Nov 032008
Authors: Cece Wildeman

Fatima Arthur was in Mozambique in 1975 when the country gained its independence from Portugal through an armed struggle.

She was there in 1982 when the country persevered through a civil war funded by “the far right” government, a war that left the infrastructure in shambles and many people dead.

“I lived in a town at the time [of the civil war] so we were kind of sheltered,” she said.

“But you couldn’t go outside because the guys would shoot you.”

But now, as she studies for her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at CSU, she generally doesn’t have to worry about that.

Among other things

Arthur, who was 12 years old at the time of the country’s gaining its independence, was forced to leave her home at the age of 15 to attend high school in the middle of the country.

With many Portuguese teachers running the high schools before Mozambique gained independence, the schools were left nearly deserted after the struggle, as many Portuguese-born left the country.

Thus, high-school-aged citizens were only able to attend school in the middle of the country, where professors were teaching high school.

When Arthur was in college, the civil war broke out, forcing many people to flee to the cities of Mozambique, the safest places to live at the time.

With cities already suffering from extremely poor conditions, the surge of people — suffering themselves — destroyed the cities even more.

There was no work for the people, as many had been farmers, and many lost everything they had.

“That was a big problem, but that was the only solution,” Arthur said.

“War is really bad. There are lots of kids on the street as a result of that war.”

Finding inspiration

Although Mozambique’s independence fostered much violence in the country, Arthur said it was not all negative.

“It was great. The country is finally yours,” she said.

“We wanted to save the poor people and educate. It was a very inspiring time.”

Since the 1970s, the people of Mozambique have seen things changing in the country, although the level of poverty is still very high, Arthur said.

The native people are now treated with greater respect, after being exploited for many years while the country was a Portuguese colony.

Women have also gained many rights, and organizations, like the Southern African Development Community, were formed to aid nearby countries in similar struggles.

To end the decade-long civil war, the president of Mozambique “sat with the rebels and made peace,” Arthur said. After that, “everyone went out and voted,” she said.

But even with vast improvements being made, the country still faces many challenges. As a democracy, one of the existing parties is composed of the rebels who fought during the civil war, Arthur said.

Because of this, much corruption exists within the government and the infrastructure is still poor.

Getting to CSU

Arthur earned her master’s degree in England and decided to come to CSU for her Ph.D. When applying for international schooling, Arthur got offers from schools in Australia and Brazil, but chose to come to CSU for a variety of reasons, she said.

“I combined the education with social components,” she said.

She said she also loves the mountains, something that has been a form of recreation for her since arriving.

“What I can tell you is that this country is surprising, in the sense that there is a sense of community that’s well developed,” she said.

Arthur said she did not expect to find such a sense of community here, saying that she is not sure if it is something cultural or something affected by the churches here.

She also said she was disappointed at the quality of American media, since it is such a developed country.

“(The media) is too centered on the American scene,” she said. “It was difficult to adapt to that.”

Entertainment Editor Cece Wildeman can be reached at

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