TO MAPUTO: Yesterday, I woke up in a city-center hotel in Dar es-Salaam (the capital of Tanzania); I took the promised walk to and along the waterfront; did a bit of email back at the hotel ($1.50/hour); went back to the airport. The Linhas Aereas de Mocambique flight to Maputo took off not just on time, but actually five minutes early.
The first portion of the flight was more or less down the eastern coast of Africa. I could see some scattered towns and roads, a few airstrips, some areas with a lot of small cultivated plots– and a LOT of forest.
We had a half-hour stopover in Pemba, which is the capital of Mozambique’s northern ‘Cabo del Gado’ province. It looked like a super place as we flew over the city– perched out on a peninsula in the sparkling blue sea. And then on, and on, and on we flew, down the length of the country (which is a big one!), to Maputo.
No hassles at the airport. I got a cab very easily, and came down to the Hotel Terminus. The hotel is quite a lot fancier than I had expected or, probably, needed. But they have free dial-up internet in the rooms and a really inviting-looking pool surrounded by–you guessed it– waving palm-trees and riotously multi-colored bougainvillea. So I think Leila and I will have a great home-base here while we work on the research.
This morning, my research associate, Salomao Mungoi, came by. We’d only communicated previously by email, so it was great to meet him. He’s a program officer with an association of ex-combatants (from the civil war era) called ProPaz. He speaks fabulous English– along with Portuguese, Spanish, his mother tongue, and probably a few more Mozambican indigenous languages.
A few things Salomao told me during our time together this morning were really striking.
The first, which struck me particularly because I have so recently been at the ICTR in Arusha, was that sometimes these days in Mozambique it’s kind of hard to remember who was a displaced person, or a child soldier, or sometimes even which side people were fighting on, back during the civil war.
This struck me precisely because of the strong contrast it presents with the situation in the ICTR, where people are delving and delving to try to dredge up and establish minor details of remembered fact– not just about who did what to whom on a certain day in, say, June of 1994– but also about what color car was he driving; did he turn left or right at the intersection; etc etc.
(Well, those were the kinds of details I saw being discussed during my days in the courtroom. On other days, the details are much more disturbing: did the accused stand by while such-and-such a woman was being raped, or being penetrated sexually with a stick by the marauders… How could you tell it was that woman, or another… Etc., etc… day after mind-numbing day of questioning about– and therefore, to a certain extent, the bringing-back-to-life of– such details.)
But here, “It’s kind of hard to remember, sometimes,” Salomao told me with a smile and a shrug. “People really don’t dwell on it you know.”
The Mozambican civil war, which was marked by some truly terrible atrocities, was brought to an end with a peace agreement in October 1992. By and large, the policy approach at the time, as also the attitude of the vast majority of Mozambicans, was that it was then time to turn a new leaf; to get on with normal (= peaceable and productive) life; and by and large, after some necessary exorcizing of the spirit of violence that the war had brought into their communities, to then let bygones be bygones.
A second thing he said that really struck me was that not long ago, ProPaz had organized a joint training, for something to do with small-arms control and reduction, with some colleagues from the KaZulu region of South Africa who were also ex-combatants. ProPaz was helping to organize the accommodation, in some kind of a Red Cross center here near Maupto…
“And we naturally put many of the South Africans together into one of the little houses on the compound. But they were surprised. There were people from both Inkatha and the ANC there, and they’d been working together in these joint projects in KwaZulu for quite a long while already. But they’d never slept in the same house together before. They were sort of scared at first. But they got along just fine: they were sitting and eating, and smoking, and talking together like it was no bigt deal.”
Gosh, actually, I learned a lot from Salomao this morning, and I can’t write it about it all here. Firstly, it would take a lot of time. Secondly–and more importantly– he actually explained to me that when ProPaz staff members are doing trainings in conflict resolution or other things in some of the distant parts of the country, one of the things they have learned is that it is better NOT to use a pen and paper to take notes or minutes– that the participants might often feel that “secret” notes are being taken, and just clam up or be hesitant about participating. “Flip charts are much better,” he said. “Then, the ones who can read can see what records are being kept and reassure everyone else.”
So here’s my question to myself. This blog: is it more like pen-and-paper (private) minutes, or more like a flipchart?
I like to think it’s more like a flipchart. A public mind, or whatever. But shouldn’t I ask Salomao before I post more items about him; get his permission; maybe figure out a few ground-rules??
Well, I’m still feeling my way here. Suggestions from others in the blogger community would be great…

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