Zimbabwe: New Calls for Prosecution of Killings

The International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) is holding its ninth biennial conference this week in Buenos Aires, and in addition to the deteriorating situation in Sudan, members will reportedly be focusing heavily on seeking justice for the victims of the Gukurahundi massacre of the 1980s.

Gukurahundi was genocide,” said Dr. Gregory Stanton, president of the IAGS and founder and president of the NGO Genocide Watch. The Gukurahundi massacre occurred between 1983 and 1987 in Zimbabwe. Stanton considers it one of the “worst of our generation.”

In 1983, as President Robert Mugabe’s government began to face increased political and potential military opposition from the rival Zimbawean African People’s Union (ZAPU), the Gukurahundi, an elite government military unit answerable directly to Mugabe, entered the ZAPU stronghold of Matabeleland. In an attempt to squash the opposition, government forces executed and arrested suspected members of ZAPU and indiscriminately targeted ethnic Matabele civilians—the lion’s share of ZAPU’s base of support. An estimated 20,000 people were killed. The violence only came to a halt when ZAPU signed a peace treaty proposed by the government. Mugabe denies that crimes were committed during the operation, calling it instead a counterinsurgency effort.

Stanton claims there is evidence to prove not only that the actions taken were authorized by the president and high-ranking members of the government, but that they were tantamount to genocide. He hopes to gain support from participants at the IAGS conference to press the matter with the United Nations and the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Burma: Renewed Fighting

According to the International Crisis Group, Burma is very likely slipping back into civil war as peace agreements between the government and ethnic rebel militias have broken down. Fighting is currently taking place in multiple states, the most ferocious occurring in Northern Shan. Multiple sources have reported that in this particular offensive, the government has authorized the use of rape and murder of civilians to crush the rebellion.

The Shan Human Rights Foundation claims the Burmese army has been using rape as a weapon of war since the start of the May offensive against the rebel stronghold of Wan Hai. Claiming the orders originate from the highest level of government, the foundation has recorded at least a dozen reported rapes since late May. According to the Shan Herald, the government has also authorized the indiscriminate targeting of civilians by soldiers.

Such actions would not be out of place for the military junta that runs the Burmese state. In earlier conflicts, including the “Four Cuts” campaign, the government used similar tactics that resulted in the starvation, rape, and death of many villagers.

Photo: ZimEye.org