Catholics and peacemaking

To mark the passing of Pope John Paul II, I want to pay tribute to the work much of the Catholic church did under his leadership in the field of peacemaking.
During Washington’s ever-more-ominous preparations to launch the fateful March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Pope spoke out repeatedly against the madness of war. See, e.g., here and here.
That latter link is to the text of an address the Pope made on January 13, 2003 to the diplomatic corps in the Vatican. In it, he said:

    “NO TO WAR”! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity. International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between States, the noble exercise of diplomacy: these are methods worthy of individuals and nations in resolving their differences. I say this as I think of those who still place their trust in nuclear weapons and of the all-too-numerous conflicts which continue to hold hostage our brothers and sisters in humanity. At Christmas, Bethlehem reminded us of the unresolved crisis in the Middle East, where two peoples, Israeli and Palestinian, are called to live side-by-side, equally free and sovereign, in mutual respect… And what are we to say of the threat of a war which could strike the people of Iraq, the land of the Prophets, a people already sorely tried by more than twelve years of embargo? War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations. As the Charter of the United Nations Organization and international law itself remind us, war cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military operations.

I believe that John Paul’s firm stance that war “is always a defeat for humanity” was strongly informed by his own personal biography, since in his own younger years his own hmeland was ravaged by foreign armies and the wars between them. He knew whereof he talked.
(Unlike too many people in the United States today, who have no real idea of what war does to a homeland… This is both because the US has not known war in its own homeland since the civil war of the mid-19th century, and because too many Americans seem to lack the moral imagination to even try to think of what it’s like to live–as most Iraqis are nowadays forced to– without public security and with interruptions in vital services that pose a constant threat to public health and to the survival of many of the country’s physically weaker souls.)
Anyway, since I’ve been working all this week on the portion of my current book project that deals with Mozambique, I also wanted to share a little portion of the book that describes the signal role that the Rome-based Catholic lay organization Sant’ Egidio played in shepherding the 1992 General Peace Agreement which brought an end to 15 years of horrendous, extremely atrocious civil war inside that country.
(I have such deep admiration for our friends of Sant’ Egidio! I wish we Quakers were one-tenth as committed and as effective in our peacemaking! Oh well, we can all try to do our best, I guess.)
The following excerpt comes from Chapter 8, “Mozambique from war to peacemaking”:

Continue reading “Catholics and peacemaking”

Photos from Chiboene, Mozambique

Regular readers of JWN will recall that back at the end of April, in Mozambique, my daughter/research assistant Leila Rached and local research associates Salomao Mungoi and Alfiado Zunguza and I all went to participate in a grave-tending ceremony at one of only a few known civil-war-era grave/memorials that there are in Mozambique. (Read all about it here.)
Well, today, I think I may have figured how to post JPEG pics on the blog without having everyones’s browsers crash???? So here are three pics of that day. The first photo is of Leila doing the “watering” part of the ritual, at the mass grave under the cashew tree in Chiboene:
Here is our local contact, Ana-Paulina, doing the “planting” part of it:
And here is the whole group, standing around doing the hymnsinging/praying part of it:


