Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday-October 25,2009

Being a part of the religion and culture group, the five of us ( Zenobia, Shelley, Veronica, Caitlin and I ) had to study and research religion and culture in Mozambique and whether or not they played a role in the democratization of Mozambique or better still, did Democracy affect/change religion and culture in Mozambique and if yes, how? As you can see, it was a pretty broad topic and it was intentionally set at that to enable us use a wider horizon in taking everything into perspective and actually find what we were looking for. So, early Sunday morning…..we visited a church. Two reasons why, I wanted to attend a Church simple and I’m sure most my colleagues wanted to too but also because as you may already have guessed we needed to interview people who were part of certain religions such as members of the congregation and the clergy. Although we had read about religion in Mozambique, it was quite a different experience hearing first hand from Mozambicans about how they saw the role of religion in Mozambique and in their lives. Our interview with Pastor Luis of the Assembly of God Mission (AGM) Church was the beginning of many interviews with religious leaders, pastors, a bishop, professors of religion, members of the congregation, traditional religious leaders and more. Although on the surface, it seems like religion has a non-existent role due to Mozambique's separation of church and state, we could see that on the contrary religion was a vital part of Mozambique's democracy. Most of the people we interviewed some of whom were members and leaders of various churches, and even traditional religion acknowledged the role that religion played in the peace process during the civil war in Mozambique, the efforts of the various religious groups at humanitarian work after the conflict and the involvement in civic education during electoral periods. Most importantly, the moral and ethical teachings of different religious and traditional groups continue to play a major role in the lives of many Mozambicans. I would refrain from discussing in-depth our findings so far as they are part of our final project and I would it to sound redundant.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mozambique- My reflection

I had initially started my blog posting on our trip to Mozambique in a diary-like manner. Now, I would like to switch it up a little bit and make it more reflective as I reflect on our days spent in Mozambique and my experiences.

