Political and legal debates over the value of official silence in the aftermath of civil wars are inconclusive. On the one hand, official silence is considered disrespectful to the memory of the victims and an impediment to establishing a culture of accountability and respect for human rights. On the other, silence is regarded as instrumental to achieving peace. Yet, longitudinal analysis of the dynamics of official silence in Mozambique demonstrates that, in this postconflict country, as in others, silence has not in fact been achieved. Official silence in politically pluralistic environs can also offer opportunities for political elites to use memories as weapons to settle accounts with former wartime foes. In post-civil war Mozambique, Frelimo and Renamo over time have moved away from the initial strategy of official quiescence. Both parties appropriated the official silence to wage fierce political battles where memories of the violent past are used as the principal weapon. The interruption of silence through manipulative appropriations of the grisly past take place in dispersed political activities; however, the most confrontational and violent eruptions of memory occur in the Mozambican national parliament. These political confrontations signal the necessity in this politically pluralistic society for complex readings of memory against the prevailing monolithic official history.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Southern African Studies
Journal publication date2008

ID: 101172