REMEMBERING PAST ATROCITIES, IN MOZAMBIQUE AND SOUTH AFRICA: I’m writing this, on Saturday May 3, sitting in the lovely home of our friends Shirley Pendlebury and Harold Annegaarn, in Johannesburg.
Leila and I got here on Thursday evening, after bidding a sad farewell to Salomao in Maputo. But we’ve been so busy that I haven’t blogged since about Tuesday. Too bad! I’d gotten into such a rhythm between experiencing interesting things and then blogging about them almost immediately– but now that rhythm has been all upset. I mean, what is more important in life: having experiences or blogging about them???
Actually, for me as a writer, having the experiences as fully and as “presently” as possible, and then writing about them as well and effectively as I can, are both equally important jobs. (And no, I don’t consider that my writing on the blog is the “best” that I can do. It is, rather, a handy supplement to my notes; a form of five-finger exercize for subsequent writing; and a way to share some of my experiences and reflections in near-real time with anyone including my family and friends who chooses to read them.)
So here are the highlights of what we’ve done since I last blogged:
(1) On Wedesneday morning, we got up early and drove with Salomao and Zunguza to a place called Chiboene, some 40 kms from Maputo, where there was a terrible massacre of local militia trainees sometime in the mid-1980s.
You don’t have to drive far out of Maputo to get into the real, hardscrabble Mozambican “bush”. We left a tarmac-ed road about 15-20 kms out of town and then drove for a further 35 minutes along very bumpy dirt tracks. Lucky Zunguza had agreed to come with us and drive us in his 4×4. There weren’t many high trees where we were, but a lot of scrbby, 4-foot-high bushes, punctuated every so often by either ruined-looking small breeze-block homes or compounds, or by round or rectangular straw huts. As throughout Africa, people were walking along the track carrying work implements or harvested goods, or schoolbooks as they went to school.
Salomao commented that most of the Mozambican civil war had been fought in just such terrain as this– but with the important differece that you’d never see anyone else on the roads, because if they heard a vehicle coming they would hide. Plus of course, back then, many of the roads, trails, and just bush areas were heavily mined. This area– though still quite close to the capital– had only been demined to an “acceptable” degree within the past couple of years.
Luckily, he knew which forks to take as the road divided and re-divided along the way. We came to Chiboene Primary School– a large, spiffy-looking structure that Salomao said had been built since his last visit here two years ago. Scores of kids were playing in its big dirt yard.
We drove around the school, and on into the bush a little. Approaching a small cluster of huts, Salomao called out to a young man to ask for someone to escort us to the mass graves. He’d earlier told me that on his previous visits, there was a local “secretary” who organized the visits. This time, though, it seemed to be in the hands of a group of three local women who came to join us at the boy’s request. One of them hurried off to fetch a big jerry-can of water and a dipper, and the three of them piled into the back of the car.
The graves were, actually, very nearby. There were two of them. both were under the spreading boughs of cashew trees. One was “marked” by a ten-inch-high platform of crumbling cement about 20 feet by 10 feet. Both grave areas were also marked by numerous sprigs of a tough-looking form of impatients growing out of the dun-colored earth.