Mozambique like most African countries enjoys a beautiful weather. Something which I miss so dearly as I sit writing my blog post on this chilly-cold winter night. My time in Mozambique was a well-rounded experience that I will never forget. By this I mean, it was educative, informational, entertaining, engaging, mind-blowing and exceptionally rewarding. When we first landed at the airport in Mozambique and had to walk off the runway, it reminded me so much about Liberia(my country) which has also had its own share of civil war. However, while there were some similarities I found in the mannerism of the people, their hospitality and the landscape( Mozambique being along the indian ocean as Liberia is along the Atlantic oncean),it was a little different. Mozambique was more developed in terms of infrastructure than Liberia is and their official language of Portuguese is a far cry from Liberia's English. However what I wa to find interestign was that the election atmosphere was as vibrant as it would be during election periods in Liberia. The manner in which political campaigns and rallies were held was just as similar as that of Liberia. This included concerts, chants, vehicles parading the streets in a convoy, distribution and sale of parties and candidates items such as posters, t-shirts, caps, music CDs and more. The energy was contagious and excitement was eevrywhere especially on the last day of campaigning. This was all so similar to my country of origin adn my experiences with past elections most especially the last one which brought Pres. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf into office as the first democratically elected female president in Africa. What was most appealing about Mozambique's political system was the fact that young people felt the need to get involved in the political process whcih some attributed to the emergence of a new political party Movement for Democracy in Mozambique(MDM) headed by a young political aspirant thus creating an actual multi-party system in contrast to the dual-party system that had existed over the years. What was least appealing was the fact that despite the progress Mozambique has made in the adoption of democracy as a system of governance, it is quite interesting that only one party has led the country since the end of colonialism in 1975. I believe democracy should create an avenue that would allow every politcal party an equal opportunity to succeed at electoral processes which gives way to the cahnge in power/leadership. Although the former is present in the Mozambican society, the latter is not and it is only natural that as an African,I gave the perspective with which I saw Mozambique. Now, I was curious but also excited about our stay in Mozambique and what we would find during our research and interaction with Mozambicans. As I have already discussed in a previous blog post, most of our study in Mozambique was centered around our gruop project as a part of the religion and culture group. However, each one of us in my group and the entire class as a whole has a personal project based on our interests. I decided to study how Mozambique's transition from socialism to democracy may have affected their culture or did it? What did Mozambicans think about democracy? What changes/transformations have the seen in their culture or way of life that can be attributed to the transition to democracy? From previous readings prior to the trip, I found that Mozambicans were largely supportive of democracy. In "Measuring Democracy and Human Rights in Southern Africa" a book compiled by Henning Melber, (Yul Derek Davids and Joao Pereira) wrote that despite the large support of democracy about 39% of Mozambicans saw it as one with many problems. However, democracy was described not in terms of culture but rather civil liberties and on a lower scale, freedom of speech; both of which had been denied during the years of political tension and instabilty. I expected to find during my research that the effect of democracy would be felt most on Mozambicans living in urban areas with a higher level of education and access to information and are more liking to understand the meaning of democracy as is defined or insinuated by the west/ western societies. I didn ot expect to find any change or effect of democracy on the way of life of those underpriviliged or illiterate Mozambicans living in the rural areas. The reasoning behind my expectations was that most people who are informed and enlightened are more likely to understand their social roles and act accordingly in the face of changes such as the transition from socialism to democracy int he case of Mozambique. These are I people I expected that woul dbe more likely to to exercise their civic responsibility such as voting, advocacxy, etc and also observe changes in their culture or way of life under different situations or regimes. On the other hand, although those underprivileged, iliterate or uninformed Mozambicans may also observe changes in general to the affairs of the state/country, I didnot expect to find much affect on them. All these expectations of mine would however change and consequently the topic of my personal project. During the brief time we spent we Mozambique and the short time dedicated to my perosnal project, it was obvious that trying to study Mozambican culture as a whole was more than I expected taking into consideration how vast it really is and the length of time I had to work with. It seemed only appropriate that I choose a certain aspect of Mozambican culture, be it language, religion, dance, music, traditional pratices and study it and how it affected the transiton to democracy or vice versa. However, I finally decided to explore the issue of traditiona lauthority in Mozambique which an essetial part of pre-colonial african governace and in many ways still exist in every part of Africa today. As an African, I became curious about why such vital part of Mozambique's history and culture was abolished in the early 1970's and yet reinstated in the early 2000's. Although they are claims that despite the relevance of traditional authorities during pre-colonial times, there were lots of changes during colonial times that subjected these traditional leaders to being agents of the colonist thus when FRELIMO won the independence struggle against the Portuguese, int he quest to get rid og everything colonial, they new national leadership abolished traditional authorites. Some questions that came to mind was how did the abolition of traditional authority affect the governcance of locals in rural areas. Did it actually become illiegal or was it just not recognized by the FRELIMO-led government? What was the state of these communities during that time. Since Dcree 15/2000 which was the official document used to reinstate trditional authorities and secretarios de barrio or community crusaders, how has local governace changed. What is the difference in traditional leadership in pre-colonial, colonial and post-independence eras. Did this affect Mozambique's transition to democracy or was it the other way around. These are all questions that i intend to answer in my personal project whcihI will make sure to upload once it is done.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Saturday Oct 24, 2009

We started the day with breakfast where we met Santos, a former student and recent graduate from the Chissano institute who was going to be one of our translators during our visit. Santos turned out to be a friend. We then took a quick trip to the mall for currency exchange and to buy some snacks. I must say Mozambique is a beautiful country also but unlike South Africa with it’s modern architecture built in the early 80’s n 90’s, Mozambique’s although young in independence has older buildings that were built in the 60’s. However, there were a LOT and I mean a LOT of construction going on and a few newer building, like the Maputo Shopping Center we went to. My roommate and I bought some snacks and I got a Vodacom sim card and a calling card to be able to use a phone I had taken with me for such purpose. Unfortunately, it did not work because the phone was locked and I ended up losing the sim card. It was interesting being in the streets and seeing the election commotion-flyers, posters, billboards, all advertising the parties candidates and urging the people to go and vote on the 28th. Now most of these were of Guebuza, Frelimo’s candidate and the incumbent. Keep in mind that Frelimo has the majority if not all the support of Maputo. So that tells you that most of what we saw was of and for Frelimo/Guebuza. Even at the mall, there was a store selling Frelimo’s electoral memorabilia and gears. Outside the store we a group of young people also selling Frelimo’s products. We inteviewed a few of them on camera for our documentary and a few of my colleagues bought some Frelimo gear. I personally did not and felt that as observers and researchers, it was better and beneficial to remain neutral. Seen wearing a frelimo gear or that of the other parties would take away our credibility and neutrality. Some of my colleagues argued they could do the same for the other political parties which they did not do and that they did not intend wearing or using anything political that they might have brought, which they did not do.

