THE United States must not let Mozambique slide further into chaos. Despite the great weakness of its economy and government, and despite the Marxist leanings of its leaders, helping Mozambique preserve its endangered independence and shore up its faltering economy will serve US interests well. Rent by civil war, Mozambique hardly functions. The government, led by newly selected President Joaquim Chissano, cannot impose its will in large portions of the 1,200-mile-long country. It still controls the cities but has lost an official grip on the rural central and northern areas. There the Mozambique National Resistance Movement (MNR), also called Renamo, has imposed a formidable presence since about 1983. Only one of Mozambique's 11 provinces is comparatively free of MNR insurgents.
Although the Mozambican Army of 30,000 is about double the size of the MNR insurgent forces, it has failed time and again to halt the spread of MNR activity. At times the MNR threatens the outskirts of Maputo, Mozambique's capital. Britain has begun retraining the Mozambican Army, but its modest efforts cannot soon restore the morale or make up for the fundamental and logistical supply problems of the official Army.
The MNR, on the other hand, has for many years been backed financially and materially by South Africa. Although not exclusively a creature of South Africa, the MNR has become a successful agent of Pretoria's destabilization policies. Whether or not South Africa originally wanted to undermine Marxist Mozambique's ability to develop and govern itself, South Africa and the MNR are capable in the near future of overthrowing Mr. Chissano's regime and installing their own.