An interesting question came up as I was reading more about Mozambique – it’s a member of the Commonwealth, La Francophonie, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Why? The OIC makes sense – about 20% of Mozambicans are Muslim, but the other two are confusing – Mozambique was a Portuguese colony, not a British one, and French isn’t spoken there.
I dug a little, and I found a really good answer on the History Stack Exchange that gives a summary of why Mozambique joined the Commonwealth in 1995 – the first country with no direct ties to Britain to do so. The full answer has a lot of rich detail, but there were a few main reasons why that I’ll summarize here:
- In the early 90s, Mozambique had just signed a peace agreement to end its civil war (which had run from around the start of independence from Portugal in the 70s), and at the same time, lost the support that had been coming from the Soviet Union. Joining the Commonwealth would help build connections with other countries, raise Mozambique’s profile, and give access to institutions that would help with development.
- Mozambique is surrounded by English-speaking Commonwealth countries that it trades with (and even drives on the left like them).
- Mozambique was also highly opposed to apartheid South Africa, and had worked with the Commonwealth to pressure South Africa to end it – including taking part in sanctions.
- There also may have been an element that aligning to a different European country would be a poke in the eye to its former colonizer Portugal.
Mozambique is also an observer of La Francophonie, largely due to its strong trading connections with French-speaking Madagascar, and likely that membership opens up similar access to connections, diplomacy, and institutions.