Did the UK downplay #Gukurahundi?

An Article written by Jason Burke in the UK Guardian details the claims made by Dr Hazel Cameron of University of St Andrews

Reading this article brought a new perspective to the Gukurahundi killings and the silence of the world to the suffering of the Zimbabwean people.It seemed inconceivable to me that the world could stand by and watch as citizens of a particular tribe were murdered, butchered and maimed.

“British officials repeatedly downplayed the massacre of thousands of innocent civilians by Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe in the 1980s to protect the UK’s interests in southern Africa and their relationship with the former colony’s new ruler, new research has claimed.”

I never put much thought to claims of the US being involved in other nations’ governance and even going to war for their own self interest. But reading this article sheds light on the malicious side of international politics. Governments would turn a blind eye to thousands dying so they can protect the relationship with a future dictator.

Dr Cameron claims that the UK government was intimately aware of the atrocities in Zimbabwe and minimised their scale so as to protect their relationship with Mugabe. As a major influencer and international partner, the British authorities had the power to take certain steps to prevent unnecessary death. But the UK government put political and economic interests ahead of the lives of the Ndebele people.

For 9 months the Fifth Brigade killed, tortured and raped thousands of civilians.

“In 1983 the new leader launched a massive security clampdown in parts of Matabeleland, the heartland of the Ndebele ethnic minority and a stronghold of his political rival, Joshua Nkomo. The operation, prompted by scattered murders and attacks on property allegedly by members of Nkomo’s political party, was spearheaded by the Fifth Brigade of the new Zimbabwean national army and portrayed as directed against “bandits”. The unit had been trained by North Korean military specialists and was fanatically loyal to Mugabe.”

The British High Commissioner in Harare Robin Byatt exchanged numerous cables with the officials in London advising them of the situation in the country. It is shameful that such an attitude was taken because they considered Zimbabwe important due to the western economic and strategic interests in Southern Africa.

“Other important interests are investment and trade … prestige, and the need to avoid a mass white exodus. Zimbabwe … [also] is a bulwark against Soviet inroads”

Those journalists that sought to report the truth were accused of  sensational reporting and trying to portray a gloomy view of events in the country. The press were effectively silenced. Behaviour reminiscent of the future Mugabe.

The UK officials should stand up own up and send these killers to the ICC. Other dictators that killed their own citizenry in Europe were brought to book in the International Criminal Court. Why not Zimbabwe? Why not Mugabe and his goons? An entire tribe was persecuted and killed. Genocide committed on a grand scale. And yet no action taken.

What is even worse is that even after finding out the truth, the article is buried online and barely gains any traction….


Burke, J. (2017) “UK downplayed killings in Zimbabwe to guard its interests, study claims.” The Guardian, 16 May. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/16/uk-downplayed-killings-zimbabwe-mugabe-guard-interests-study-claims

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s