Should be Matabeleland independent

Making peace in Matabeleland

In terms of black and white reconciliation, Zimbabwe was regarded as a role model in Africa until the controversial occupations of white farms from 2000 onwards. A reconciliation after the bloody conflict between Ndebele and Shona in Matabeleland (1982-87) never took place. The ZimRights reconciliation project is working on this - with the support of the World Peace Service (WFD).

The message of Robert Mugabe after taking power in 1980 could have come from ZimRights: reconciliation. There should be room for everyone in the country. Whether white or black, he urged everyone "to forget the gloomy past, to forgive others and to shake hands in new friendship." But the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) did not yet exist. The best-known Zimbabwean human rights organization was only founded in 1993. One of ZimRights' main projects is national reconciliation from below in Matabeleland, says Cameroonian Alain Sitchet, who worked as a peacemaker in Matabeleland as part of the Civil Peace Service from March to September 2002. The Civil Peace Service is a foster child of the red-green federal government and was launched in 1999 under the leadership of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) as a new instrument to prevent, contain or follow-up care of crises. Matabeleland is about the follow-up to a power conflict between the Ndebele, who make up 17 percent of the population, and the Shona, who dominate the country with 77 percent. A conflict with a long story, says Sitchet during his stay in Berlin. Sitchet explains that the split of the independence movement in 1963 into the ZAPU of Ndebele Joshua Nkomo and the ZANU of Shona Robert Mugabe laid the foundation for the "ethnic conflict", even if it was politically and personally motivated. The reconciliation project focuses on the Nkayi and Lupane districts in the Matabeleland Northern Province. It aims to come to terms with the history of the region, in particular the clashes between the Ndebele and Shona people. In the power struggles after independence between Mugabe and Nkomo between 1982 and 1987, it is estimated that up to 20,000 people fell victim to this conflict. The overwhelming majority of those affected were Ndebele civilians who had been exposed to the terror of the notorious 5th Brigade. The so-called Gukurahundi special unit consisted mainly of Shona soldiers and pursued the goal of suppressing insurrections at all costs. The project had not set itself the claim to reconcile black and white, and the current increasing dispute between the opposition MDC and the ZANU government also played no role, Sitchet describes the basic lines of the project. This is shown by the fact that the current power struggle between Shona Morgan Tsvangirai and Shona Robert Mugabe has no ethnic dimension, explains Sitchet, and in the pilot phase of the project there would have been no significant opposition in the country anyway. Even if the disputes between the government and ZAPU were officially settled in an agreement in 1987 and the two parties were even merged to form the ZANU-PF in 1989, this did not bring any profound peace, nor was it an argument with the fears and wishes of the survivors of Matabel Conflict occurs. This is where the joint project by ZimRights and the Berlin-based Weltfriedensdienst (WFD) comes in. Sitchet describes the beginnings in which he was involved as the author of a feasibility study for the WFD. A main goal of the work was the erection of a memorial for the deceased. Sitchet describes the concerns of the survivors, who still today often suffer from the physical and mental damage caused by torture, should be publicly stated what is burning under the carpet. And the material consequences are also dramatic. Many families lost their main breadwinner, many still count as "missing" and are not officially declared dead. But without the death certificate of the "missing" parents, the descendants of Gukurahundi victims have no right to birth certificates and are not allowed to go to school, inherit or formally work. Therefore, in addition to historical research, youth exchanges, which are particularly important for prevention, lobbying for the rights of survivors, the project also focuses on development projects to improve the socio-economic situation in the Matabel region. "Peace work must be combined with development work in order to achieve long-term effects," Sitchet is convinced. The government's stance on the project was initially inconsistent. No obstacles were put in the way, but there was no direct support either, explains Sitchet. On the other hand, a member of the ZANU-PF Central Committee came to the inauguration of the monument and some base members of the ruling party had privately supported the project. But the current power conflict does not leave the project unaffected. The extension of the work permit for the WFD peace worker Sitchet was denied without a reason. Nevertheless, Sitchet remains optimistic. The Zimbabweans will carry on as best they can. »Accept your fate and look ahead«, be finally ...

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