The American writer, William Finnegan, went to Mozambique in 1988. He had already written for the New Yorker about the war and Pretoria's support for Renamo (Resistência Nacional Moçambicana), the anti-government insurgency. 'The brisk self-assurance of that piece now makes me wince,' he says in the preface to his careful and informative book. 'Like many foreign observers, I saw Mozambique through a South African lens, expecting to understand the country - and the war which devours it - more or less exclusively by way of the apartheid Cyclops next door.' At the time, this was the best broad perspective on offer. Frelimo (Frente de Libertaçao de Moçambique) proclaimed independence in 1975, after a long bush war. Once in charge of Mozambique, it gave support to Zimbabwean guerrillas against Rhodesia until the end of the Seventies and to the African National Congress until 1984. Pretoria saw the country as a puppet of Soviet ambition in the region and, at the time of the Zimbabwean settlement, replaced the Rhodesian security forces as Renamo's provider and minister, building it into a capable force with a centralised command. By the time Finnegan arrived, Mozambique was in grave difficulty. Frelimo had learned to officiate within the confines imposed by the only real authorities in the country: war and hunger. To do so, it had entered into a coalition with the international aid agencies, running the relief effort, and to some extent the war, on humanitarian aid.
LRB 22 April 1993 | PDF Download