Accepted paper:

A break with society? A break with the past? Civil-military collaborations and the reintegration of ex-combatants in central Mozambique

Authors:

Nikkie Wiegink (Utrecht University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper addresses the blurring of categorizations of civilians and combatants during RENAMO’s occupation of a district in central Mozambique and its consequences for common conceptualizations of ex-combatants’ reintegration processes.

Paper long abstract:

All too often the trajectories of combatants are framed in terms of "breaks": a break with society upon entering an armed group, and a break with the past forged through "reintegration". Such framings enforce a distinction between the military and civilian realms resulting in a limited understanding of the social lives of fighters and consequently their "reintegration processes". Through an analysis of narratives of both ex-RENAMO combatants and civilians about RENAMO's occupation of Maringue (1985-1992), central Mozambique, this paper shows how in asymmetric civil wars armed groups rely heavily on relationships with civilians of many kinds. I argue that such relationships are not necessarily based on violence and force, and are central for understanding what is often called the "reintegration process" of former combatants. I employ the concept of "collaboration" to explore how combatants and civilians engaged in a range of relationships, with different goals, but with often mutually profitable outcomes. I focus on three examples of such collaborations: first, the incorporation of civilian leaders in RENAMO's forced labor structure, second, civilians' use of RENAMO force to settle personal scores, and third, marriage practices between RENAMO combatants and local women. This analysis demonstrates not only the (bounded) agency of inhabitants of war zones, but also the blurring of categorizations of civilians and combatants in protracted armed conflicts. Furthermore, this contribution shows the limitations of concepts such as the "return to civil society", "reintegration", and "re-acceptance" in describing the post-war trajectories of combatants.

panel P024
Soldier, security, society: ethnographies of civil-military entanglements