The women– Priscina, Antonietta Jeremias, and Ana-Paula– were joined by an old man in gumboots. The women picked sprigs from some of the impatients plants and handed them to each of us four “visitors”. Then they kicked off their flip-flops and walked into the grave areas, bending from the waist to clear away dead leaves, twigs, etc., from the grave area. At first, we were at the cement grave. After they’d cleared it, they stood back, and sang a couple of hymns in Shangana, and said a quick prayer. Then, the ritual continued with each of them in turn taking a dipper full of water from the can and sprinkling oit over the grave, and also planting the sprig that she had earlier reserved for herself, into a crack on the top of the crumbling cement, and firming the sprig upright into the crack with wettened earth.
The dipper was then passed around for each of the rest of us to do this turn.
Then, we walked the short distance to the other mass grave– each held the remains of 22 men slaughtered during that massacre, Priscina told us.
Anotnietta Jeremias told us her father had been with the militiamen who were training here when they were killed, but that he had been one of the lucky ones to escape alive.
They dated the event as “somewhere in the mid-1980s”.
They said they’d been living in a communal village not far away at the time, and they had heard the screams of the men being slaughtered, and the firearms with which many were killed.
With Saloamo interpreting, I asked them how they thought about those acts of violence, and whether they still blamed the people who had committed them.
They said they found it difficult to feel blame. It had been such a hard time, altogether, during those years, they said, that it was hard to keep strict accounts of who to blame for what, when. “Sometimes, we even had to smother our own babies in the bush, if their crying would give away our hiding place,” one said. Evidently, issues of “blame” and accountability seemed very different to them than they might in most western-style courts of law.
“But now, the violence is finished, and we just pray that we don’t have violence again,” Priscina summed it up at the end.
I said a few things that concurred with the latter wish, and made them a small gift.
This place is one of only two memorials that Salomao knows about, in the whole country, to the million or so Mozambicans who died during their ghastly, 16-year civil war. I felt blessed and privileged to have been able to participate in the ceremony with the women at Chiboene. Actually, very few people even in Mozambique know about the place. When we met with Archbishop Dinis Sengulane, the Anglican archbishop of Maputo who played an important part in getting the civil-war peace talks started, he hadn’t heard about it– even though the women there said that they had some connection with the Anglicans…
(2) Anyway, moving right along to Johannesburg… Yesterday (Friday) Leila and I took an organized tour down a now-unused gold mine, which was a vivid reminder of the role of western colonial powers both in this area and, by extension, throughout much of the non-western world. Somehow, launching imperialist wars for so-called “strategic” resources seems so terribly 19th century, doesn’t it?
And then, we moved straight across the road to the very new Apartheid Museum that a small group of entrepreneurs has opened up there. It is apparently quite controversial. The Government is supposed to be building a Museum and Study Center and lots of things as part of the follow-on work from the TRC. But these entrepreneurs evidently figured they’d try to break into the market first…
And then, still on the theme of remembrances of atrocity, we all went to “The Pianist” in the evening. Adrien Brody was incredible. But I wonder how Jewish israelis would feel seeing the movie. So very many of the things portrayed in it are exactly what Israel is doing to the Palestinians right now. (That is, in the phase of “concentration” of the Jewish community of Warsaw; but before the phase of “extermination” began.)
“Concentration” of poentially suspect populations was developed most fully in the recent era right here in South Africa, of course: by the Brits against the Afrikaaners during the Anglo-Boer wars. I note that it did NOT make the Afrikaaners into a cuddly, compliant bunch of people….


