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.