A Complicated War: The Harrowing of Mozambique (Perspectives on Southern Africa)

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9780520078048: A Complicated War: The Harrowing of Mozambique (Perspectives on Southern Africa)

Powerful, instructive, and full of humanity, this book challenges the current understanding of the war that has turned Mozambique—a naturally rich country—into the world's poorest nation. Before going to Mozambique, William Finnegan saw the war, like so many foreign observers, through a South African lens, viewing the conflict as apartheid's "forward defense." This lens was shattered by what he witnessed and what he heard from Mozambicans, especially those who had lived with the bandidos armado, the "armed bandits" otherwise known as the Renamo rebels. The shifting, wrenching, ground-level stories that people told combine to form an account of the war more local and nuanced, more complex, more African—than anything that has been politically convenient to describe.

A Complicated War combines frontline reporting, personal narrative, political analysis, and comparative scholarship to present a picture of a Mozambique harrowed by profound local conflicts—ethnic, religious, political and personal. Finnegan writes that South Africa's domination and destabilization are basic elements of Mozambique's plight, but he offers a subtle description and analysis that will allow us to see the post-apartheid region from a new, more realistic, if less comfortable, point of view.

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About the Author:

William Finnegan is the author of Crossing the Line: A Year in the Land of Apartheid (1986) and Dateline Soweto: Travels with Black South African Reporters (1988). He is a staff writer for The New Yorker.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A sobering look at one of Africa's most devastating civil wars, by Finnegan (Dateline Soweto, 1988; Crossing the Line, 1986)- -a war whose murky beginnings and stubborn resistance to resolution reflect old ideological conflicts as well as a clash between the modern and the traditional. Finnegan's study began as an unsigned piece in The New Yorker, covering the war from its beginning in 1976 to mid-1991. Defying most conventional wisdom, which has attributed the Mozambique civil war to South African intervention, the author considers peace unlikely, even impossible, despite the end of the cold war, the espousal of a multiparty political system by Mozambique's governing Frelimo party, and the end of the insurgents' South African backing. Ostensibly it is a war between the Marxist-Leninist Frelimo party, which took over Mozambique in 1974 from Portugal, and Renamo, a group of Frelimo dissidents, former Portuguese colonialists, adventurers, and peasants that was initially funded by Rhodesia and then South Africa in order to destabilize the Frelimo regime. But Finnegan also blames the impact on rural Mozambicans of the original policies of Frelimo--the compulsory removal of all traditional tribal institutions. After traveling, often in considerable personal danger, through the region, Finnegan concludes that, whatever its beginnings, this war, in which more than 900,000 Mozambicans have died and 3,000,000 have become refugees, will continue to ravage what little remains of the national economy. And whatever the original causes, Renamo and anarchy are now ``a fundamentally political problem, a painful reflection of internal conflicts.'' Vivid reportage, thoughtful analysis, and comprehensive research: a seminal work not only on the war itself but on the conflicts that threaten post-cold-war, post-apartheid Africa. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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