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.


FORMER COMBATANTS WORKING TOGETHER, AND A CHURCH SERVICE: Yesterday, we had a really interesting meeting with General Herminio Morais, the former head of Special Forces for Renamo who led the Renamo military team that helped to finish up the peace negotiations that brought the Mozambican civil war to an end in 1992.
Morais had been suggested as a good interview subject by the VAIL project’s research associate here, Salomao Mungoi, who sat with us during our Saturday morning meeting and interpreted for Morais whom he described as a good friend.
All the more remarkable because Salomao had been an officer in the government (Frelimo) forces during the civil war. The two man sat and talked easily together. Both are in their early forties. Each had spent many years in his youth and younger adulthod in military service– and each is now making a serious effort to get the education that the travails of the civil war denied them. Salomao recently completed a B.A. in English; and Morais came to our meeting directly after having taken the latest exam in his law course at Edouardo Mondlane University.
Morais had so many great stories! About his decision to join Renamo in the first place. About the gradually dawning realization that Renamo could not defeat the government forces on the battlefield, and therefore needed to negotiate the best deal it could. About how his views of the people on the other side became transformed from one of “Communists” to one of “fellow-country-men”.
I think two of his best stories were the following:
Firstly, when he went to join the peace talks, in Rome, in June 1992, his counterpart on the Frelimo side turned out to be General Tobias Dai– a man he had been good friends with in his youth. But Dai apparently did not know the identity of the man he would be negotiating with, who still operated always under the nom-de-guerre of “Bob”… “So when Dai saw me, he said, ‘Herminio, its you!’ He couldn’t believe that I had been ‘Bob’ for all those years.”
The second story concerned the way the war ended in the field. He gave most weight, among the reasons the war ended when it did, to the factors of famine and sheer war-weariness. So in the end, the soldiers in the field saw that the negotiations were nearing completion, and many started either deserting their units or fraternizing, in large numbers, with the soldiers on the opposing front-lines. And that started happening on a broad scale even BEFORE the General Peace Accords were formally announced and signed on October 4, 1992.
“It was strange,” Morais said, “because before they had been fighting and then suddenly there was a complete change. It was actually quite dangerous for intermediate-level leaders in the military. They were afraid that their commanders would think they had been complicit in the fraternizing, and that maybe they had been Frelimo agents all along… But then, everyone could see it was happening all over the country, so it wasn’t just a case of traitorous individual commanders.”
He also confirmed the commonly held view that it had been far easier for the military participants in the talks to deal with each other successfully than it had been for the political leaders. “The politicians took four years of talking before they reached the agreement. We did all our business in just four months!” he said…
I can’t tell you how moving it was for me to see these two men, Salomao and Morais, sitting and laughing easily about the old days, given the previous level of hatred between the forces of which they each been a part…
Today, Sunday, was another good day. I started off by going to church with Afiado Zunguza, a cheerful and very welcoiming ordained minister who heads a Methodist peace-and-justice organization here called Justapaz.
Zunguza was not officiating at the service, which was led instead by two African WOMEN ministers and a large group of women lay leaders.
It seems the Methodist church here has some kind of a sepcial “order” of dedicated women lay activists that had been having a three-day conference at this church, culminating today. So about 120-plus members of this organization, all demurely dressed in black skirts, dark red buttoned tunics, and white hats, crowded into the front of the large church building. Some of them were formed into a great choir. Others just sat together in the front pews. Most of the service was conducted in Xitshwa, one of the country’s sixeen or more local languages.
Throughout the two-hour-20-minute service, Zunguza kept me updated with general explanations of what was going on. I, um, sang along by trying to read the words in the hymnal whenever I could. Pastor Joaquima Nhanala gave an animated, beautfully delivered sermon based on James chapter 3. When she was giving examples of the difference between true wisdom and mere “cleverness”, one of the examples she gave was that it might seem “clever: to be able to stir people up one against the other, while true wisdom would be shown by talking and listening calmly to people and trying to find peaceful ways for everyone to get along…. I said a quiet “Amen” to that point!
Interestingly– espeically in view of my experience Friday with the traditional healers– one of the most animated parts of the service ame at the Offertory. Offerings were organized acording to groups within the congregation– first the children, then the youth, then the young adults, then the women, then the men– and finally the visitors. As each group was called, two members of that group would lead its other members joyfully up the center aisle and then stand and hold broad baskets into which the others would place their donations then file back to their seats. There was much singing, some ululating, and a little bit of toyi-toying along the way…
After church, I went running along Avenida Friedrich Engels, the broad esplanade perched over the Indian Ocean; and after that Leila and I had a pretty relaxed day. I’m getting ready for another 3.5 days of good work here before we leave for Johannesburg Thursday evening. But I’ve already started thinking that maybe I should try come back for a decent length of time some time in the not-distant future. I really believe that people in the USA (and probably elsewhere) need to learn a lot more about the incredible cultural and social resources for peacemaking that exist in this country, and I would love to find ways to help that happen.


