologue,'' says Michael Sinclair of the Kaiser Family Foundation, ``but people tend to think that Gra,ca was a moderating influence.'' Samora Machel's first wife left him when he joined Frelimo, and his second wife was killed in the war.
In 1976, Ian Smith's government in what was then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) helped establish the Mozambique National Resistance Movement (Renamo), a right-wing rebel group intended to destabilize the government.
The United States, after restoring sometimes rocky relations with the Machel government in the early 1980s, provided 350,000 tons of emergency food aid in 1984, making Mozambique the largest recipient of US emergency food aid in the world that year.
After officially abandoning Marxism in 1989, the more moderate replacement for Machel, President Joaquim Chissano, is seeking a negotiated end to Renamo's activities. But the 14 million Mozambicans, living in a nation the size of France and West Germany combined, remain impoverished: Illiteracy is estimated at 93 percent, and per capita income is among the lowest in the world.