Every school kid in Mozambique knows that at 9 p.m. on Sept. 25, 1964, Alberto Chipande fired the opening salvo in Frelimo’s armed struggle against colonial rule. Or did he? Another war hero (and a fellow general in Frelimo’s inner circle) is now claiming that the first shots were fired the day before, in Zambézia, not in Cabo Delgado where Chipande was deployed. The news from Cabo Delgado just happened to reach Frelimo HQ in Tanzania first.
Chipande is taking the threat to his place in textbooks in stride. “The history of Frelimo is unfinished,” he told a reporter during Saturday’s celebration of the 46th anniversary of the war’s outbreak. “It’s still being researched, developed, and written, and we encourage this, so that if someone comes forward, whether it’s a veteran of the war saying that he was the one who fired the shot, or it’s some other guy, we’re going to have to accept it, why not?”
French historian Michel Cahen, who has combed through Portuguese secret police archives in Lisbon, chimed in to remind everyone that the first shots against the Portuguese were fired in July, not September, and Frelimo guerrillas didn’t pull the trigger, but rather rival militants. “It wasn’t Frelimo that fired the first shot, nor was it Chipande who fired the first shot for Frelimo, but it was Frelimo that managed to begin in a concrete way the struggle for national liberation.”