Why Did the Soldiers Not Go Home? Demobilized Combatants, Family Life, and Witchcraft in Postwar Mozambique

Article excerpt


Drawing on the role of witchcraftin relationships between ex-RENAMO combatants and their relatives in central Mozambique, this article suggests a different understanding of reintegration processes of ex-combatants, not merely shaped by their role as perpetrators of violence, but situated in the complexities of social life. It is argued that the reintegration of former combatants in Mozambique was shaped by certain changes within family relations, which were contingent to the war (but not necessarily to war violence), creating an enabling environment for witchcraftdynamics, which influenced former combatants' settlement decisions. [Keywords: Reintegration of former combatants, Mozambique, witchcraft, kinship, postwar]

Foreign language translations:

Why Did the Soldiers Not Go Home? Demobilized Combatants, Family Life, and Witchcraftin Postwar Mozambique

[Keywords: Reintegration of former combatants, Mozambique, witchcraft, kinship, postwar]




Porque os soldados não regresaram a casa? Desmobilizados, vida familiar e feitiçaria em Moçambique pós-guerra

[Palavras chaves: A reintegracão dos ex-combatentes, Moçambique, feitiçaria, parentesco, pós-guerra]


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Fernando, a former combatant of the Resistência Nacional de Moçambique (Mozambican National Resistance, RENAMO), worked as a tailor on the small veranda of his mud hut in the village of Maringue, Sofala province, central Mozambique. He was originally from Dondo (also Sofala province), but ended up living in Maringue because of the war. After the General Peace Accords were signed in 1992, Fernando and thousands of other soldiers were stationed in the Assembly Area of Nhacala, Maringue, where they awaited official demobilization by the UN mission for Mozambique (ONUMOZ). During this phase, he and many other soldiers started looking for their families after years of separation. In 1993, Fernando traveled to Dondo and visited his relatives, who thought he had died during the war. It was then that my father told me how I could live [to maintain contact with them]. [...] It was sad for me because when I returned I found out that my mother had died. My father said to me: "you are a good person, you already have a wife, you already have children. I have to tell you, because you were a long time outside the family, arrange yourself a place you like and live there. We will be in touch and visit each other." Eh pa, life is like that, isn't it? If we would have stayed in the same place, there might have been a person of bad faith [pessoa de má-fé] who would say: "that one was in the war!" It stays in the family, hate.

At this point in the conversation I was confused. Jordão, my research assistant, tried to explain: "he is talking about hate within the family [ódio familiar]." Fernando continued:

When we were captured or recruited for war we were not alone, no, we were with many from the district. This does not mean that everyone also returned. Some lost their lives, others did not return to their families. Because of this my father arranged another place for me to live.

"Outside Dondo?" I asked. "Yes, outside Dondo. I went to Gorongosa in 1994 until 1999, and then I came here [Maringue]," Fernando answered. In order to be safe from "hate within the family," Fernando's father asked his son to settle outside Dondo. In similar vague descriptions, other ex-combatants said they could not live again in their home village, as this would mean a "certain death." It took me some time to understand that the ex-combatants referred to what people call ufiti in Chisena, the language spoken in most parts of northern Sofala (feitiço in Portuguese). Ufiti refers to occult forces used to harm someone, often within the proximity of the family. It is translated here as witchcraft.1 Fernando could not live in Dondo because his father feared that a nfiti, a person using ufiti, would assault him, his son, or other relatives. …


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