FINDING FRELIMO: Yesterday morning (Monday), Leila and I had a really good discussion with Afiado Zunguza, the Mozambican head of a conflict-resolution capacity-building organization called Justapaz. In the afternoon, we had a good discussion with Raul Domingos, who had been over-all head of the Renamo delegation at the peace talks, having previously been the chief of Renamo’s military staff. (Domingos was until recently the head of Renamo’s bloc in the parliament;l but a few months ago he was expelled from the party. Now he’s planning how to regroup.)
So anyway, at that point I was two for two on the Renamo principals from the 1990-92 peace talks whom I wanted to interview for the project– alongside the many grassroots interviewees. But I was zip for two on the Frelimo negotiators. Salomao assured me– and I certainly believed him– that he’d been trying hard to nail down appointments with Armando Guebuza, Aguilar Mazula, and Tobias Dai. But still nothing was happening.
Recalling my years of experience of trying to get interviews with elusive people in different parts of the world, I readily endorsed S’s suggestion that maybe we should just “go and sit on the doorsteps of their offices” till something happened.
So this morning, we drove over to Frelimo party headquarters. It seemed strangely empty. And inscriptions on a whiteboard near the lobby confirmed our worst fears. Guebuza– who had headed Frelimo’s delegation to the talks and is now Secretary-General of Frelimo– was indeed still on a visit to China. He’s expected back May– the day I’ll be leaving here for Johannesburg. Bother.
Mazula and Dai have been similarly out-of-town or impossible to find.
A very nice woman at the entrance-desk of the Frelimo office building then helpfully suggested we go upstairs and talk instead to Marcelinho Dos Santos, another senior party member who happened to be in at the time. “Sure!” I said. Gotta get somebody to express a Frelimo point of view.
So it turned out to be a gold mine, in fact. Sure, getting Guebuza’s or Mazula’s or Dai’s recollections on how the issue of possible amnesty was handled in the peace negotiations could be excellent. But I do have good accounts of that now from Domingos, from Andrea Bartolli, and from some written sources like Cameron Hume’s book. (Short version: the issue of possible prosecutions for atrocities was never brought up in the negotiations. It was always regarded as one of the tough issues that shd be left till the end of the talks. And at that point, the sides agreed to a blanket amnesty.)
But what we started to get from Dos Santos were some wonderfully rich recollections from a party veteran of just about the entire history of Frelimo and of Mozambique… It was really a privilege to sit with this veteran freedom fighter and hear him talk. Greying hair, glasses, a baggy big striped daishiki, a lovely smile; a book-stuffed small office high up above the city. Dos Santos is a poet and writer. He reminded me of my late Egyptian friend Lotfi Kholi. (I bet they knew each other. Have to ask DS about that tomorrow.)
When I started to ask him a bit about the “civil war”, he corrected me quickly. “No, it was a war of foreign aggression,” he said.
Reminded me of some of my hometown neighbors in Virginia and the way they talk about what I would call the US “civil war”….
Evidently, Dos Santos belongs to a conservative, old-school wing of the party. But he did make clear, just before he had to break the discussion off, that he thought the 1992 peace acord had been a good one… So when he suggested we could meet again tomorrow, I leaped at the chance to ask him a lot more about how he had come to terms with dealing with opponents whom, presumably, he had considered as somehow inauthenticly Mozambican, but as “agents” of a foreign power instead.
Of course, in my interviews with Renamo people, they’ve made a point of referring ONLY to the “indigenous”, authenticaly Mozambican aspects of their movement….
Tomorrow, we’ll also be visiting one of the few memorial sites in the country.
The project is going really well. I’m racking up the notebook pages. (Okay, mainly Leila’s racking them up.) And I keep seeing really important big insights that can feed back into and inform other areas of my work, like my writing on Middle East issues, as well.
“Ciao” from Maputo.

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