BLOOD: TRACES OF A CIVIL WAR
This series belongs to some old material I did in a trip I made to Mozambique in the year 2008. It is old material, but I’m sure a lot of you didn’t see this yet, and I really like this series.
Mozambique was probably the best destination I ever had in a trip. Very intense, authentic and warm. I was lucky because I stayed in a special place: the house of a special and very nice Spanish teacher who is living there, helping people to have a normal life in place where aids, malaria and land mines are still a huge problem, in fact the malaria and aids rates are one of the highest in the world.
In Mozambique life and death coexist in a weird combination that marked me deeply since then (since then I always wanted to go back). It is difficult to explain this way of life and feelings if you are not being in such a place like that one. It is difficult to believe, looking at the people mood and sympathy, that they had been in a colonialist regimen by Portugal until 1975, and after that in civil war until 1992. But that is what happened there. Well, you can feel it for other reasons like poverty and sickness of the people (like most of the old Europe and North America colonies).
In places were the economy is almost non-existent (there is people who survives with $10 per month) people fight and defend themselves in the way they can, with the tools the resources they have. That’s how it came to my mind the idea of that probably the tools that the people usually uses for life (a pick, a shovel, a hammer, a machete, a hoe…), to dig the ground to farm for surviving became weapons. This is a painful paradox: what was conceived to help life now is used to extermine it. I’m not saying that everybody fought like that, I know there were armies and guns, but I’m sure the poorest people fought face to face in close distance with this tools, I don’t want even to imagine it. It has to be difficult to shoot somebody in distance, but I don’t want to think how it has to feel to kill someone in such a medieval way, face to face, because there is not resources even for defend yourself.
So, I decide to do some “postcards” with images of these tools being used for a good purpose, but give them a treatment in Photoshop in a way that it looked they where there during the conflict. I want to imagine these images where done before the conflict and for some reason they were spread around, in the streets, in the savannah… during the fight, getting the traces of it. So the result is a collection of bloody postcards stained with the rest of the blood of the fighters and victims of the conflict.
I’m leaving some information about those years of conflict in Mozambique, right after the pictures, I hope all this make you think a little bit.
Mozambican War of Independence (1964–1974)
As communist and anti-colonial ideologies spread out across Africa, many clandestine political movements were established in support of Mozambican independence. These movements claimed that since policies and development plans were primarily designed by the ruling authorities for the benefit of Mozambique’s Portuguese population, little attention was paid to Mozambique’s tribal integration and the development of its native communities.
According to the official guerrilla statements, this affected a majority of the indigenous population who suffered both state-sponsored discrimination and enormous social pressure. Many felt they had received too little opportunity or resources to upgrade their skills and improve their economic and social situation to a degree comparable to that of the Europeans. Statistically, Mozambique’s Portuguese whites were indeed wealthier and more skilled than the black indigenous majority. As a response to the guerrilla movement, the Portuguese government from the 1960s and principally the early 1970s, initiated gradual changes with new socioeconomic developments and egalitarian policies for all.
The Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) initiated a guerrilla campaign against Portuguese rule in September 1964. This conflict—along with the two others already initiated in the other Portuguese colonies of Angola and Portuguese Guinea—became part of the so-called Portuguese Colonial War (1961–1974). From a military standpoint, the Portuguese regular army maintained control of the population centres while the guerrilla forces sought to undermine their influence in rural and tribal areas in the north and west. As part of their response to FRELIMO, the Portuguese government began to pay more attention to creating favourable conditions for social development and economic growth.
After 10 years of sporadic warfare and Portugal’s return to democracy through a leftist military coup in Lisbon, which replaced Portugal’s Estado Novo regime with a military junta (theCarnation Revolution of April 1974), FRELIMO took control of the territory. Within a year, most of the 250,000 Portuguese in Mozambique had left—some expelled by the government of the nearly independent territory, some fleeing in fear—and Mozambique became independent from Portugal on 25 June 1975. A law had been passed on the initiative of the then relatively unknown Armando Guebuza of the FRELIMO party ordering the Portuguese to leave the country in 24 hours with only 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of luggage. Unable to salvage any of their assets, most of them returned to Portugal penniless.
Mozambican Civil War (1977–1992)
The new government, under president Samora Machel, established a one-party state based on Marxist principles. The new government received diplomatic and some military support from Cuba and the Soviet Union and proceeded to crack down on opposition. Starting shortly after the independence, the country was plagued from 1977 to 1992 by a long and violent civil war between the opposition forces of anti-Communist Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) rebel militias and the FRELIMO regime. This conflict, combined with sabotage from the neighbouring white-ruled state of Rhodesia and the apartheid regime of South Africa, ineffective policies, failed central planning, and the resulting economic collapse, characterised the first decades of Mozambican independence. This period was also marked by the exodus of Portuguese nationals and Mozambicans of Portuguese heritage, a collapsed infrastructure, lack of investment in productive assets, and government nationalisation of privately owned industries, as well as widespread famine.
During most of the civil war, the FRELIMO-formed central government was unable to exercise effective control outside of urban areas, many of which were cut off from the capital. It is reported that in RENAMO controlled areas, which included up to 50% of the rural areas in several provinces, health services of any kind were isolated from assistance for years. The problem worsened when the government cut back spending on health care. The war was marked by mass human rights violations from both sides of the conflict with RENAMO contributing to the chaos through the use of terror and indiscriminate targeting of civilians. The central government executed tens of thousands of people while trying to extend its control throughout the country and sent many people to re-education camps where thousands died.
During the war RENAMO proposed a peace agreement based on the secession of RENAMO controlled northern and western territories as the independent Republic of Rombesia, but FRELIMO refused, insisting on the undivided sovereignty of the entire country. An estimated one million Mozambicans perished during the civil war, 1.7 million took refuge in neighbouring states, and several million more were internally displaced. The FRELIMO regime also gave shelter and support to South African (African National Congress) and Zimbabwean (Zimbabwe African National Union) rebel movements, while the governments of first Rhodesia and later South Africa (at that time still under the apartheid regime) backed RENAMO in the civil war.
On 19 October 1986, Samora Machel was on his way back from an international meeting in Zambia in the presidential Tupolev Tu-134 aircraft when the plane crashed in the Lebombo Mountains, near Mbuzini. There were ten survivors, but President Machel and thirty-three others died, including ministers and officials of the Mozambique government. The United Nations’ Soviet delegation issued a minority report contending that their expertise and experience had been undermined by the South Africans. Representatives of the Soviet Union advanced the theory that the plane had been intentionally diverted by a false navigational beacon signal, using a technology provided by military intelligence operatives of the South African government.
Machel’s successor, Joaquim Chissano, implemented sweeping changes in the country, starting reforms such as changing from Marxism to capitalism, and began peace talks with RENAMO. The new constitution enacted in 1990 provided for a multi-party political system, market-based economy, and free elections. The civil war ended in October 1992 with the Rome General Peace Accords, first brokered by the CCM, the Christian Council of Mozambique (Council of Protestant Churches) and then taken over by Community of Sant’Egidio. Under supervision of the ONUMOZ peacekeeping force of the United Nations, peace returned to Mozambique.
By 1993 more than 1.5 million Mozambican refugees who had sought asylum in neighbouring Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Zambia, Tanzania and South Africa as a result of war and drought had returned, as part of the largest repatriation witnessed in sub-Saharan Africa.
Democratic era (1993–)