While wating in the bus for the rest of my colleagues after my roommate and I were done shopping, I decided to pick the mind of Costa, our bus driver. Our brief conversation was translated by his friend and assistant who also happened to work at the hotel at which we stayed.He like many others in Maputo was a Frelimo supporter. He was very passionate about his support for Frelimo and said it with such conviction that one would think his life depended on it. He praised Frelimo for their effort in Mozambique’s independence and as he put it “They fought for us”. He said that Frelimo had provided jobs and education for the people and did a lot of good things. Ironically, this was a guy who was not educated and could not speak English. He said that the opposition was bad and brought war to the people. Not many people would share his views. After our trip to the mall, we went back to the hotel and prepared ourselves for the day ahead. We then decided to visit the offices of these political parties especially Frelimo. We met the chair of one of the local offices and head of that district in Maputo. Here was an overzealous and very confident man who was a 110% sure that Frelimo would win the elections…again, as always. However, he was very open and vocal about the state of Democracy in Mozambique. He like many others after him whom we interviewed, stated that democracy in Mozambique is very young. He mentioned that not a lot of people knew much about democracy.

While we were interviewing him inside his office, Prof. Anderson and a few of my other colleagues on the trip were interviewing some of the local people outside most of whom were Frelimo’s members. After our interview, we were given some pamphlets about Frelimo including the Electoral Manisfesto which one of my colleagues joked about and said “ Frelimo’s Electoral Manisfesto is to win every election for the next 30 yrs”. Outside the office were a lot of women wearing what we call Lappa in Liberia(a woven cloth that can be worn a couple of ways: sewn as a suit, dress, skirt, headwrap…etc) It is called Wrappa in Nigeria and interestingly, it is called Capulana in Mozambique. Well this was a specially designed capulana with for Frelimo with the party’s logo and the face of Guebuza…..there were many made for Pres. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberian when she won the elections. There were also a lot of kids outside singing” Vota Guebuza” in English “ Vote Guebuza”. How interesting…these were all kinds between the ages of 6-9. After our interview and filming, we went around Renamo and MDM but were closed. On our way back, we saw a rally of Frelimo with music blasting and people singing and dancing…mostly kinds under the voting age of 18 and with my experience with elections and campaigning from Liberia’s 1997 and 2006 elections, I instantly recognized the rally and pointed out to the group. Although we had already passed, as Costa turned the bus around, some of my colleagues doubted me and could not believe a rally could be like a musical concert…LOL.. We however stopped by and took some clips and the kids couldn’t resist the camera…I t was fun.We then went for dinner at Princesa and Italian restaurant where the Health group( we were divided into three groups- Health, Education/Legal studies and Religion/Culture, the last I was part of). Interestingly the Health group had met a group of MDM supporters campaigning in the city and even joined their convoy. The came to the restaurant with a poster of Simango…..I became interested in MDM.

Friday October 23

We left South Africa for Mozambique! It was a short ride for which we stayed longer at the airport than we stayed on the flight…LOL…

Well, we arrived in Mozambique and I finally got that “ I’m home” feeling! For a split second, it all felt like I was actually home (Liberia), especially the part when we got off the plane on the runway. We went through customs and baggage claims and finally made our exit out of the airport and there……..was Dr. Reid with his camera! Didn’t I feel like a celebrity??? Along with him was Michael(his assistant) and Dawid, an ethiopian who lives in Angola and speaks 5 different languages including Portuguese.