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.


EX-COMBATANT PEACE PROMOTERS, AND A CARDINAL: The first two substantive days of the research here in Mozambique have been going very well. Plus, my new research assistant (and elder daughter) Leila Rached joined me here on Sunday afternoon. It is a real blast having her here working with me! And in our hours off, the two of us are able to do various things around town that I alone, as a foreign woman, would be much more hesitant about doing.
Yesterday morning, project research associate Salomao Mungoi took us along for a long discussion with his boss Jacinta Jorge, the head of an organization of ex-combatant peace promters called ProPaz.
ProPaz is such an amazing and inspiring organization! It has more than 100 former combatants (from the civil-war era) who currently provide peacebuilding and conflict-resolution/transformation services in four of the country’s provinces. It includes former fighters with the government (Frelimo) forces alongside former fighters from the insurgent (Renamo) side– working together these days.
ProPaz was founded by two of the main organizations of former combatants from Mozambique’s punishing, 17-year civil war: AMODEG, a general veterans’ group, and ADEMIMO, an organization of disabled former fighters.
We (well actually, Leila) took pages and pages of notes from our discussion with Jacinta. She told us a little about her own personal journey through having been virtually “tricked” into serving in the country’s armed forces when she was still a teenager, through her rise in responsibilities in the officer corps (including the stresses of trying to raise a child alone while her husband was at the front-line) — to her eventual demobilization.
She told us that AMODEG had started out as an organization only for former soldiers in the Frelimo (government) armed forces. But that even before the Frelimo and Renamo leaders had signed their nationwide peace accord in October 1992, AMODEG had decided to take in former fighters from Renamo as well, and had changed its name accordingly.
I reflected a little on my recent experiences at ICTR, and with the Rwandan issue more broadly, and asked Jacinta whether she thought that the people who had committed the many atrocities that marked her country’s civil war should also have been punished.
Firstly, she responded by coming back to me with another question. “If they were punished, would that bring an end to the war, or prevent another war from happening?” she asked.
Then, she said it was actually important not to judge people for what they had done during the war, since their participation in it was often obligatory, not voluntary.
Finally she noted that no amount of reparations could replace the lives or limbs lost during the war.
So I guess that adds up to a “no.”
But what a wise person she is. “During a war, both sides are blind to the dimensions of the violence they are inflicting on the other side,” she said. “People may say at the political level that there is ‘bad’ war and ‘good’ war. But war is war, and it always results in the killing of people.”
In the afternoon (still on Monday), we went to the AMODEG heaquarters, which are located on a site that used to be a logistics headquarters for the army diring the civil war — and that a long time before that had played a historic role in the pre-independence foundations of Frelimo. Now, the roof of the main building on the site, a lovely old Portuguese colonial mansion, has long since fallen in. AMODEG’s office is in a squat, more recently built block of offices behind the old mansion. And behind the office was a playground, where during our conversation tw dozen high-spirited md-teens were having a rowdy and enjoyable game of soccer.
That seemed appropriate, because one of the questions I was asking the four civil war veterans seated with us was how they talked about the events of the war with their own children.
By and large, they said they didn’t do so. “There are so many ugly things happen in war,” one of them said, “that we really doin’t want to alk about them with our families.”
One of the things I’m asking people during this phase of the research– especially people who have had close-up experience of war and violence– is what priorities they would establish for societies that are just emerging from recent episodes of atrocious violence. An AMODEG board member was the first to reply: “psycho-social rehabilitation should be the priority,” he said. “Both for individuals, and collectively.”
When the Mozambican parties reached their peace acord in 1992, the UN invested significant amonts of money and attention in trying to help the process of demobilizing former combatants and then helping them reintegrate into society. (I say “significant”, though of course the amounts of money involved in helping deal with more than 90,000 former combatants here absolutely paled in comparison with the billion-plus dollars invested thus far in trying just 50 or so people from rwanda in ICTR.)
I asked the friends gathered at the AMODEG office whether they thought– ten years after the fact– that this UN program had been helpful. “The main gain we got from the whole event was the coming of peace itself,” one AMODEG activist told me. “Because people were so tired of war!”
Again, I asked them if they thought people should have been tried and punished for what they did during the war. “It wouldn’t have made any sense in our situation,” one said, “because everyone would have been in court!”
This morning, we went to see Cardinal Alexander Dos Santos, the frail but ethereal leader of Mozambique’s Catholic church. He had played a historic role, back in 1988-89, in finding a way for the leaders of both Frelimo and Renamo finally to sit down together and start negotiating a final peace.
Dos Santos received us in an upstairs office in his leafy headquarters compound. It was a short meeting, but Leila and I both felt we were in the presence of serene, humorous, grandfatherly, and almost saint-like figure. He laughed as he recalled a visit he and Archbishop Tutu had paid to the US in 1988, when their mission had been to try to persuade the Reagan administration that the frelimo government was not nearly as “communistic” as it had been painted.
recalling the overall process of peacemaking in Mozambique, he said all the churches had had a special role to play: “We had to work hard to create an image of all Mozambicans living together, rather than fighting,” he said. But he immediately aded that actually the task had not proved so dificult. “When Frelimo came back from the bush– well, they might know that this or that person might have killed someone– but it’s finished!” he said.
… All these conversations I’m having here seem to underscore the validity of the judgment that anthropologist Carolyn Nordstrom expressed in her fabulous book about Mozambique’s civil war, “A Different Kind of War Story.” “The citizens in Mozambique demonstrated the most sophisticated country-wide conflict resolution practices and ideologies I have observed anywhere in the world.” (p.11)
Of course, I’m trying not to go into these encounters with my mind already made up from my previous reading and my one very short earlier vsit to Mozambique. I’m going to continue to look for counter-evidence. But in the meantime, continuing to explore the various different dimensions of Mozambican people’s “conflict resolution practices and ideologies” is something that I’m definitely committed to doing here.


