Ilha Josina Machel is situated in a rural region, north of the capital Maputo in an area of strong Frelimo influence. Following independence, the village was known for its agricultural cooperatives, and during the civil war, while central areas of Ilha Josina Machel were protected by fences, land mines, and a government supported local militia, other areas, such as the more isolated bairros, became increasingly vulnerable to attacks and brutality as the conflict dragged on. This resulted in widespread suffering, and the abduction of adults and children alike.
As a result of the war, peasants hold in their memory compelling narratives of violence and survival, stemming from their orientation within the theatre of war, the perceived collective vulnerability of their community, the interest belligerents found in the region, and the proximity to military bases where varying levels of violence were executed, from relatively benign to unspeakable. The recollections in this text from abductees of all ages, as well as observers living in a region dominated by the ruling party, reveal the cultural and social nuances of Ilha Josina Machel in light of historical, regional and local dynamics.
Drawing on secondary literature and a series of in-depth structured and semi-structured interviews, focus groups, informal discussions, and participant observation with over eighty informants including government officials, non-governmental employees, university professors in Maputo City, Renamo supporters, and villagers who lived in Ilha Josina Machel and surrounding regions during the war, this chapter synthesizes data collected during a total of seven months of fieldwork, including a four-month stay and three visits to Ilha Josina Machel between 2010 and 2014, as well as additional interviews between 2010 and 2016.
This chapter shows evidence of the violence of war in Ilha Josina Machel, albeit relatively short-lived compared to many other regions of the country. It aims at revealing the local dynamics of the war and collective memory through narratives, with a particular focus on women, whose voices are less inclined to appear in official documents, and who arguably suffered more often, and more intensely during war.