Sunday, February 03, 2008

The ghosts of Matabeleland

Another story from IWPR:

Zimbabwean leaders still refuse to talk about the mass killings designed to destroy support for President Robert Mugabe’s political opponents.

By Yamikani Mwando in Bulawayo (AR No. 153, 30-Jan-08)

Almost a quarter of a century on, the ghost of Gukurahundi continues to stalk Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland region.

Gukurahundi – a Shona term meaning “the rain that washes away the chaff” – was a military crackdown in rural Matabeleland and the Midlands in the early Eighties in which an estimated 20,000 people were killed, most of them civilians.

Pressure groups in Zimbabwe continue to campaign to persuade President Robert Mugabe’s administration to finally make public what happened during the offensive, which they say amounted to a government-sponsored genocide....

In 1983-84, Mugabe, then prime minister of the newly-independent Zimbabwe, dispatched the Fifth Brigade - an elite unit trained by the North Koreans - to the Midlands and Matabeleland to quash what he said were insurgents bent on overthrowing him. He accused Joshua Nkomo, his main political rival at the time and leader of the ZAPU party, of supporting the insurgents and vowed to crush those he termed “dissidents”.

The ensuing offensive left unarmed villagers at the mercy of the military. Survivors said the killings were systematic and targeted ZAPU officials and also leading community figures such as teachers, nurses and village headmen. Many of the dead were buried in unmarked graves or thrown down disused mines....

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