Maputo — Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi on Tuesday awarded the title "Honorary Citizen of the Republic of Mozambique" posthumously to the Scottish journalist Iain Christie, who was the founder of the English service of the Mozambique News Agency (AIM).
The award of honours and titles was the centrepiece of Tuesday's ceremonies marking the 44th anniversary of Mozambican independence on 25 June 1975. Iain was the first to be named in the list of individuals and institutions who were honoured.
Iain Christie was born in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, in 1943. After working on various British newspapers, he moved to Tanzania in 1970. He worked on the "Daily News" in Dar es Salaam and specialised in reporting on the struggles waged by southern African liberation movements against colonial and racist rule.
In Dar es Salaam, Iain met leaders of the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo), and helped edit the Frelimo English language magazine, "Mozambique Revolution". In 1972 he visited the liberated areas in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, in the company of Frelimo President Samora Machel.
With the overthrow of the Portuguese colonial-fascist regime in 1974, and the independence of Mozambique the following year, it was natural for Iain to move, with his wife Frances and their two children, Connor and Carol, from Dar es Salaam to Maputo, which became his home for the last 25 years of his life.
Initially he worked at AIM, and in 1976 founded its English service, but he was then asked to set up an English language radio station, in support of the Zimbabwean liberation struggle, then entering its critical phase.
In 1976 Mozambique closed its borders with the rebel British colony of Southern Rhodesia, and implemented UN sanctions against the Ian Smith regime. Mozambique became a bastion of support for the Zimbabwean liberation movement, and Iain was asked to train Zimbabwean reporters on "The Voice of Zimbabwe", the radio programme beamed into Zimbabwe, using Radio Mozambique's transmitters.
With the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980, "The Voice of Zimbabwe" ceased broadcasting, and in its place Radio Mozambique established its external service, with Iain as its director.
Initially the External Service regarded South Africa as its target audience, and several journalists from the African National Congress (ANC) worked on the station during the years of the anti-apartheid struggle.
With the democratisation of South Africa, and with changes in radio technology, the station changed its name to "Maputo Corridor Radio". Iain was overseeing this transition to a more commercial form of broadcasting, when he fell ill, with cancer of the oesophagus, in 1999. He died, in a Johannesburg clinic, on 20 February 2000.
When a condolence book was opened at the headquarters of the National Journalists Union (SNJ), the then President, Joaquim Chissano, was the first person to sign it. He wrote that Iain "was entirely identified with the Mozambican people for the last 30 years of his life".
"We have lost a friend", wrote Chissano. "But he left us a legacy that we can all be proud of, and that will inspire his colleagues and new generations in the mass media".
Iain's family cremated his body in South Africa, and brought the ashes back to Maputo for a funeral ceremony held on 26 February at the SNJ.
Among those who paid moving tributes to Iain was former Information Minister Jorge Rebelo, once the head of the Frelimo information department, and who had worked closely with Iain in Tanzania.
Rebelo recalled that, in those early days, the Frelimo information department contained no journalists, and nobody fluent in English. "Then there dropped among us, not exactly from heaven, but from Scotland, someone who offered to help", he said. "After that, Iain had no rest".
Rebelo said Iain worked for the liberation movement "without demanding any kind of payment - on the contrary, he bought some of the materials we used out of his own pocket".
Iain was an example, Rebelo concluded, not only to the younger generation, "but to those of the older generation who have reneged on the values they once held dear".
Nyusi also awarded the country's highest decoration, the Eduardo Mondlane Order, First Class, named after the founder and first President of the liberation movement, to Radio Mozambique itself, and to its music group, a pioneer of Mozambican light music, Grupo RM.
Further tribute was paid to the Radio when Nyusi awarded the 25th June Order, First Class, posthumously to Rafael Maguni, who had been the first director of Radio Mozambique, from 1975 to 1980.
Nyusi announced that, in all, about 300 people, mostly veterans of the independence war, are being decorated this year, in ceremonies held in all the provincial capitals.