‘Readings in Nonviolence’ features extracts from our
favourite books, pamphlets, articles or other material on nonviolence, or
reviews of important works in the field (suggestions welcome).
First published in 2000 in ‘Peace News’ No.2440 (www.peacenews.info) and used with
permission of the author. We will continue the theme of art and peace in the
next couple of ‘Readings’
Transforming arms into art
By Jan van Criekinge
Mozambique belongs in Southern Africa, amongst the countries
most affected by war and violence over the past decades. Its geostrategic
position - in the context of Cold War relationships in Southern Africa, its
proximity to the economic heart of apartheid, and its major railway and
transport routes to the Indian Ocean - made Mozambique very vulnerable to the
policy of "destabilisation" by the two remaining white minority
governments in the region, following its independence from Portugal in 1975.
The long guerrilla war (1964-1974) against oppressive
Portuguese colonialism developed a tradition of armed struggle and guerrilla
heroism that didn't end with independence. Few wars have been as bitterly controversial
both inside and outside a country, and marked by such disinformation and
propaganda by both sides, as the one which destroyed Mozambique from 1976 to
1992. In this war-- which pitted the central Marxist government of the Front
for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) against the guerrilla rebels of the
National Mozambican Resistance (Renamo)- between 350,000and 600,000 people were
killed, another two million were displaced, and most of the country's rural and
economical infrastructure was virtually destroyed. In particular, the massive
use of landmines by both sides, placed all over the country, put a severe
mortgage on any future development.
However since the war ended on 4th October 1992, with
the general peace agreement signed in Rome between the opposing parties and
with the backing and financial support of many international institutions,
peace and the process of reconciliation seems quite sustainable in Mozambique.
In this process grassroots groups based on both traditional community
structures and more "modern" institutions played a very important
External or internal?
Partisans of both parties involved in the war continue to
disagree over the nature and degree of internal support and external assistance
received by Renamo, and about the failures made by the Frelimo government after
independence (due to many unfulfilled expectations by the poor rural
Since its founding in 1976 by members of the Rhodesian
security forces, and with the aim of destabilising the newly independent
country, Renamo built on the split between the urban and rural segments of
Mozambican society. At the end of the1980s Renamo forces controlled a great
part of the central Mozambican country-side and enjoyed the allegiance, either
voluntarily (ethnic background and respect towards traditional chiefs) or by
brute force (forced recruitment, use of child soldiers, atrocities) of the
rural population. On the other hand the central government's autocratic style
of rule and its attempts to turn Mozambique into a "communist"
society--by purging it of traditional leadership down to the local village
level, alienated both many early party members who had been active in the
anti-colonial struggle and the rural population in general. Frelimo made itself
deeply unpopular by declaring traditional rule and practices
"backward". This stage of widespread popular discontent generated
large internal support for an externally-backed movement such as Renamo. The
rebel movement found it easy to recruit new and young fighters besides its
regular practice of forced recruitment, and forced villages under its control
to provide food for the fighters. The rural population, thoroughly traumatised
by the ongoing atrocities, left the countryside in large numbers. Parts of Mozambique became ungovernable and unsafe for everyone, especially because of the number of
At the end of the 1980s, with the changes in South Africa
that would lead to the death of the apartheid system and with the collapse of
the Soviet Union, the destabilisation campaign against the so-called Front Line
States, of which Mozambique was a significant member, also came to an end.
Widespread war fatigue on both sides, the growing awareness that neither side
could win the war through military confrontation, the lack of external support
after the end of the Cold War, and international mediation, finally brought a
sustainable peace. In contrast with what happened in Angola, both parties were
involved in the peace process and large sums of international money has been
spent on appeasing both sides, particularly Renamo. Although many Renamo
leaders could easily be convicted of war crimes against civilians.
The bought peace
It was against this background that the reconciliation
process began. The general peace agreement of 1992 was remarkably
comprehensive. It included rules about the formation of political parties, it
guaranteed freedom of movement and freedom of the press, it made clear
provisions on how elections should be held, and it made arrangements for the
massive demobilisation and reintegration of former fighters of both sides into
civilian life. One week after the signing of the peace agreement the United
Nations approved the establishment of the United Nations Operations in
Mozambique (UNOMOZ) to monitor and verify its implementation. Despite serious
scandals, the very bureaucratic way of working and the high cost (one million US$ per day!), for nearly two-and-a-half years this UN operation was quite a success. UN
monitoring included demobilisation, encampment of ex-combatants, and
preparation for elections, mine clearance and lots of humanitarian assistance.
