Justice and Reconciliation in the Aftermath of the Civil War in Gorongosa, Mozambique Central*

  • Victor Igreja


In the aftermath of the protracted Mozambican civil war (1976–1992), the national political authorities opted for an unconditional amnesty law for wartime crimes. Neither the cadres from the Frelimo-led government, nor the Renamo leadership offered public explanations as to why no politico-legal initiatives were to be forthcoming in the post-civil war period to actively address issues of accountability for the wartime crimes. The representatives of Christian religious groups and the members of the international community, who played a key role in brokering the Mozambican peace agreement, also remained silenced vis-à-vis issues of accountability in post-civil war period. War survivors were simply advised to forget what had happened, to forgive and to reconcile with one another. The only reference to justice was the emphasis placed on “you shall not take revenge upon your fellow man.” Robert Cover had insightfully observed that in a society “each group must accommodate in its own normative world the objective reality of the other. There may or may not be synchronization or convergence in their respective understandings about the normative boundary and what it implies” (quoted in Minow et al. 1995, p. 125).

Following this perspective of multiple normative sources and boundaries, in a society, the Mozambican state officials failed to consider the implications that their enacted unconditional amnesty law would have in the communities that had been severely affected by the civil war violence. In some of these communities, the normative world or ethics of reciprocity demands accountability over serious past wrongs. In the former war zones of the Gorongosa district, one of the features of the ethics of reciprocity is that micero ai vundi, i.e., a conflict does not get rotten unless when there is an active resolution by the legitimate institutions. Based on the rule that implies the rejection of silence as a mechanism to cease a conflict, this paper analyses the enactment of the local ethics of reciprocity through the intervention of a civil-war-related spirit named gamba (magamba in plural) in the former epicentres of the civil war in Gorongosa district, in the centre of Mozambique.


Restorative Justice International Criminal Court Transitional Justice Peace Agreement Spirit Possession 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victor Igreja
    • 1
  1. 1.Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict StudiesThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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