Our first day in Mozambique was really nice. We drove from the airport straight to a seafood restaurant and oh just to mention, I have eaten seafood since I first arrived in Mozambique…from seafood pizza to curry shrimp, curry crab, seafood platter, lobster, calamari….every day. So we started off with Costa de Sol and had a huge platter of seafood of every kind. It was amazing and so was the view. From where we sat, you could see the beach lined with coconut trees. After lunch we were given a 10 minute break to enjoy the beach while we waited for the car to get us. We were taken to our hotel, Indy Congress Hotel….what a beautiful place. There were all these villas and a pool and tennis court and a SPA! We quickly went to our rooms and refreshed up to meet former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano!

He turned out to be a very pleasant man with a soft voice and a great personality. What I did not see was the level of charisma you would see with most presidents/ former presidents…just to name a few that I have met. Bill Clinton, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and those we listen to: Barack Obama and others. However, as was expected he gave a lot of insightful answers to our questions and although I didn’t have the time to ask him a question due to time constraints and he had to leave for his birthday celebration( oh we sang him a happy birthday song when he first entered and you could see the surprise on his face), most of my colleagues asked him questions that we all were curious about. He talked about Frelimo( the Liberation Front of Mozambique) and gave us a detailed history lesson of Frelimo’s rebellion against the Portuguese for the independence of Mozambique which was gained in 1975; most of what we had learn about but coming from a major player, it was quite interesting. He was also asked questions about the low voter’s turnout, health, multi-party system, Mozambique’s democracy, the many languages of Mozambique and Frelimo’s elimination of traditional authority-which happened to be my area of interest. Overall, it was a good and short interview and it was good meeting Pres. Chissano although there were no pictures taken. We then went back to the hotel and went for dinner; the most interesting we had during our stay. We discussed the day and our thoughts about the interview and our expectations of the trip. Some of the questions that we asked ourselves and each other were: Before the inception of MDM(Mozambique Democratic Movement), would you say the state was really multi-party or just dual-party( Frelimo and Renamo). If Mozambique is really democratic, why would a democratic movement emerge? How democratic is a state that has only one party in power for over 30 years? These were few of the many questions we were to find answers to during our stay in Mozambique based on the purpose of this project: To study democracy in Mozambique.

Thursday-October 22

We woke up in the morning and went down for breakfast. Oooh la la… buffet-style. I ate heartily and joined the others to wait on our tour guide who came 45 mins late because he went to the wrong Southern Sun Hotel…seem like there’s more than one or I figure two in Jo’burg. Well, we got on our way and our first stop was the Kwa Mai-Mai Market of the Zulu people. Our tour guide, Jimmy seemed to know a lot about the peoples of South Africa and their languages. It was enlightening. Everything in that market was HAND-MADE! From clothes to footwear, jewelries to weapons, furniture to household utensils….It was just amazing! We took a few pictures, and I got to wear a Zulu hat! We later drove on to SOWETO! Ok, before I go on with our experience in Soweto, let me put this place into perspective. As I child, I watched a movie called “Sarafina” and Soweto was the setting. This movie showed the struggles of students in Soweto against Apartheid in South Africa. After that movie I put Soweto on my list of “places to visit”. Having seen Sarafina, I developed a greater sense of appreciation for Soweto so when I finally had the opportunity to visit Soweto township, I was ecstatic.