The criticism sometimes heard about the peace process is that Mozambican peace
was literally bought--with lots of international money.
The first multiparty, democratic and free elections after
the end of the war in 1994 showed a clear, although complex and regional-based,
picture of popular support for both sides. The results of the latest general
elections (December 1999) showed few differences compared to the1994 results.
It's clear that Renamo, which is now the major opposition party, can still
count on a large popular support in the central provinces, while support for
the ruling Frelimo party of president Joaquim Chissano is located in the deep
south and in the northern provinces.
The consolidation of peace depends primarily on how the
reconstruction process addresses the profound social divisions, political
alienation and poverty that sustained the war for so many years. In the first
place the reconstruction should meet the needs of the millions of desperately
poor rural people who, isolated from large urban and economic centres, and
confronted in their daily life with the deadly consequences of widespread
land-mines, have so far seen too few tangible benefits of peace. The
resettlement of some six million displaced persons and war refugees also
continues to be a cause for some concern. Eight years after the end of the war,
many former fighters continue to nurse grievances due to the few economic
opportunities open to them and the lack of recognition of their contribution to
the war and the suffering they endured. But major confrontations could be
avoided due to the mediation of churches and other grassroots initiatives and
the fact that the two belligerents had both lost their will to fight.
War-affected populations in rural Mozambique continue to
draw on a wide range of traditional rituals to help them deal with the traumas
of war and to open the way of reconciliation. In Mozambique, as in many other
parts of Africa, health is traditionally defined as harmonious relationships
between human beings and their natural surroundings, between them and their
ancestors, and among themselves. Such models of healing contradict Western
approaches--in which individuals and their social context are more often
perceived as quite distinguishable entities.
Home-grown, informal, based on age-old practices of
welcoming, healing, counselling and reintegration, this particular "culture
of peace", very closely linked with the different rural Mozambican
cultures, has been responsible for the sustainability of the peace process.
Civil society as such did not really develop in Mozambique before the ruling Frelimo party had renounced its monopoly on all social and
political activity and freedom of the press was guaranteed. During the
beginning of the 1980s, by far the most important internal players promoting a
climate for peace talks between Renamo and Frelimo, were the churches. The
Roman Catholic Church archbishop Jaime Goncalves of Beira played a key role as
a mediator, often in close connection with the Rome-based Sant'Egidio
Community. The Mozambican Christian Council (CCM), an ecumenical body of mostly
Protestant churches, established a Peace and Reconciliation Commission in1984.
The CCM played a key role in brokering local ceasefires in very remote areas as
well as defusing tensions and promoting all kinds of grassroots developments in
the post-war era. The CCM runs a programme entitled "Transforming Arms
into Hoes" which includes the destruction of weapons. The Methodist bishop
of Maputo, Bernardino Manellate, is one of the co-ordinators of the CCM
projects in this field. In the same vein is the project of the Maputo-based artist's
collective "Nucleo de Arte". By transforming weapons into artistic
productions the mostly young artists try to cast-off their war trauma. With
peace firmly established and the end of the one-party state system, space has
emerged for non-state actors--other than the churches--to play a role in the
process of peace and reconciliation. The independent media, human rights
organisations, local landmines awareness groups, and many other NGOs, have
helped produce the peace desired by the great majority of the Mozambican
population. One of these groups is LINK--an umbrella NGO, which represents a
broad variety of associations currently engaged in civil education and
non-violent methods of conflict resolution. LINK is supported by--among
others--the Mennonite Central Committee from Canada.
Considering the terrible, violent and destructive recent
past of Mozambique, the population has, in general, demonstrated an
extraordinary capacity for reconciliation, very often based on traditional
methods and with the financial support of many external donors. In this respect
the Mozambican experience might be seen as a "model" for other
African regions that are currently at war.
The early issues of ‘Nonviolent News’ (Nos. 1-57)
have already been on the INNATE website as PDFs. A complete contents list
of items covered in these early issues has now been included so ‘Nonviolent
News’ is ‘fully searchable’ back to the first issue which appeared in May
1990. See the home page at http://www.innatenonviolence.org/
In the near future we will gradually be adding PDF copies of
‘Dawn Train’ and ‘Dawn’ magazines (the latter ran from 1974-85),
which, when complete, will take our online peace coverage back to 1974.