Gukurahundi noose tightens on Mugabe

HARARE President Robert Mugabe and his top military commanders are likely to end up at The Hague to answer charges of genocide after an influential group that campaigns against mass murder last week listed the 1980s massacre of over 20 000 civilians in Matabeleland as genocide. (Pic


The Washington DC-based Genocide Watch last Thursday called for prosecution of Mugabe and other Zimbabwean leaders for genocide and crimes against humanity for the 1980s killings of civilians by the North Korean-trained 5th Brigade commonly known as the Gukurahundi massacres. Genocide Watch president Gregory Stanton called for the establishment of a mixed UN- Zimbabwean Tribunal to put Mugabe and his army generals for crimes against humanity and genocide.

We call upon the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct a full investigation of the Gukurahundi, with the aim of establishing a mixed UN-Zimbabwean Tribunal to put Mugabe and his co-perpetrators on trial for their crimes, Stanton said. Genocide is a special crime against humanity because it must be intentionally carried out against a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.

Stanton noted that the Gukurahundi massacre meets the definition of genocide because it was carried out by the exclusively Shona 5th Brigade under Mugabes orders and targeted ethnic Ndebele people. However, because the massacres occurred before establishment of the International Criminal Court, the ICC would not have jurisdiction over the genocide.

But the UN Security Council has powers to refer the Gukurahundi matter to the ICC, Stanton said, adding that the council had invoked the same powers to refer the situation in Darfur to the international court, a move that saw Sudanese President Bashir indicted for genocide. A mixed UN-Zimbabwean Criminal Tribunal -- like the one established in Cambodia to probe the Khmer Rouge killings - could also be created to try Mugabe and other leaders of the genocide.

They think they have gotten away with mass murder. It is time to end such impunity in Zimbabwe, Stanton said. In the early 1980s, Mugabe, then Prime Minister, unleashed the North Korean trained Fifth Brigade into the volatile Matabeleland regions to quell serious disturbances that exploded into the restive regions, wiping an estimated 20 000 civilians, including innocent women and children, and fomenting the displacement and disappearance of thousands more.

Several ministers and top army officials in Mugabes side of Zimbabwes inclusive government were directly involved in the

atrocities and are believed to be hanging on to power to prolong their freedom. The genocide trial could also suck hundreds of Shona youth militias who also participated in the Matabeleland massacres. These militias still exist and conduct terror campaigns against opponents of Mugabes Zanu (PF) party in election campaigns.

According to Genocide Watch, other senior officials who were allegedly directly involved in the massacre included Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Constantine Chiwenga and Air Force commander Perence Shiri who headed the 5th Brigade at the time. The massacres are a sore point in the countrys history that Mugabe has always sought to avoid and sought to sweep under the carpet.

Despite calling the killings an act of madness, the Zimbabwean leader has never personally accepted responsibility for the civilian murders or formally apologised. The Zimbabwean strongman has also not yielded to calls by human rights

groups for his government to compensate the victims of the brutal army operation popularly known as the Gukurahundi massacres. Mugabe has conveniently avoided raising the issue fearing a backlash from disgruntled Ndebele members of his divided Zanu (PF) party all in hope of maintaining a fragile 1987 Unity Accord he signed with the then PF Zapu led by the late Joshua Nkomo.