How should the Mozambican traditional leaders' double role as community representatives and state assistants be captured? This discussion paper addresses some fundamental questions pertaining to the 2002 official recognition of traditional leaders as community authorities. After a brief history of the changing role of, and faith in, traditional authorities as a basis for understanding the importance of their recent official recognition, the paper outlines the key objectives of the Decree 15/2000 that officially recognises community authorities. Some of the key concepts underpinning the Decree are then critically assessed. It is argued that the double role that community authorities are expected to fulfil as both community-representatives and state-assistants is not equally balanced in the Decree: the scale tips heavily towards the state-assistance aspect. The reasons for this are explored in the context of a set of reified notions underpinning the Decree, such as its understanding of 'traditional rules' and the concept of 'community'. The paper concludes by pointing out some unintended con-sequences of these reified notions for kin-based forms of community authority and especially for the ideal of community participation.
Lars Buur is a Senior Researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies in Copenhagen. He obtained his PhD in Ethnography and Social Anthropology from Aarhus University, Denmark. He has published widely on truth and reconciliation technologies, and human rights, law and order in South Africa. In 2004 (together with Steffen Jensen) he was guest editor of African Studies, Volume 63.2, Special Issue "Everyday Policing in South Africa".
Helene Maria Kyed is currently a PhD candidate at the Danish Institute for International Studies and at Roskilde University. She has an M.A. honours degree in Ethnography and Social Anthropology from Aarhus University. Her research areas cover decentralisation of government and post-conflict state formation with a specific emphasis on traditional leaders and local forms of justice enforcement and policing. Fieldwork experience covers Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Keywords: Local government, traditional authority, traditional leaders, political participation, government Mozambique