MAPUTO AVENIDAS: Overcast today, so I was able to go for a nice long walk this morning after the going-to-church plans fell through. I walked over to the lovely broad esplanade that runs along the east (Indian Ocean) side of the old city center, suspended some 80 feet or so up a steep but verdant cliff above the beach-side road below.
The esplanade is now called Avenida Friedrich Engels. I imagine it was once called Avenida Salazar or something like that– back when the city itself was called Lourenco Marques.
It was very quiet. I saw several people out walking, but only one jogger: male, black, in bike shorts. I wonder what people would think if tomorrow morning they saw a female, white jogger out there in regular running shorts. Maybe I could jog in long pants?
Okay, call me a sentamentalist, but I think it’s rather poignant to walk along streets named after the icons of Mozambique’s liberation era. There are Avenidas named after Karl Marx and Mao Tse Tung, as well as Engels.
So here’s Mozambique, a country that is gamely trying to go along with all the World Bank and IMF plans for nassive “structural adjustment” that basically involves dismantling many social programs and the nationalized industries and opening the econ/IMF have NOT yet forced them to rename their streets after Milton Friedman or Friedrich Hayek. Thank goodness!
(It may yet come.)
And another thing. here in Maputo, as in Dar s-Salaam, I’ve noticed many main streets named after non-native heroes of the African liberation era. Julius Nyerere, Ahmed Sekou Toure, Albert Luthuli, etc etc. But how come you never seem to see that same relaxed but generous mak of inter-country respect being offered in Arab capital cities?
I think the answer has to do with the inter-twined nature of Arab politics, and the still unformed, or at any rate potentially precarious, state of the Arab “state system”. That’s why, if the mayor of Damascus, say, chose to name a big street after Nasser or Gadhafi or Ibn Saud, this act would immediately be seen as having suspect political motives…. Better to stick to long-gone heroes of the Arab past!
I think it’s rather nice that so many African countries’ elites feel able to celebrate each other’s national heroes and (by inference) each other’s liberation narratives.
And talking about celebrating other people’s narratives, when do you think we’ll get a Nelson Mandela Street or an Olaf palme Street or whatever in Washington DC. The only streets I recall there named after furrners are Raoul Wallenberg Place (a small street that was was thus renamed mainly to annoy the Soviets whose embassy is right there), and of course L’Enfant Plaza. Neither of those really celebrates another country’s national narrative… All we seem to be getting in DC and the rest of the USA these days, in the renaming of public spaces department, is endless Ronald reagan this’s and thats.