Now, Soweto like other townships in South Africa is not the typical South African picture. Rather, it is the typical African picture. What I mean by this is that, there is no doubt that S.S is one of the most developed countries in Africa, all of what we saw. It is a beautiful country and for a sec, all of us forgot that we were in Africa and would have been convinced if we had been told that we were in a Eurpoean or North American country had it not been for the signs and billboards. Personally, I didn’t feel that “ I’m home” feeling that I thought I would have gotten from any country in Africa, myself being a Liberian. However, all that changed when we visited Soweto. In my opinion and from what I saw, Soweto is home to both middle and lower class. There were parts of the township with really beautiful houses and parts of the township with shanty houses. It seemed like a peaceful town but one still rooted in the memories of apartheid. There stands a monument of Hector Peterson, a young man that was killed in the June 19, 1976 Soweto student demonstration against the use of Afrikaan as the official teaching language in their schools. In Soweto like many other places in Africa and the world, the ills of society look you in the eye. Teenage mothers/pregnancy, poverty, lack of jobs, the uneducated……etc.

As we entered into the township, we met three young girls, one of them with a child and here was her story: She had graduated from high school but because her parents could not afford college, she went on to look for a job……………..which she never got. Unfortunately, she ended up pregnant. Now in a brief analysis, here is a young girl, a high school graduate, without a job, with a baby, with no possibility of continuing her education due to poverty but now have to worry about taking care of a child for the next 18 years and putting her future on hold for that of the baby’s. This is a story of most young, impoverished people in every part of the world. What was interesting about meeting this young lady is that our tour guide used this opportunity to scold her. He reprimanded her not trying hard enough to further her education and for having a baby at such young age with no guarantee of support. Although I understood where he was coming from and how he a stranger could take that role of a parent or guardian ( which is typical of the African culture as summed up in the belief that” It takes a community to raise a child”), some of my colleagues from the US took offense.

They could not understand how or why a stranger or betterstill someone who was not the girl’s parent could reprimand her in the presence of them (total strangers). It took a minute to make them understand such aspect of communal life in the African society. What they also failed to realized was also the fact that when you find yourself in a different cultural environment, you are merely a spectator and not a commentator nor a director/producer of what goes on and you are in no position to dictate to people about how to run their affairs or change what they have practiced for years and already ingrained in their society. However, it is admissible to express your discomfort at a point where you don’t cross the line and infer your opinions about what It is or what should be. Regardless, we had a good time in Soweto and then drove off to the Apartheid museum. On our way to the museum we briefly stopped at the construction of one football stadiums for the 2010 World Cup to be held in South Africa……the first one ever held in AFRICA!!

We finally arrived at the Apartheid Museum-Here was a period of reflection. No amount of movies or artistic portrayal can show the ills or realities of this system that was allowed to persist. It’s a system that forever left scars on the hearts and minds of the people. It’s a system that’s still imprinted on the mentality and thoughts of these people. A system that still has its residue woven in the web of this society; as seen in their employment structure, neighborhoods, and other aspects of their society. Our experience in the apartheid museum differed according to each person as we each designed our journey based on what interested us the most. Although we all started off with a movie on the origin of the Afrikaans, we all took different routes throughout the museum. I personally went through the journey of the struggle to end apartheid, the life of Nelson Mandela, and finally freedom!

After our visit at the museum, we had lunch and went back to the hotel. On our way, I bought an artwork of Soweto…I just had to.

Wednesday-October 21

We arrived in South Africa!! We were booked in the Southern Sun Hotel located at the Airport! OMG! That was luxury! The beds were soo soft and comfortable and I could’ve spent all day and night just lying in bed. Well we (my roommate-Zenobia and I) checked into our room. We unpacked a few stuff and quickly took our showers by turn and went down to meet the rest of the group for dinner. I had this amazing trout and sparkling water. After dinner, my roomie and I tried to get out and see the city…..unfortunately we could not so we went to bed…looking forward to our tour the next day

Tuesday-October 20

On this day, we left for South Africa, a part of our destination to Mozambique! Our flight took off from the Detroit Metro Airport to Washington DC. We boarded our connecting flight to Senegal, Dakar and another to Johannesburg (Jo’burg), South Africa. We arrived on October 21!!! That was a looong flight! However, it was a good one! We had so much fun on the plane, taking pictures of each other asleep (even our administrators) LOL…., creating catch-phrases such as “This is Bliss” and a lot more. By the time we arrived in South Africa, we were all tired and yearned for a good sleep and a nice hot bath…….which we did get!