Children of War: Understanding
War and War Cleansing in
Mozambique and Angola
This chapter considers the impact of political violence on children. In it I examine indigenous understandings of childhood, war and “war cleansing, ” and the ways in which protection of children in times of armed conflict can be undertaken at the local level. The ethnographic settings for this study are Mozambique and Angola, drawing on field research in Mozambique from 1993 to 1999, and in Angola during 1997–1998. 1 Both countries are former Portuguese colonies that became independent in 1975 after long wars of national liberation. In both countries, the postcolonial governments, led by the nationalist movements of the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) and the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), adopted a Marxist orientation and socialist models of development. This met with resistance from the rebel movements of the Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) respectively, which waged war against the incumbent governments. In the process of these wars, which lasted more than fifteen years in Mozambique and continue in Angola, thousands of children were drawn into armed conflict. These children of war constitute the subject of this chapter.
In this study I convey the experiences of children directly and indirectly involved in the armed conflicts: child soldiers, child victims of land mines, and abused young girls. I discuss the limitations of international conventions in ensuring children's protection against war and violence. And I argue for a bottom-up rather than a top-down approach—in other words, an approach that entails greater community participation in protecting children from conflict, and in enforcing their humanitarian rights. I also examine the issue of “universalization” of childhood. In this regard, the study emphasizes the diverse