DISCUSSING ESCAPING FROM VIOLENCE, IN A SMALL TOWN IN MOZAMBIQUE: Today, Leila, Salmao, and I drove out of Maputo to a small town called Bellavista, about 50 km to the south. Salomao has colleagues there who work for the same organization of ex-combatant peace promoters that he does. They had agreed to set up a discussion for us there, for the research project.
Getting there was itself quite an adventure. First, we rented a 4×4 car. Then, we drove down to the little ferry landing near Maputo city center where ferries leave to cross Maputo Bay to the south. The whole ferry experience was really interesting– country people coming and going with their goods to seel in the city; someone yanking a live goat around on a string; etc etc. Many smaller ferries docked, unloaded, reloaded, and departed before the car ferry lumbered across the bay. It was only a short ride. Salomao says they keep talking of building abridge. But for now, it’s just ferries, and the contrast between the two sides of the bay is striking.
Once across, it was just a broad dirt road leading south, around 50 metres in from the coast. S. explained that during the civil war, that whole area was really dangerous. There were som Mozambique army positions there, but there was also a lot of Renamo activity. (South Africa is not far away.) So villagers there could not sleep in their villages at night.
Now, slowly, the area is becoming developed. Parallel with the road were utility poles proudly bearing high-tension wires down to the south of the country. S. said the lines were only completed a couple of months ago, and there were still some disputes about the rights of the joint-venture electricity company to sling wire over some portions of the land where people have farmed etc for many years. His organization, ProPaz, is trying to help the parties resolve some of those disputes.
But apart from that, it was very undeveloped. We passed one other vehicle on the whole trip to Bellavista. Mainly, we saw people walking, walking very long distances bearing heavy loads.
Bellavista was probably a small Portuguese colonial center. Now, it is just a small town, and the administrative center for its district. Salomao’s friends had arranged a really good discussion group– we had two staff people from the local office of the Mozambican Human Rights League, three or four ex-combatants, and the head of the local chapter of the Association of Traditional healers. Mainly, I asked the friends about their views of violence: what was responsible for it; how could it be escaped from; how they accounted for what I am increasingly convinced is the “Mozambican miracle”of having successfully put the violence of their terrible civil war behind them.
I also asked them what they thought of the idea that people who did bad things during war should be punished.
“Then everyone in the country would be in the courts!” said one ex-combatant.
They also talked about the real differences that the coming of peace had made so far in their lives.
Once again, Leila took notes– I am sure they are up to her usual standard! We had eight Mozambican interlocutors, including Salomao– who was also doing the interpreting. The traditional healer (curandeiro) didn’t speak Portuguese, so S found a common Mozambican language to talk with him in.
So of course the eventual amount of material I’ll get out of Leila’s notes will be hugely more than I can write about here.
Anyway, now I need to run. S is taking us to a performance of Mozambican dance and song.


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