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…

FROM NEW YORK, Valentine’s Day

I’ve had a busy couple of days of work here, talking to some really interesting folks about my ‘Violence and its Legacies’ project, and starting to make plans for the research trip I’m planning to Africa in April, as part of the project.
From time to time, the idea of going to Africa in April seems weird. Shouldn’t I be concentrating more on this terrible Bush War in (and around) Iraq??
But I think its important not to become too, too distracted by the Bush War. Other parts of the world do still matter– a lot. And this project I’m working on, which looks at how effective three countries in Africa–Mozambique, South Africa, and Rwanda–ended up being when they sought, eight to ten years ago, to deal with legacies of atrocious violence, is certainly one with lessons that will have relevance everywhere. Including Iraq.
Yesterday, I talked to Alex Boraine, who worked with Archbishop Tutu as Executive Director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. He’s now head of an organization called the International Center for Transitional Justice, that seeks to advise countries in transition on setting up their own TRCs.  Well, since I was focusing on my African research, we didn’t specifically talk about the idea of a TRC for Iraq.  But it’s not a bad idea.
What the S. African TRC did was significant because it helped to allow the white-minority regime to give up power to the democratic will of the (non-white) majority–and to be reintegrated into the new S. Africa as part of Mandela’s new ‘Rainbow Nation’.
In Iraq and in Syria, we also have the problem of minority-based regimes hanging onto power– with one great motivation for them to do so being their fear of how the majority might treat them if the majority were given a democratic order.
In South Africa, the TRC, and the broader black-white negotiation of which it was a part, allowed the white South Africans to cede power to the majority without fear of bloody retribution…
Wednesday, I talked for the first time to Andrea Bartolli, an Italian national now at Columbia who first came to NYC in the 1980s as the representative at the UN for a Catholic lay-based social-justice organization called Sant’ Egidio.  In that role, Bartolli played a significant behind-the scenes role with the rest of the Sant’ Egidio team who were helping to bring an end to Mozambique’s long-running civil war.  They succeeded in 1992.
Talking to Bartolli was fascinating.  One of the key factors he mentioned that allowed the negotiations between the two sides to the Mozambique war to succeed was the fact that they proceeded largely out of the public eyeof the world’s media, big governments, etc.  Another factor was that at that time, “No-one was even thinking that criminal prosecutions for past atrocities should be part of a peace negotiation– unlike today.”
So instead of criminal prosecutions etc (which became the international flavor-of-the-decade just a few months after Mozambique’s October 1992 agreement), what the Mozambicans did at both the national and local levels, was to state clearly that “the era of war and violence is past”, and to get on with the job of healing and rebuilding.
Bartolli told me he thought it was really important to have a consciously transformative event like the one where the leaders of the two sides there made a joint announcement that the war had ended.  He also noted that while most Westerners have a view of war that is purely instrumental– that “man uses war for his own purposes, a la Clausewitz”– in Mozambique the most common view is that war and violence are forces that themselves take hold of and use people.
Hey, George W, are you listening??
* * *
UNCLE VANYA:  We went to a great production of Brian Friel’s version of the play last night at BAM’s Harvey Lichtenstein Theater.  It seemed as though friel had cut/adapted the play well.  It moved right along.  A wrenching performance by Emily Watson as Sonya; and both Friel and Sam Mendes, who directed, had really succeeded in keeping/capturing Chekhov’s general gestalt of inescapable social decline.
Of course, New York is exhilarating and fun!!!  I guess the anti-war gathering tomorrow is not getting a permit to move, so we’ll be standing around freezingat the rally, listening to Tutu and others speak.
Yesterday, walking around the financial district, we passed a vast, slowly-moving convoy of fully-filled police vans.  The police presence on the subways was not as heavy as the NYT seemed to have portrayed.  In general, the security measures around the city seem to have settled back somewhat from when I was doing similar kinds of meetings here in March ’02.
* * *
NOTES OF 2/13 (but posted a day late):  In New York.  Front pages of most tabloids screaming about Bin Laden’s latest tape.  Audio-tape, that is.  Then, there’s the issue of duct tape: photos of people cleaning out the store shelves of this item which will– Tom Ridge assures us– save our lives in the event of chemical attack.
Mainly, though, New Yorkers seem to be stayng indoors because of the icy grip of winter here.
Today, my latest column in The Christian Science Monitor.  A challenging one indeed.  I wrote it Monday, seeing as how Tuesday I would be driving here to NYC.  The main argument I was making was that in his Feb 5 speech to the UN Colin Powell definitely did NOT establish w/ any credibility that there is a ‘nexus’ between OBL and Saddam (see my previous musings on this, below.)
So the drive here from Virginia was a toughie: swirling snows etc etc.  I heard a few scattered news reports on the car radio, but mainly listened to some Hemingway stories on CD.  I was focusing 100% on driving safely.  Got in maybe 10:30 p.m.
Wed. morning my editor at the CSM calls early, in a panic about the piece. She was right, my careful argumentation did look a little OBE (overtaken by events) in light of the new Osama tape, and the use Colin and his friends were making of it.  (Did you see Maureen Dowd’s great column on that in Wednesday’s NYT? Fabulous!)
So I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and tried to write a new head-and-foot for the piece.  It probaby wasn’t the greatest piece of work I’ve ever done.  But I was under a very tough deadline at that point
The arguments I was making in the piece are little complex.  But duh!  The world is complex!  It cannot be reduced to the war hawks’ simple Manichean view of things.  Jerking the American public into this quite avoidable war on the basis of the administration’s phony argumentation about an OBL-Saddam nexus is still
a really dangerous path to follow.
Plus, as I wrote in the column, by talking up the alleged OBL-Saddam nexus so much, the Bushies seem to have ended up virtually daring OBL to try to make it a reality. A challenge which– surprise, surprise– he seemed eager to take up.
Except he never shook his utter distaste for Saddam and Baathist socialism…