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Title:Negotiating post-war identities: child soldiers in Mozambique and Angola
Author:Honwana, AlcindaISNI
Periodical:CODESRIA Bulletin
Geographic terms:Angola
Subject:child soldiers
Abstract:The issue of child soldiers cannot be explained in terms of Africa's precolonial military history, nor does it have roots in African traditional culture. Rather, the phenomenon is rooted in the crisis of postcolonial State politics of power, identity and access to resources. The development of armed conflicts in which youth and children are drawn is a direct symptom of such crisis. In Angola and Mozambique, forced recruitment was the most common process of entering the military. More complex incorporation processes also took place, involving 'traditional' leaders and sometimes family relatives, while in certain areas there was also voluntary affiliation of minors into the armies. Children's participation in these wars constituted a carefully devised process of initiation into violence and terror. However, despite having been instrumentalized, these children were not empty vessels into which violence was poured. They exercised a 'tactical agency' in order to maximize the circumstances created by the constraints of the military environment to which they were circumscribed. Children's experiences are not just related to war and violence, but also to the process of healing the 'social wounds of war' in the aftermath of conflict. The author problematizes the imposition of models that are completely alienated from local cosmological beliefs and practices. She stresses the importance of local understandings of childhood, of war trauma, and of the strategies people use to heal and reintegrate war-affected children. Bibliogr., notes. (Also published in: Contested terrains and constructed categories: contemporary Africa in focus, ed. by George Clement Bond and Nigel C. Gibson, Boulder, Col. [etc.], 2002, p. 277-298.)