Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ann Pitcher's Insights

Ann Pitcher, the author of one of our course's books, Transforming Mozambique: The Politics of Privatization, came to our seminar class to speak to us about her work in Mozambique. It was truly an honor to have the opportunity to hear her speak about her life's passion. She spoke mostly about the general history of Mozambique and how it became the state that it is today. Basically, Mozambique was a Portuguese colony in the 1920s. It is an interesting case because Portugal itself was authoritarian, which meant that unlike British colonies, there was no real democratic model for Mozambicans to follow. However, in the 1950s, there was a slow resistance against Portuguese colonialism. In 1963, the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique or Frelimo was established and they won independence in 1975. After a Civil Conflict from 1977 to 1992, a peace accord was finally reached in 1992. After that, there were three national elections occurring in 1994, 1999, 2004, and the upcoming 2009 election.

When I reflect back on Pitcher's discussion of Mozambique, I can say that I was surprised by many things. However, the two most shocking points that she brought up would be the enduring effects of Mozambique's complex past and the fact that she cited: half of Mozambique's population is under the age of 15.

First, while Mozambique is trying to move into the future, the
effects of its past is still lingering. For example, due to colonialism and oppressive leaders, most Mozambicans have lost some part of their traditional history. Picther explained that the Portuguese replaced many village chiefs with pseudo-chiefs because they thought they could control them better. This mostly occurred in areas that the Portuguese had an economic interest in. For example, in Nampula, the people today could easily remember their village clan name before colonialism/independence. However, if you ask someone in Zambezia, a state of many commercial companies and plants, the people do not know their name or much of their history. This is surprising to me because geographically, the two areas are very close, yet the two regions are very distinct. On a personal level, I can identify with the Zambezians because I have heard stories from my grandparents of when Japan invaded Korea. The Japanese attempted to erase all Korean traditions and install Japanese ones instead. The schools would teach Japanese to Korean schoolchildren and try to oppress the people. It hurts to see that our human history has so many examples of oppression and violence where a one group of people tries to control another. When will we ever learn?

Another example of the enduring effects of Mozambique's history involves the liberation period. Ann Pitcher explained that during Mozambique's adoption of socialism, Frelimo received assistance from China and the former Soviet Union. As a result, a concrete example can still be seen today in the evidence of the street names. Take a look at the Google map below. You can go down Avenida Mao Tes Tung, pass Avenida Kim Il Sung, take a right on Avenida Vladmir Lenine and then go to Manhalgalene United Methodist Church. What an eclectic group of names and historical indicators!

The second fact that surprised me the most was when Ann Pitcher explained that almost half of Mozambique's population is under the age of 15. Could this be actually true? The only explanation that I could think of was that the children are the only survivors because all their parents passed away from HIV/AIDS. Or, they could have been killed during the country's Civil War conflict. I believe that finding the answer to this disturbing statistic is necessary in order to further understand the nature of this country.

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