Accepted paper:

The Politics of Post-colonial War Stories: Soldiers Widows and the Second Congo War in Zimbabwe


Dan Hodgkinson (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the politics of telling war stories about the Second Congo War in Zimbabwe. In a 2004 court case, soldiers' widows forced details of the war into the public domain. I show how, why and to what effect these stories had on the widows as well as on public attitudes to the war.

Paper long abstract:

In 2004, the widows of Zimbabwean soldiers, whose bodies had not returned from the Second Congo War, won a court case to have their husbands 'presumed dead' and thereby allowing their estates to be passed on. The case provided the first and only official account of the gruesome nature of the war to date. Details of the conflict were and are silenced by military and political leaders who illicitly gained from the intervention through the mining and sale of DRC diamond minerals and timber. Yet in this court case, soldiers testified to how their comrades had been 'caught by rebels and dismembered with machetes or explosives'. The paper explores the different layers of politics involved in telling these war stories in 2004. Specifically, I show how, why and to what effect the stories told during this court case had on the widows who brought the case as well as Zimbabwean public attitudes to the war more broadly.

panel His02
Storytelling and social order in Africa